Refuse single use plastic: the embarrassment to say “No, thanks”

No, thanks”. Two words, one little change.

Do you need a bag?”

No, thanks”.

Do you want to try this new shampoo we’re giving away for free?”

No, thanks”.

Two words, one little big change.

It can be hard to refuse plastic, sometimes. It may sound strange, but most of the times it’s easier to replace, reduce or recycle plastic items, rather than just refuse them. It’s a matter of politeness, I guess; good manners and etiquette. We grew up thinking that it’s not nice to refuse something, no matter if it’s food, drinks, gifts… or even plastic.


It’s hard to say “no”, because we’ve always been told to say “yes, please”.

Thankfully, it’s quite common to refuse plastic bags at the supermarkets nowadays. But what about all the rest?


Let’s say we are at the greengrocery, getting our favourite seasonal fruits and vegetables. We’re about to pay, then we see it: a plastic bag. Maybe even a biodegradable one, but still a (useless) single use plastic item. One for our peppers, one for our apples, one for our pumpkins… and while the nice and friendly greengrocer puts the last lemon in our bag, we slowly and silently start freaking out with style.

Thank you, have a good day”. Then we go, with our first daily plastic gift.

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Again, we are in a bakery and we’re asking for some pastries to take away. The man/woman behind the counter smiles, takes our treats and then, here it is: our beloved plastic bag! Or, in the best cases, our paper sachet. Okay, it’s not plastic, but still… it’s just another single use package we’re going to throw away. It’s just more trash.


Let’s move on: we’re in our work office now, and our colleague – the cute, lovely, always-nice-and-kind colleague – offers us a (terrible) cup of coffee. A plastic cup of coffee. A new plastic item that will end up in the bin. New rubbish, yeah!


Okay, let’s go home. Oh no, wait a minute: we need to get a new dress for tonight’s party, first! We’re ready now, we can do it. We start looking for our reusable bag (we felt so proud of ourselves when we first bought it…) and then… oh no. The very-lovely-very-polite-very-nice shop assistant has already wrapped it in plastic! Too late…

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Finally, after the party (oh yes, we drank in plastic cups because there were no alternatives and it was embarrassing to go around the house with our reusable mug, looking for some tap gin&tonic), we go home. Home sweet home. There is no better place than home. Here is where all our zero waste aspirations can come to life. Where all our principles and values count something. Well… unless that uncle of yours comes to visit you. Yes, that one: the one who wouldn’t understand, the one he wouldn’t drink his cocktail out of a stainless steel straw. The one who would complain about the absence of paper towel. Oh yes, he would. So, you give up, thinking it’s not your day, looking for that last pack of plastic straws you’ve been hiding for the past three months. Cheers!



Now, I am obviously exaggerating, because I think sometimes it’s more helpful to joke and laugh about our little daily fails, rather than complain about them. What I really mean is that embarrassment can be a tricky one in our zero waste journey. We’re embarrassed to simply say “no”, we’re embarrassed to make people wait longer in the queue because we’re looking for our own shopping bag. We’re embarrassed to tell our friends we don’t have a common plastic disposable razor they can borrow, and we’re even more embarrassed to ask if it’s okay to bring our own compostable or wooden cutlery for the picnic. Not to mention the embarrassment of being the only one at work with a personal coffee thermos.


But the truth is that there is no reason to be embarrassed. Shop assistants, café owners, cashiers will not judge us for making the queue a little slower. They won’t really mind if we refuse their plastic bags. There is nothing wrong with our requests and we shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for a solid soap bar with no packaging. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to say that we have our own aluminum tin/glass jar/cotton sachet bag. There is nothing to be embarrassed of.


Our zero waste aspirations, our principles, our way of living are not embarrassing. Our philosophy of life is not something to be ashamed of. We are willing to make little sacrifices in our daily life because we truly believe we can make a change. Even the littlest one. But in order to do so, we need to learn how to say “no” and how to stop feeling embarrassed, inappropriate, different, or even wrong. We need to start saying “no, thanks”, instead of remaining silent.

It’s not rude, it’s not impolite. It’s part of our life goals.

So, let’s repeat all together: “NO, THANKS”.


2 pensieri riguardo “Refuse single use plastic: the embarrassment to say “No, thanks”

  1. One of the hardest things to get over in the zero waste journey!!

    Recently I was at a restaurant and I asked the waiter for no straw with my drink. He returned with a straw in my drink and I made a kind of wonky half smile, and he immediately remembered that i had asked for no straw. When he apologized I just said it was okay and that changing our pattern of behaviors can be difficult. It wasn’t me against him, it was both of us against conditioned behavior. And we can all help each other be more aware by just saying “no”
    Thanks for the post!

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