IFEES/EcoIslam is promoting the awareness of this issue by encouraging as many Muslims around the globe to host a #PlasticFreeIftar to educate people during Iftar of the impact that plastic waste is having on the planet.

As the holy month of Ramadan approaches, preparations are in full swing to make all necessary arrangements to provide food that is required for Iftar.

Muslims generate huge quantities of food waste which increases substantially during the month of Ramadan, during this holy month, in the enormous amount of disposable plastic waste – plastic spoons, plates, cups etc.

Organising a #PlasticFreeIftar is a great way of highlighting the problems of plastic usage to a large number of people. At the same time showing people viable alternatives and how they can make a positive difference by reducing the plastics, they use in their lives.

Most of us do not often stop to think about just how much plastic we use on a day-to-day basis. Once we are aware of how integral plastic has become in our lives we can also begin to look at how much we waste.

Are you able to arrange a #PlasticFreeIftar and highlight to your fellow Muslims, how to break your fast in the prophetic way?

Explore the following for help with your #PlasticFreeIftar

1 Why is plastic such a bad thing?
2 What can you do to organise a #PlasticFreeIftar
3 Other Eco-Iftar activities
4 Social Media & Resources
5 Frequently Asked Questions

1 Why is plastic such a bad thing?

While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences. Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. 500 billion disposable plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use.

Nearly one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes collection systems, which means that it ends up clogging our city streets and polluting our natural environment. Every year, up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans, where it smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife. The plastic that ends up in the oceans can circle the Earth several times in a single year, and it can persist for up to a 1,000 years.

Plastic also makes its way into our water supply – and thus into our bodies. What harm does that cause? Scientists still aren’t sure, but plastics contain a number of chemicals, many of which are toxic or disrupt hormones. Plastics can also serve as a magnet for other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides.

Plastic never goes away.
Plastic is a material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of all plastic – water bottles, bags and straws – are used just once and thrown away. Plastic cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Plastic affects human health.
Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Some experts have seemed to link this to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.

Plastic spoils our groundwater.
There are thousands of landfills in our country. Buried beneath each one of them, toxic chemicals from plastics drain out and seep into groundwater, flowing downstream into lakes and rivers.

Plastic attracts other pollutants.
Chemicals in plastic which give them their rigidity or flexibility (flame retardants, bisphenols, phthalates and other harmful chemicals) are oily poisons that repel water and stick to petroleum-based objects like plastic debris. So, the toxic chemicals that leach out of plastics can accumulate on other plastics. This is a serious concern with increasing amounts of plastic debris accumulating in the world’s oceans.

Plastic threatens wildlife.
Wildlife become entangled in plastic, they eat it or mistake it for food and feed it to their young, and it is found littered in even extremely remote areas of the Earth. In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1.

Plastic piles up in the environment.
Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year. Only 8 percent gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, is burned or becomes litter.

Plastic poisons our food chain.
Even plankton, the tiniest creatures in our oceans, are eating microplastics and absorbing their hazardous chemicals. The tiny, broken down pieces of plastic are displacing the algae needed to sustain larger sea life who feed on them.

Inestimable financial damage.
Everything suffers: tourism, recreation, business, the health of humans, animals, fish and birds—because of plastic pollution. The financial damage continuously being inflicted is inestimable.


2 What can you do to organise a #PlasticFreeIftar

Step 1 – Make an assessment of the plastics that would be used when holding an iftar. At this early stage you might be really surprised just how much plastic is involved.

You should start with the most obvious uses (primary). That is, the plastics you might use for the meal itself e.g. plates, drinking vessels and cutlery. You could then think of plastics used in the less obvious, behind the scenes, aspects of the meal (secondary) e.g. the packaging of the food and/or its ingredients.

The primary sources are the most important to your message as these are the visible differences people can see. This is your way to demonstrate that a plastic iftar is possible and that one can break one’s fast with others in a way that follows the example of the Prophet (PBUH).

Secondary sources allow you to widen the impact of your campaign by giving you further examples that you can talk to guests about.

Step 2 – Think of alternatives to the plastics currently used. The ideal is to try find alternatives that will eliminate the use of plastics all together. However, you might not be able to find an alternative. The next best thing would be to reduce the amount of plastics used. For example, you could avoid single use plastics where once used they are thrown away. Plastics that can be reused are a better alternative.

The table below gives some ideas on plastics that might be used for an iftar and what alternatives could be used or what plastics could better be used.

Step 3 – Make sure you keep a note of ways in which you have avoided plastic use in your iftar so that you can present this to your guests. Keep a record of the event so that you can share it and encourage others to do the same.

