Today I had an appointment with Jennifer Timrott from the association "Coast against Plastic" for an interview. She has Replace Plastic App which any consumer can use to tell product manufacturers that they want a particular product to be plastic-free. The more consumers do this, the more likely the manufacturer will relent. I spoke with Jennifer Timrott about the work of her association, the Replace Plastic app, and the future of the oceans. Let's go!
Hello Jennifer. Introduce yourself and the association "Coast against plastic" to our readers.
Coast Against Plastic is still a fairly small association. We were founded three years ago as coastal people who no longer want to accept the fact that plastic waste at the sea literally falls at their feet. When we founded the association, I was still living on Hallig Hooge. On such a Hallig in the Wadden Sea, one is connected to nature in a special way. And it is indescribable what is washed up there after storms. Plastic in all colors and shapes. There's not only waste from shipping and fishing, there's also all the leftover crap from supermarkets and drugstores: our daily lives in tubes, lids, soup cups, Water bottles, doll legs, toilet brushes and bathing slippers. The sea vomits (more in the article Garbage whirlpool in the sea). And that is no different on the mainland coast, where I live today. Such a sight is always a shock. It is the unmistakable and brutal violation of the dignity of a wonderful habitat.
I agree with you 100%! How are you going to reduce plastic waste in the environment?
We do info work on many levels. We are part of the national round table on marine litter in the working group for land-based entries, we give lectures, do media work, information booths and Garbage Collection Campaigns. But I believe that it's not enough just to pick up this garbage. We have to stop producing it. But how can we do that? The Internet is full of sad videos about the consequences of plastic pollution - at the same time, the supermarket shelves are frighteningly empty if you think away all the products with plastic packaging for a moment. There are an incredible number of campaigns aimed at changing individual behavior. That's good and important. Everyone should make good choices within their means. But why are there hardly any campaigns that step on the toes of manufacturers? The ones who make sure that we hardly find anything without plastic on the shelves anymore? That's why we have developed the ReplacePlastic app for smartphones (see also the article The Best Zero Waste Apps) has come up with. With it, everyone can quickly and easily tell the manufacturers of products that they want packaging without plastic.
You're taking a big hurdle away from consumers! Why should people still use the Replace Plastic app?
I am convinced that it is extremely important that we as customers communicate our wishes to the manufacturers. Almost always, when we wrote to manufacturers about their plastic packaging, the reply was something like: our company is also very committed to environmental protection and sustainability, but we can't help it because that's what the customer wants. Interestingly, however, we have a lot to do with customers who don't want it that way at all. These voices need to get through to the manufacturers so that they invest in research and development into environmentally friendly materials.
Here on the coast, we have a special responsibility to tackle this issue. Because manufacturers naturally have a thousand reasons for their plastic packaging. It's all about product protection, energy-saving manufacturing processes, lower transport weight and the supposedly better environmental balance of plastic packaging. I always find the environmental balance sheet particularly annoying, because this balance sheet does not even take into account the blatant effects of a non-decomposable material that is released into the environment in large quantities and cannot be degraded there. We have to counter these supposedly reasonable arguments of the manufacturers with our everyday experience on our beaches. The coastal region can play a unique role in the plastic issue. The ocean means something to many people. We hope that from the love of the sea and the desire to preserve its living beauty, a powerful impetus will go inland to initiate the much-needed changes in plastic production and handling of this rot-proof material.
You speak my heart. How can you get the Replace Plastic app and how do you use it?
The Replace Plastic app can be downloaded free of charge for iOS and Android from the Apple Store and Google Play Store. You can also find the links on our website at coast-against-plastic.com - With the app you can scan a barcode from a product and generate a message to the manufacturer that you would like the product to be packaged without plastic or with less plastic. If the barcode is not yet in our database, the message can still be sent. We then research the product based on the transmitted barcode number. So anything we can match will still be sent.
The mail to the vendor goes out when 20 votes for a product have been collected or when four weeks have passed after the first scan. So we collect a bit first, because we don't want to bombard the manufacturers with emails, but offer them serious feedback on their customers' wishes and values.
Great! Are there any other ways to support your work?
We are always happy about financial support and new supporting members. There are of course costs and a huge amount of work associated with the app. Currently, I would also appreciate support with vegetable research to improve our database. Many products are easy to research via their barcode number. Unfortunately, this is not the case for fruits and vegetables. That's a shame, because that's an area where really a lot of people get annoyed with packaging. So I often go to the supermarkets and note the barcodes to the vegetables, but of course I don't have all the suppliers on site. So if someone has time to take photos of the barcode number and the packaging of fruits and vegetables that are not yet in our database, so that I can add that information, we could improve that together piece by piece.
We'll get there. How do you personally see the future of the oceans and what drives you?
I believe that it is high time for very significant changes if the oceans are not to be covered in plastic waste (see also the article Plastic waste in the environment) are supposed to suffocate. The negative effects of our societal handling of plastic have long been impossible to ignore. Nevertheless, plastic production is increasing and more and more products are packaged in plastic. What drives me is the love for a nature whose vitality means a lot to me and which is visibly suffering. But also the desire, together with many others who do not like it, to make a noticeable impact. There are already many people who are concerned about the issue of plastic. This must now be unmistakably heard by the manufacturers and perceived as a mandate. Then something will change, I am convinced of that. We have to work together to achieve this.
I see it the same way! Thank you for the nice interview and see you soon!
Great, Jennifer speaks from my soul and she experiences every day first hand how we destroy our beautiful oceans in our plastic mania. We are taking our nature away from ourselves if we do not learn right away to be more environmentally aware and live more plastic free. This is not the end of the story. Around the world, many Beach CleanUps are organized every day to reduce the existing plastic waste in the environment. Have you ever thought about doing a Organize your own Beach CleanUp or participate in a CleanUp? It's really fun and a liberating, cool event. I hereby also cordially invite you to our Beach CleanUp worldwide group on Facebook one. Here, people from all over the world share their actions against plastic waste in the environment.
Let's make a difference. All projects together against plastic waste!
PS.: In the Environmental Protection Blog we regularly report on environmental protection projects against plastic waste and other environmental problems of our time.