It's cultural, of course. And so, if anything is going to change, it needs to come from Cypriot groups, in a way that makes people take notice.
A few months ago, we were surprised to receive a piece of junk mail informing us that Metro (our favourite supermarket) was 'going green'. A little ironic, given that this was printed in full colour on glossy light card, both sides (one in Greek, one in English), and delivered - I assume - to every mailbox in the town, where the majority would go straight into the bin.
Intrigued, I read it. Metro, it seems, had decided to make an ecologically sound long-lasting bag, which would be available for several euros (or equivalent in loyalty card points) so that people would not have to use the plastic carrier bags so much.
A good start. And, to be fair, Metro is a long way ahead of the other supermarkets in its supply of organic and health food produce, even though it seems limited compared to what we're used to in the UK.
We didn't buy one of these new 'green' bags, because I already have about half a dozen re-usable cloth bags which I take with me when walking to the local Froutaria, or Orphanides Express. But when we go to Metro, we like getting plastic carriers, since we re-use them as bin liners. In a country where toilet paper generally must not be flushed, it's important to have closed bathroom bins, emptied regularly. Supermarket carrier bags are ideal to line them.
I don't think the new green bags have really caught on. We go to Metro about once a fortnight, and haven't seen anyone toting one of these re-usable bags yet, although no doubt there are some people who bought them.
Today I was even more surprised to notice that the carrier bags at the tills no longer bore the blue Metro logo and text that we have become accustomed to. Instead, the logo was in a green circle, with the slogan 'eco-friendly Metro superstores' around it.
Eco-friendly plastic carrier bags? It seemed like a contradiction in terms!
Looking a little closer, we saw in the little box at the bottom:
This bag is made of Polyethylene containing a special degrader. It is recyclable just like all plastics and has a limited life when left in the environment, since it degrades by light, oxygen and heat and then along with humidity it becomes food for microorganisms (just as happens with all natural elements, ie wood, leaves, branches etc).
We're a little cynical. The bags may be recyclable, but since there is nowhere to take plastic (or, for that matter, glass or paper) to be recycled in Cyprus, other than the army base, it's not a lot of help.
Moreover,'Limited life' could theoretically mean anything from a few years to a few hundred thousand years. Still, it seems like a step in the right direction. This kind of thing might help Metro customers to become a little more aware of the importance of environmental issues - and perhaps the bags do degrade more rapidly than the ones they used to use.
The only problem is that they are thinner than the old bags. Which means that they break more easily.
Which means that we needed to use nearly twice as many as we used to...