PET, PP, LDPE – b’bye*

Author: Sonja Hausmanns |
Photo: Holger Albrich
Is a world without plastic waste an unrealistic utopia? Maybe so, thought Haniel employee Giuliano Alonzo and his wife – and still, they simply took the first step. A field report

It has been a good year and a half since my wife and I happened to come across an article by Shia Su, of Bochum. In the Ruhr area she is one of the pioneers of the Zero Waste movement. She is very determined and thorough – and generates just one canning jar of waste per year. My wife and I looked at each other at the time and said: “Reducing plastic – that’s what we’re trying to do!”

Kitchen: scene of the (plastic) crime

Although we have been buying our vegetables loose at the market for a long time, there is still a lot of plastic waste in the kitchen. So we equipped ourselves with glass and metal containers. We took them to the supermarket to have cheese, fish or meat packed in them. In our preferred supermarket, the seller refused to put the fish into the container I had brought with me, due to hygiene regulations. In the next market, the same story – at first. There the saleswoman called the store manager, and after a ten-minute conversation we agreed on the following procedure: My box remains on the customer counter. The fish is weighed behind it and then placed in the box on the counter.

We also buy a lot in the packaging-free shop, which is only a few kilometres away from us. There you can find a large selection of loose products – which, to our surprise, rarely cost more than in conventional shops. Such a shop is of course not a solution if you had to drive for 20 minutes to get there. Still, there are also many unpackaged products in the nearby supermarket or organic market. It’s worth taking a look around. But we also make compromises: We can’t get mozzarella loose anywhere, for example. Nevertheless, we do not want to do without it. But we don’t eat crisps anymore, because we don’t have a packaging-free alternative. I admit that this is a bitter sacrifice.

It took six weeks until we had completely changed our shopping habits. After all, it didn’t hurt our household budget; we spend about the same amount of money as before our experiment. Nevertheless, it is sometimes difficult to stay on the ball consistently. “Quick wins” are a must here! We have replaced liquid soap, which is available almost exclusively in plastic packaging, with bar soap everywhere; instead of disposable sponges, we now use washable dishcloths. Our loofah scrubbing sponges, made from dried gourd fibres, help against heavier dirt. Sparkling water, cola and the like are now available in returnable glass bottles. At the baker’s we fill our fabric bag with bread and rolls. Small changes with a big effect.


Zero Waste is a lifestyle that is about avoiding waste altogether. Several cities around the world have begun to implement the principle. San Francisco, for example, intends to become the first garbage-free metropolis. The economic importance of the movement is growing. The Zukunftsinstitut think tank, for example, assumes that changing consumer behaviour will have a strong impact on the energy industry and production chains.

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Tube, not tablets

In the bathroom, the experiment in plastic-free living went on for quite a while. It took almost a year until my last shower gel bottle was empty. I used to like to buy several at a time at the drugstore, to always have some in reserve. Now the bathroom looks refreshingly empty. I get along well with my new soap for showering and hair washing. I also manage to shave with the classic reusable safety razor, made of metal, and I have discovered compostable attachments for our electric toothbrush. But I just can’t accept these toothpaste tablets – and making our own toothpaste isn’t our thing. We want to use less plastic, but it should fit into our everyday lives. So our toothpaste continues to come out of the tube.

It sounds strange, but keeping the garden plastic-free is difficult: plants are usually in a plastic pot when you buy them, and potting soil is only found in the plastic sacks. However, we try to use this plastic in the house, as a cover for plants in winter or as a ground cloth for smaller renovation projects. But with many things, we can’t do much on our own: The fact that microplastics are produced when washing our clothes is just as inevitable as the particles created by the abrasion of our car tyres on the road. Nevertheless, we have achieved a lot: instead of putting the yellow bin (for packaging waste) out for pickup once a week, I only had to put it out twice last year – and that mainly because we used up our pre-existing plastic supplies. What has changed a lot is my attitude: In the beginning I went through the supermarket and thought, I can’t buy that, I can’t buy that, I can’t buy that. Today I think, I don’t even want that!

In general, I notice that my wife and I are taking a closer look at our consumption. I hope that the manufacturing companies will also break out of their narrow-mindedness and design products that are durable or made of natural materials. Plastic waste sometimes takes centuries to decompose. How can it be sustainable if we only use a product for a fraction of its life span?

Giuliano Alonzo (36) holds a degree in economics and has been with Haniel in Corporate Accounting for four and a half years.




*PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate and is mainly processed into disposable and refillable bottles. PP, or polypropylene, is used to make beverage cups as well as cling films in which fish, cheese and meat are sold. Bottles for shower gels or shampoos are made of LDPE (low-density polyethylene).