Saving Palestine, One Plate at a Time

It’s sad to see that Palestine’s abundance of beautiful nature is rarely trash- and plastic-free.

Plastic is a big problem in Palestine. It tends to end up in the few available landfills that are limited in capacity, where some of it is dumped randomly (and possibly burned, polluting our air). Not only does plastic take more than 500 years to degrade, but its production process also releases toxins into the environment and uses huge amounts of crude oil that release greenhouse gases. On top of that, plastic poses health hazards because it is toxic and BPA-laden − this is a big problem in warmer countries like Palestine, as it is frequently stored in the sun where it heats up and leaches toxins into the contents of water, soft drinks, and juice bottles, for example.

Celebrations are an essential part of Arab culture, but unfortunately, plastic and receptions seem to have become inseparable in Palestine. Whenever I am invited to an occasion, I’m overwhelmed by the number of disposables that are used for serving food and drinks. This “convenient” habit has become a matter of course at most receptions and produces a large amount of unnecessary waste, ranging from single-use plastic plates and cups to plastic food wrapping and soft drink bottles. 

If you’re ready to opt for trash-free receptions, here’s a simple list of suggestions for solid improvements:

  • Go for reusable plates, cups, and cutlery. If you do not have enough, you can try to make use of other dishes you already have at home, such as empty mason jars for drinking. Thrift shops and markets are a great way to find extra sets of tableware (that can be stored in special places for special occasions), or maybe borrowing from neighbors and friends could be an option?
  • Alternatively, you can find single-use plates made from natural materials such as bamboo, in some gift shops. These dishes can be composted and pose less of a threat to the environment when compared to plastic.
  • Choose washable cloth napkins and tablecloths instead of paper or plastic ones. You can make your own from unused fabric or old curtains you have at home.
  • Skip the plastic straws! Not only are straws pretty unnecessary, they are also a major problem when they land in the oceans and are made of toxic materials.
  • Don’t buy plastic-bottled drinks. Serve filtered water in glass jugs instead, and try to buy drinks that come in glass bottles − or, even better, serve homemade lemonades, juices, or iced tea with mint or slices of apricot/apple/pear. 
  • Store any leftovers by freezing them for later use. To avoid disposable plastic food wrap and aluminum foil for storing, try plate-stacking instead!
  • Use glass containers. Some foods, such as meat, can even be stored in the freezer in washable cotton fabric.
  • For bigger leftover quantities; there are charity organizations throughout Palestine that accept food donations. Examples are Jeel al-Amal in Al-Eizariya and In’ash al-Usra Association in Al-Bireh.
Zero-waste dinner with reusable cloth napkins

Holding a waste-free reception does not have to be as challenging as you might think. On the contrary, it’s fun and relatively easy. Serving your delicacies in reusable utensils is a viable option because these last much longer (and save you money in the long run), and you can be sure that you are making a positive contribution to Mother Nature.