We are not addicted, not by choice

It is very easy to blame somebody else for a problem. Apparently we the people, have an “addiction to single-use plastics,” according to a report of a recent meeting in the UAE of “environmental leaders,” and there are federal efforts underway to end this addiction.

Last year, around this time, I visited the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’s office in Dubai without an appointment. I had been running an environmental engagement project for at least six months on my own and wanted to run it by them and get their feedback. While waiting to meet with someone, there was evidence of hospitality, the single-use plastics kind.

I have been to many government offices in the UAE and ease of access to bottled or packaged water — the every morning available at your desk kind — was not something I was not used to seeing. But if it has been determined that we have an addiction problem, should whoever is in charge be feeding it?

Single-use plastics addicts are everywhere; they could be your neighbors, your friends, your colleagues and among the people you encounter on a daily basis. You can find them in schools, workplaces, malls, hospitals, on the street and even using public transport. And because the addiction is so multi-faceted, they could be carrying a reusable bottle for water but cannot help but rely on the take out or delivery lunch.

I can say that I am not one of them. I have developed a pathological aversion to the single-use plastics I can do without. On a recent trip to Hatta that I was not prepared for, I resorted to having fattoush salad, the vegetarian option at the barbecue, on a piece of Arabic bread and to eat it with my fingers rather than use the readily accessible plastic plates and cutlery.

But are you one of them? It is easy to hypothesize, and because we like to look good, we might say that if presented with a choice, we would make the responsible one. If you had no access to reusable cutlery and your hands were not exactly clean because there was no soap in the public restroom, and all you could eat that day was that salad at that particular instant, what would you have done?

It is time we stop looking at single-use plastics users as addicts, and begin addressing the sensibleness in most of us.

There was a water cooler where I could refill my water bottle at the park where we had the barbecue, so I did not have to go thirsty, or use my hands to drink. The water bottle I had on me had a built-in filter though.

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