On June 4, Rotary members were at the Floriade Expo 2022 in Almere (Netherlands) for the Stop Plastic Waste Event. This event was organized by the Rotary Clubs Almere, Almere-Weerwater, Almere-New Town, Zeewolde and Huizen Gooimeer in collaboration with Rotary EndPlasticSoup.
Floriade Expo 2022 tour
During the event, the Plastic Beach House, made by Save Plastics, was visited and the director Bram Peters explained how this house was created with the household waste plastic from Almere. The Plastic Beach house can be visited until 9 October, the last day of the Floriade Expo 2022.
This was followed by an explanation of Circuloco, a circular pavilion where government, entrepreneurs and education experiment with sustainable and circular construction. For example, the pavilion consists almost entirely of waste material and furniture has been reused.
Main program introduction
The main program was kicked off by Hans Bakker, director of the Floriade Expo 2022. He told more about the background of the Floriade Expo, the world horticultural exhibition, which is held every 10 years from 1960. This year in Almere on a 60-hectare site with as the theme ‘Growing green cities’. Read more about the Floriade Expo 2022.
Problem of plastic pollution
Then Keynote Speaker Gert-Jan van Dommelen, member of the board of Rotary EndPlasticSoup, gave an insight into the problem of plastic pollution. He talked about, among other things, the danger of plastic for the reduction of CO2 absorption of plankton in the oceans (2/3 of the capacity on our planet) and the negative effect of microplastics on biodiversity and human health. Read more about the problem of plastic pollution on our website.
Within the EndPlasticSoup initiative, Rotary and the global network of Rotary, Rotaract and Interact are already taking action in 43 countries to solve the problem of plastic pollution throughout the entire life cycle: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Read more about the actions and projects.
As an example to use less plastic, all participants were given a plastic-free soap from Happy Soaps.
Dialogue between experts and the audience
After the introductions, an open dialogue took place with experts in the fields of sustainability, technology, healthcare, government and the recycling industry. Marja Ritterfeld, board member of Rotary EndPlasticSoup and District Governor 2020-2021 D1850 (Germany), moderated the dialogue between the experts and the 100 Rotary members and other interested parties in the room.
Ingrid Zeegers, director of PRICE (Practice & Innovation Center Circular Economy) and Bram Peters, Circular Hero 2022 and director of Save Plastics agreed that plastic is too valuable to incinerate. The emphasis should be on phasing out the use and making extensive use of the possibilities for recycling suitable plastic.
Both experts and the public agreed on the importance of raising awareness about the dangers of plastic use in society from young to old.
Fortunately, more and more supermarkets and ecological shops are avoiding plastic packaging as much as possible. These developments contribute to behavioral change. A good addition from the audience: by setting a good example yourself and communicating about it, you can be an ‘influencer’ yourself, within your own network and often beyond.
Rob Schram, active in the waste and recycling industry for many years, gave a good example of the positive influence of Trashpackers. These are backpackers, who collect waste during their trip around the world and thus set a good example for the communities they visit during their trip.
Aschwin van der Rey told more about how Almere wants to be clean and sustainable and how the municipality encourages residents to keep the city clean: it may not be your waste, but it is your world.
In addition, the opportunities were also seen for a plastic collection program comparable to paper collection by schools and associations.
Esperanza Huerta Lwanga, senior researcher at Wageningen University emphasized the danger of microplastics. Not only in the air and water, but also for our soil, where research has shown that worms and other animals and plants are threatened by microplastics. She also indicated the importance of education and awareness about the great danger of microplastics, both for young and older people.
Sjoerd Elferink, ophthalmologist at the Flevo Hospital in Almere and a pioneer in making ophthalmology more sustainable, showed that a lot of plastic is used in healthcare. This mainly concerns one-time use in a sterile environment. In order to achieve this completely sterile situation, packaging is often done 3x, after which all the waste is then incinerated at high temperatures to prevent infections. When asked: do you opt for your own health or that of society, the audience indicated positively that a greater balance between the rules for working as sterile as possible and a reduction in plastic waste and incineration would be acceptable. The film about the amount of plastic packaging waste after eye surgery made it clear that we have gone too far with plastic use in the medical world.
The dialogue ended with the statement “Half of personal purchases lead to half of plastic and litter.” The experts differed on this, although the general consensus was that fewer purchases currently lead to much less plastic waste.
And last but not least
Ingrid Zeegers announced a Hackathon that will take place at the end of August to find creative solutions to deal with our waste streams differently. It is possible that some ideas can still be implemented at the Floriade. The substantive part of the event ended with a call of hope: the planet can recover relatively quickly (within 30 years) if we stop pollution, and with a call for connection to realize the necessary changes in collaboration with all parties.
A follow-up meeting is planned for September 17. The inspiring afternoon was concluded with drinks and an art auction that raised funds for charity: EndPlasticSoup.
A nice substantive and well organized event.