I want to relax but plastic gives me anxiety

Our eating area.

I watch a couple of cafe vlogs on YouTube for relaxation. One is focused on making hot and cold coffee drinks while the other features gorgeous bread and sandwiches.

The preparation of all these nice food entertain me – the sounds, colors, ingredients, and attention to detail are inspiring – but there is one aspect to this process that digs at my soul every time: the prolific use of plastic.

Container upon container, order upon order, it is one plastic on top of another plastic that is on top of one more plastic (Don’t click the links, Michelle. I worry it will give you angina).

As an amateur, occasional shopkeeper myself, I cannot imagine how these owners and employees are not unsettled by all this. What do they think about plastic pollution and how do they deal with the fact that each piece, with their name on it, will remain on Earth long after they are gone? The higher their sales, the more they contribute to the plastic problem. How is this normal and acceptable?

I showed the videos to Markus. He said everything is perfect if not for the plastic eyesore. The problem is the plastic packaging complement the food perfectly. It fits the display and makes everything more attractive.

On our end, we take the washing gladly, and if we really have to, use biodegradable plastic. It is made from cassava but the packaging is matte and not see-through, which is an important aspect of selling food. We tried to think of alternatives to the boxes and containers with clear packaging that most shops use but we were stumped.

Especially where we live, sustainable options are limited, not to mention expensive. Often, the more available products are at best, green-washed, which is just more frustrating.

Do you have good ideas? We do not use plastic with our food per se but would like to learn more about this subject. I do not even know enough about the cassava packaging in terms of how long and under what conditions it will degrade.

Our best idea, apart from watching a different cafe vlog, is not easy nor scalable so far: a couple of weeks ago, we helped my Aunt package food to share with the community using banana leaves:

Photo from my Aunt’s neighbor who received the food.

It was not a simple process and we worried the pansit, the noodle dish, will explode inside the brown bags as the person tries to pull it out. Or maybe we just need to improve our wrapping technique?

We certainly have no shortage of banana leaves, and left without a choice, we would still choose this method despite the inconvenience because it will help us sleep better at night.

We would love to hear your thoughts if you have other ideas on how to steer from plastic food packaging while highlighting the best aspects of food. We feel it is important to discuss this because our individual choices make a difference and it is through awareness that we are able to move forward in the right direction. Help!

34 thoughts on “I want to relax but plastic gives me anxiety

  1. My father bought some sticky rice the last time i was there and i was shocked that it was in plastic. It was so ugly since sticky rice was a bit warm. I asked what happened to banana leaves that people used before and he said that banana leaves is more expensive than plastic.. i said that we should bring our own plate next time we buy one.. plastic is so weird.. but i will probably not think much about it if i had lived in philippines only because in germany, people are consciously limiting the use of plastic..

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    1. I am glad to know Germans are more conscious of their plastic use. In The Ph, people have less choice. Alternatives are limited and expensive. An effort and investment must be made for sustainable living.

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  2. First of all, the food looks great, and Seankfletcher is right about the banana wrappings looking great. I know that we (Ugandans) use banana leaves to wrap steamed bananas in. 🙂 Plastics are a sore sight indeed! I try to use mason jars to store leftovers and the kind. Not sure if it would work in a cafe though.

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  3. We recycle most plastic packaging. Other items, we keep and reuse. I know we could improve in this area, so we will keep a watchful eye.

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  4. I have no solution to this problem, but I admit it’s a problem. We are careful at home to not use/reuse plastic when possible, but it’s not always possible. While I don’t want to be part of the problem, I am. We all are, aren’t we?

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    1. True, I hope more options become available and zero-plastic use possible or at least simpler so that the masses can get behind it. Here, plastic is cheaper, as well as these individually packaged products.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi there! The company that I work for is highly sustainability-driven and by 2019 we have eliminated 90% of our single-use plastic. However, some items are still unavoidable like garbage bags hence, at the moment, we use biodegradable until we find a better solution.
    When I was quarantined for 10 days in the hotel, I was shocked at the number of plastic bottles and containers I used on a daily basis because everything needs to be disposable. I think the amount of plastic we used just during the covid time already surpassed the amount we didn’t precovid times. It is sad.

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    1. Wow, that is impressive. What are some things that you implemented to eliminate 90% of single-use plastic? It sounds awesome. And yes, it is sad how the pandemic worstened the plastic problem, which is why it is more important to find solutions. I honestly hope more people opt for reusable masks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. First, eliminate single use plastic: straw, stirrer, room amenities, kitchen stuff and the biggest is plastic bottles.
        And unfortunately, sustainability was pushed over to one side because we have to provide single use masks and hand sanitizers in small plastic bottles as part of amenities so all efforts went in vain.

