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Earth Day 2024 Focuses On Planet Vs Plastics

From the Slow Food Earth Markets Network: 
Concrete Solutions to Reduce the Use of Plastics in the Food Chain and Protect the Environment
Earth Day 2024 focuses on Planet vs Plastics

“It is urgent to denounce once more the overuse of plastic within the food sector, from the production to the distribution. Its presence is detrimental to the environment, animals, and human health.”

“There are alternatives to this massive use of plastic, solutions already adopted and put in place by local Slow Food Earth Markets. We urgently call on politicians and lobbies to adopt a wider and wiser vision, put aside personal economic interests, and look at the future of the world. At our future.”

Edie Mukiibi, Slow Food President

The theme of Earth Day 2024, 'Planet vs Plastics,' prompts reflection on the extensive use of plastics in our lives, notably in food production and agriculture. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in 2019, global agricultural production consumed at least 12.5 million tons of plastics annually, representing nearly 3.5 percent of total global plastic production. A significant portion of this plastic was used in food packaging. Specifically, the FAO estimated that crop production and livestock sectors accounted for 10 million tons, followed by fisheries and aquaculture with 2.1 million tons, and forestry with 0.2 million tons.

In addition, abandoned plastics tend to degrade into smaller particles known as microplastics. These microplastics can accumulate in the soil and harm beneficial organisms essential for healthy soils and plant growth. These microplastics are then transferred into the food chains and can threaten food safety, food security, and potentially human health.

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Slow Food – the solution

The global Slow Food Network, dedicated to ensuring access to Good, Clean, and Fair food for all, has implemented concrete solutions to reduce plastic usage and transform food production and distribution processes, demonstrating to institutions and civil society that viable solutions exist. “A great example is the Slow Food Earth Markets, a farmers’ market where local small-scale producers can come together and sell their food directly to consumers, and what makes them truly unique is their ability to create positive social connections,” says Mukiibi. In food systems, sustainability applies to production, packaging, and waste management. “Producers at Earth Markets all around the world are increasingly trying to engage consumers in a circular economy that safeguards not only their livelihoods but also the planet,” he concludes.

As an example, we present below The Slow Food Earth Markets network around the world and the various measures they’ve taken to reduce plastics in their food systems:

“The Tarsus Earth Market in Turkey has aimed to become plastic-free since its opening," stated market coordinator Yasmina Lokmanoglu. "Currently, we organize seminars and workshops to educate market producers and customers on the harmful effects of plastic and disposable items. Additionally, we are researching alternative materials to plastic and striving to set an example for other markets in the region and the country. Initially, visitors may be surprised, but upon return visits, they often bring cloth bags. The world has reached a critical point in plastic usage, and we are committed to educating our consumers."

At the Earth Market in Bogotá, Colombia, producers have worked on initiatives to recycle shopping bags since 2017, creating the ‘Bag Tree,’ or ‘árbol de bolsas.’ 'At home, customers collect bags they no longer need, made of paper, cloth, or any other material, then bring them to the market placing them on our Bag Tree or Bag Bank,' said Yurani López, market coordinator. 'The idea is to give circularity to existing bags that are mostly used only a few times or for a few moments and are in perfect condition, ready to be reused.

Since 2020, the Bouctouche Earth Market in Canada has implemented a progressive zero-waste management model that emphasizes education, prevention, managing current waste, reuse, upcycling, and composting. 'The market aims to incorporate the concept of gleaning as much as possible and has developed its line of upcycled Slow Food products. We can assert that we are among the first markets to adopt a comprehensive approach to zero-waste management,' said Nena Van de Wouwer, the market’s zero-waste coordinator.

The Mercado de la Tierra Capital Verde in Mexico has prioritized reducing single-use plastic in its activities. 'The vast majority of our producers utilize glass packaging whenever feasible and establish specific dynamics with their consumers for packaging return,' shared Earth Market coordinator Octavio Navarrete. “Overall, to diminish the use of single-use plastics, we have implemented a strategy at Capital Verde to raise consumer awareness regarding the significance of bringing reusable bags to the market,” says Navarrete.

Puerto Rico’s Aguadilla Earth Market is implementing a series of initiatives to reduce waste and promote reuse. 'Juice producers utilize reusable 32-ounce glass bottles, while egg sellers collect and reuse egg cartons,' explained Julitza Nieves, a market coordinator.

Find out more on the Slow Food Earth Markets. https://www.slowfood.com/biodiversity-programs/earth-markets/

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