- Beth Szurpicki
Agata Rudd: On a mission to eliminate packaging waste
Agata Rudd is a social entrepreneur focused on sustainability in Toronto and advisor to Packt. Get to know her through her story of how she became the waste reduction warrior she is today:
THE TRIP THAT CHANGED HER LIFE
Before relocating to Toronto 6 years ago, Agata, originally from Poland, spent a decade in London in corporate jobs that never quite felt right. An avid outdoors enthusiast, she looked forward to the end of the workday so she could be outside – in winter spring summer and fall – experiencing as much of the natural world as she could get her boots on.
In 2014, Agata took a career break and went on a six-month trip with her partnerhusband Sean Rudd across Southeast Asia. Cycling 5000 kilometers through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, Agata recalls how this trip was the turning point that and changed how she felt about the environment. "When you are cycling, you are so close to nature that you cannot miss anything – the unbelievable beauty and also the environmental degradation by humans – especially the plastic waste." On her trip, Agata saw heaps of plastic trash in remote jungles and beaches. Mountains of plastic waste across the entire journey were impossible to forget.
Questioning the reason for such actions and to start a change, Agata and Sean began to clean the places they visited. "We had to: we collected waste on hikes and on beaches near temples. It was everywhere."
On this trip, Agata also met a German traveller, Olga, who actively refused plastic everywhere. "Olga was so inspiring and kind of showed us that though difficult, it is not impossible to refuse plastic." Agata and Sean were motivated to avoid participating in a system that caused such waste, and they began to refuse throw-away plastic bottles and insist on restaurants and hotels installing water dispensers for tourists to refill their bottles. "Plastic is so ingrained in our lives in every aspect of our functioning that it is practically everywhere!"
OUR PLANET IS CHOKING ON PLASTIC
Humanity is now addicted to single-use plastic products, severely impacting the environment. According to the United Nations, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Furthermore, half of all plastic produced is for single use.
Today we produce about 400 million tonnes of plastic waste every year which is a rough weight equivalent to 2 million blue whales.
Plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments and is causing a severe threat to the life of marine species. Not to mention the unknown impact of plastic pollution on humans.
When Agata returned to London, she changed her lifestyle to reduce waste, and she volunteered for environmental initiatives creating awareness about how to reduce reduce and reuse.
“As soon as you tackle one waste stream in your life, you realize there’s another one over there. So, you figure that next one out, and the next. It’s a slow process: I would bite off what I could chew, build a new habit around that item, and then move on. Waste reduction isn’t all or nothing - I do what I can, when I can.“
Moving to Canada, she decided to work for this purpose full time, and it’s what led her to co-found Packt. Agata now serves as an advisor. Now both Agata and her husband are successful entrepreneurs building their climate projects (check out Korotu Technology here).
There is an urgent need to reverse plastics’ damage, and the change starts with each one of us because let’s be honest: corporations aren’t going to do it until we make them. The market demand for reusable packaging can influence the way companies operate, so it matters what products we choose for ourselves and our families. And it matters when we urge businesses to swap single-use for reusables. We all can take responsibility for our actions and start somewhere. Even if we start small – each step counts and collectively, we have the power to drive much needed systemic change.
As Agata puts it, we are so grateful for this planet, and it is high time we stop taking it for granted. Reuse is one effective way to do so.