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        1. Yes, this makes sense, and I am with you with the single-use demands of the pandemic. Heartbreaking. I hope more people are aware of this because every individual contribution matters. Having said that, it is always collective actions by governments and companies that will create larger change. Also how are you feeling being back home now? I hope you are starting to recover from traveling. Oh would you know if the saliva pcr is okay with boarding flights?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, it is the bigger companies that can make the difference more than the individuals like us.
            I have adjusted already haha. They still take nose samples for PCR test.

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  6. The banana leaves food packaging looks great 😊 I don’t have any real solutions, but I thought I might try and put your mind at ease a little bit regarding whether someone is trying to address such an issue. This is what is happening over my way now re takeaway food packaging consisting of recycled paper with a clear biofilm (so fully compostable) made from plants, not oil:
    https://www.biopak.com.au/products/takeaway-containers
    https://www.greenpack.com.au/
    We are certainly getting more and more food served when we go out in bamboo boats and so on.
    On another note, apart from the above, for the last three years, this is who we get our toilet paper and other products for home from: https://au.whogivesacrap.org/
    So no soft plastic packaging in sight, pandemic lockdown panic buying is not an issue and it lasts!
    At least we are trying here, as we have been one of the main plastic culprits worldwide. Plastic grocery shopping bags are already banned, and by the end of this year, my state will ban plastic plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, stirrers, straws, thick plastic bags, polystyrene food containers, and helium balloon releases.

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    1. I wish these were available everywhere! The world certainly needs it and more people like you. Much respect to your place for really trying. Not sure what exactly is stopping every other government. It is very sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It really is a shame seeing all the wasted plastic. I’ve been in Australia for almost a year, and I do have to say I’m impressed with the efforts to limit single use plastic waste. Most restaurants use biodegradable packing from this company: https://www.biopak.com.au/. It’s not perfect (something like banana leafs is so much better!), but certainly a step in the right direction.

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    1. Yes, I heard from my blog friend Sean in Perth that Australia is trying its best. We need more governments to act like this. It is not like nature will wait for us to get our shit together.

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    1. Yes, good one. Well, we have bamboo here, and if there are bamboo products to replace plastic, it would be a good idea. I have found a few bamboo producers but they are expensive and I have yet to see one that can be used in place of plastic packaging for food. Yikes!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post. I lament over the amount of plastic I bring into my home. I do my best to make sustainable choices, but it is challenging. Your food photos look delicious!

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  9. I believe there are biodegradable substitutes for plastic. I receive magazines from a couple of charities that I subscribe to and they are sent out in what looks like a sort of plastic but is made of compostable material.

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    1. Yes, and I suppose the challenge is using these alternatives and making them available around the world. Here, options are limited and reallh expensive, so much so that making sustainable choices is a luxury.

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  10. I like your use of banana leaves, using what nature gives to package and repurpose. I cringe at the amount of plastics I see at the grocery store, in takeout food containers, blowing by the side of the road. It seems endless. I do not have an answer for you.
    As an aside, I love your eating area. It is so green and relaxing.

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    1. Thank you. It is really sad and I wish better options are available, especially to us here. The amount of plastic we see carried by the waves every day is frustrating!

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  11. Thanks for the mention! You’re right. It does give me chest pains. LOL
    Food packaging is one of the most difficult areas to eliminate plastic. I have tried and I have been able to eliminate a lot but not all. It’s one of the reasons I make most of my food at home, and rarely buy takeout beverages. I’m noticing more and more companies using paper or cardboard packaging, paper straws and compostable cups. That gives me hope. These innovations are there. It’s just a shame so few companies embrace them.
    There’s a new company that was started by two local university graduates called A Friendlier Company. Restaurants that use their containers charge a refundable deposit for reusable plastic containers. You return the container, you get your money back. It’s a start.
    Don’t lose heart! We are making progress. We just need to spread the word!

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Michelle. I get so stressed when I see these things, that and knowing our options here are incredibly limited. I do not know how aware locals are of their plastic use and if they care at all. Obviously, we can do our best but a wave of change needs to happen if things are to improve.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is food for thought: I too live in a country where plastic is used way too extensively. Boodle fight-like banana wrappings are perhaps something Italians need to copy from the Pinoy

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      1. One positive thing we have here is that when you go to a supermarket you are kind of forced to bring your own bags otherwise you have to pay for plastic bags. In some supermarkets they do have organic bags or something similar but you can’t put anything heavy in those as they easily break apart

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