Since plastic first started to be produced around 100 years ago, we have come to rely on it and use it for everything, from packaging and mechanical components to stationary and toys. The fact is, the rate of production has had such a steep increase over the years that our understanding of the consequences of plastic waste did not keep up. We have now reached the stage where we need to make some drastic changes to our lifestyle in order to combat the poisonous effects of ingesting microplastics in our food — and the horrific prediction of there being more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
While it is the largest corporations that need to set an example and encourage global change, we are still able to play an individual part in cleaning up the earth and collectively making a difference. Knowing the importance of working together in this mission, Bianca Beyer, a social worker from Germany, has been developing her business, Lisboa Limpa (Clean Lisbon).
Environmental Awareness Education
After moving to Lisbon in 2012 to work in education, Beyer decided to take on a project exploring another side of education. She began to organise activities for young children and teenagers in youth centres in villages outside of Lisbon in order to sensitise them towards environmental awareness. Expanding Lisboa Limpa and taking further action to improve the environment, Beyer is now also aiming to eradicate the use of disposable plastic cups in Lisbon bars and replace them with reusable cups.
Beyer’s Lisboa Limpa cups are not made from reused plastic, due to regulations and laws set by the European Union that prohibit food and drink containers and packaging from being made from recycled plastic, for health and safety reasons. The cups are recyclable, however, and by replacing disposable cups, they would remove a significant amount of plastic waste in the downtown area of Lisbon, she says.
The method of use of Beyer’s cups is inspired by a system that began with Kaffee zum mitnehmen (coffee to-go) in cafés in Freiburg, Germany. The Pfandsystem (deposit system) means that when a consumer purchases their drink, an extra euro is charged for a deposit on the cup, which they get back when they return the cup to the café. This system has now been adopted in all bars across the whole of Germany and is a successful system that has a positive ecological benefit for the environment, as well as minimizing waste in the city and improving the lives of citizens. As it worked so well in her home country, Beyer decided to try and introduce a similar system to Lisbon.
Sustainability: A Tough Sell
Applying the idea of reusable cups to the Lisbon scene has not been completely smooth running, unfortunately. Many bars in the Lisbon area are not interested in purchasing the cups for two reasons: firstly, there is no monetary benefit for them. Furthermore, some bars have told Beyer how during peak times, they are unable to find the time to explain the deposit process to customers, let alone the positive environmental benefit. For these reasons, Beyer has initially found it rather challenging to get more bars involved.
However, having just launched in May this year, the project is still in its early days, and there’s indication that it has a lot of potential to grow in the future. On hearing about the cups, a number of Lisbon bars that are concerned about plastic waste proactively contacted Beyer in order to collaborate with her and begin using the Lisboa Limpa cups.
Furthermore, after applying to Lisbon’s BIP/ZIP Municipal program with the Movimento Plastico Zero under the category “O Desafio do Desenvolvimento Local” (The Local Development Challenge), Lisboa Limpa won second place and will therefore be awarded with 40,000 euros for one year beginning in September 2018, in order to develop the business. There are currently 15 bars participating with Lisboa Limpa cups, with plans to continue growing. As well as working towards minimizing plastic waste, Lisboa Limpa also aims to educate Lisbon’s residents on environmental issues, encouraging them not to use something once and then throw it away, but to reduce, reuse, and recycle.