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Noticing the problem of garbage and caring for the environment do not go hand in hand

Zauważenie problemu śmieciozy i troska o środowisko nie idą w parze

The spring and summer period is a good time to spend time in nature. It seems that going outside prompts Poles to observe.

Rivers – the most polluted and endangered

More than half of us notice that rivers are polluted – 56%, slightly less – 49% that this problem also applies to forests, and 47% that wasteland and streets are also dirty (45%). Tourist places, i.e. places where we go to relax, also leave much to be desired – garbage is an eyesore at lakes (41%), the sea and beaches (40%) and in the mountains (30%). However, there are places that we consider to be most at risk for the future of our planet – here, water-related areas are at the forefront – the first place is the river, indicated by almost every fourth respondent (24%), and the sea – 22% of responses. Next are forests – 13% and wasteland – 8%.

We are drowning in plastic and alcohol packaging

Noticing the problem of ubiquitous garbage is one thing, but learning about its types can be used for a deeper analysis of behavior and habits, as well as drawing conclusions on how to manage it in the future for the good of our planet. Therefore, the EKObarometer study asked directly about the types of pollutants observed. Despite the division into different places where they were noticed, it turns out that the main problem is plastic – plastic bottles, plastic bags and bags, packaging, but also aluminum cans and glass bottles of alcoholic beverages.

In cities, streets and sidewalks, plastic dominates the rainfall: plastic bottles – 72%, plastic bags and bags (64%), and food packaging, e.g. bars, chips, takeaways (59%). In recreational areas by the water, the situation is slightly different, because alcohol packaging is among the most common waste here. And although the most common waste noticed on rivers are plastic bottles – 59% and plastic bags and bags (50%), glass alcohol bottles (45%) and beer cans (40%) are not much less common. The situation is similar on beaches, both on the river and the sea, where plastic garbage dominates: plastic bottles (64%), plastic bags and bags (56%) and food packaging (51%). Post-consumer waste lies on lakes and the sea, plastic bottles – 55% and 56%, respectively. We find glass alcohol bottles more often in the lake than in the sea – 46% and 37%, while at the seaside, bags and sacks turn out to be another plastic nightmare – 55% compared to 45% at the lakes. Cans of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are another waste problem: lakes – 41% each, sea – 37% and 36%.

Refrigerators in the forest, plastic in the mountains

While traditional waste can be found just as often in the forest as on the river: plastic bottles – 64%, plastic bags and bags (61%) and glass beverage bottles (51%), bulky waste cannot be overlooked (47%). ).

In the mountains, however, plastic packaging dominates: bottles (52%), plastic bags and bags (50%) and food packaging (47%). The situation is similar in protected areas, reserves and parks – 40%, 34% and 32% respectively, with a slight difference of 1% in third place in favor of beverage packaging.

We see and do nothing

Due to the fact that environmental pollution is a cause of concern for respondents, it is worth learning about countermeasures and ideas for caring for endangered areas. Unfortunately, it turns out that every third person approaches the problem of garbage thoughtlessly – they do nothing and this is the largest number of such people, 36%. However, a slightly smaller percentage (31%) take matters into their own hands and clean or organize collective cleaning. Almost every fourth person takes part in organized social cleaning campaigns. Only 1% notify the appropriate services. Interestingly, we notify local authorities more quickly or share information about photos on social media – 18% of respondents do so. Every tenth informs the media.

Over 26,000 Poles took part in the 6th edition of Operation Clean River and, as part of almost 1,000 actions, they removed over 500 tons of waste from nature. The most frequent cleaning areas were green areas by the river – 493 actions took place there, i.e. almost half of all activities. The next areas were towns – 101, village councils – 87, villages – 87, but also lakes – 77 and forests – 50. This shows that the concern for rivers, but also other areas important for the local community, is unique in this group. It is characterized by greater ecological awareness and sensitivity. And they are the ones who work effectively. They are a counterweight to those who do nothing, says Izabela Sałamacha from the Czysta Rzeka Foundation.

It is terrifying that despite the disaster on the Odra River, despite noticing the garbage around us, we remain indifferent. This is still a large percentage of society that does not feel the need to face the problem of garbage and is not concerned about the environment. Therefore, educational and awareness-raising activities in this area, as well as building a sense of agency, are still necessary. Perhaps some people do not see the point in being active due to the catastrophic vision of the future related to the climate crisis. However, it can undoubtedly be concluded that humans are responsible for the litter disease phenomenon. If it weren't for his activities, the development of industry and the pursuit of meeting everyday needs without reflection, we would not have to deal with such an amount of waste. Most of the garbage found in nature is post-consumer waste – drink and food packaging, disposable cups and tableware. Therefore, it is worth taking a closer look at our habits – considering what we can give up, what changes to introduce into our everyday behavior, e.g. paying more attention to segregation, considering the choice of product in the packaging already at the store shelf, using reusable or biodegradable bags, but also think about systemic solutions, the deposit almost works, but there remains the problem of small alcohol bottles, the so-called monkeys, which are available almost everywhere. We need to make care for the natural environment a common value, he adds.

We care about water

Water seems to be a valuable resource for us. Therefore, we try to keep it clean both in the environment and at home. Most often (38%) we ensure proper disposal of waste in households so that it does not end up in the sewage system, and we do not pour waste into the sink that should not be there (e.g. oil, medicines) to avoid contamination of sewage water (38%). Almost every third of us has efficient devices such as washing machines or energy-saving dishwashers. To protect groundwater, we do not use pesticides – 26% and we limit the use of detergents and washing agents containing phosphates, which may contribute to eutrophication of water. Almost every fourth (23%) also uses ecological products for washing dishes and home care, and every fifth (21%) regularly checks the plumbing installation at home. The answers include more sophisticated solutions such as collecting rainwater (18%) or supporting initiatives giving rivers legal personality (12%).

We are pleased that the respondents appreciated water as a miracle of nature, without which we cannot live, and therefore applied practices to prevent pollution and save water. This shows that, firstly, we have solutions that each of us can use, and secondly, we can still think about new ones. Innovations in this area are very desirable both on a micro and macro scale. You can start collecting rainwater without investing in special systems, and we should start thinking about the river as an entity that has value and can be protected now, to transform it into appropriate treatment and approach to rivers, also legislatively," says Izabela Sałamacha from Czysta Rzeka Foundation.

Unfortunately, every seventh Pole admits that they do nothing to keep water clean.

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