Ideas for a #PlasticFreeIftar

Possible use of plastics (Primary) Alternatives
Plastic Cutlery Reusable cutlery (Can be washed up)
Biodegradable* cutlery. e.g wooden
Forego cutlery (use traditional ‘finger food’ method
Ask guests to bring their own that can be taken home.
Plastic Plates / food containers Reusable plates (Can be washed up)
Biodegradable plates and food containers (paper or bioplastic)
Reduce the amount of plates by using large traditional communal reusable plates.Ask guests to bring their own that can be taken home.
Cups Reusable cups (Can be washed up)
Biodegradable cups
Ask guests to bring their own that can be taken home.
Floor covering Reusable floor covering that can be cleaned
Biodegradable floor covering
Drink bottles Provide water in communal jugs from a local clean water source. If bottled water is the only alternative use the largest containers available and decant into reusable jugs and or cups.

Possible use of Plastics (Secondary) Alternatives
Food Packaging Source suppliers who can provide ingredients in reusable or biodegradable packing

Biodegradable* – before using biodegradable alternatives make sure you have the infrastructure to compost your waste.

Where you can’t eliminate plastics in your iftar, try to reduce it as much as you can. This will give you something to talk about to guests and perhaps can be a starting point of a debate on how reliant we have become on plastics and to discuss ways of finding alternatives. Where plastics cannot be eliminated then try to use plastics that can be reused or recycled successfully.


3 Other Eco-Iftar activities

The use of plastics is only one potential environmental impact of an iftar. There are other ways that you can also make the iftar environmentally friendly

Once again you will need to do an audit of your activity. This time you need to think of all the ways in which the meal has an environmental impact. Having done this, you can think of solutions that will either eliminate or reduce the impact

You might find that some of the suggestions in the below table can be feasible in your location or can be modified to suit local conditions.

Your aim should be to:

Remind people of the Islamic Environmental ethic and the importance of making sure our activities around worship fit in with our obligation to care for Allah’s creation and to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

  • Raise people’s awareness of the environmental impacts of our activities.
  • Demonstrate practical ways in which they can lessen their own environmental impact.
  • Encourage people to take what they have learned through the iftar to their everyday lives.
Environmental Issue Possible solution
Transport – The transportation of materials has a significant impact on the environment as nearly all forms of transport at this time use fossil fuels in some form or another. This impacts climate change. Think of ways to reduce or cut out unnecessary transport of goods. Try to use the least unsustainable form of transport. Choose options that need the least transport and try source locally. This also supports local more sustainable businesses.
Meat – the production of meat has several environmental impacts including greenhouse gas production by livestock and reduced biodiversity. Also think of the well-being of the animals. Use meat sparingly in your menu or try a vegetarian iftar. Use the most environmentally responsible sustainable sources of meat. Transporting livestock long distances uses fossil fuels but is also stressful for the animals – so try find the most local sources. Insure local produces use ethical and sustainable production methods. A growing number of Muslims are cutting down the meat they consume or even giving it up all together.
Other food ingredients – Transporting ingredients long distances uses more fossil fuel. Plants that are grown using insecticides or chemical fertilizers have a negative impact on the environment. As with meat, source ingredients from local produces who use ethical and sustainable production methods. Think of making the menu more appropriate to your location. For example, there is at least one mosque in the UK that breaks the fast during Ramadan with soup produced from locally grown vegetables.
Waste: Food preparation can produce a lot of waste. It can also use finite resources such as water Try to reduce the amount you discard in food preparation. Try to use some discarded foods for soups etc. Be frugal with water? when washing vegetables etc. or washing down surfaces. Ensure all food not used is composted.
Waste: Left over food People are usually aware of the importance of not throwing away left over food and will take it to be used by others. However, scraps are often thrown away with the general refuse. Look into using scraps for other things (chicken bones for soup etc). The remaining waste should be composted and utilised to grow more produce.
Fuel for cooking:The cooking of food will nearly always involve the use of unsuitable energy. If it is not possible to cook food using renewable energy, then try to ensure you cook in as energy-efficient way as possible.
Fuel for the dining area: You will possibly need to heat or cool the room the iftar will take place in. Generally, this will involve the use of fossil fuel-based energy. Try to find low energy solutions for heating and cooling the room. Switch your mosque/ community centre to a green energy supplier,
Get them to install their own solar or renewable energy generation.
If the weather is warm enough, eat outside.
Lighting: Lighting can be a significant source of energy use. Firstly, check if you really need the lights on. If you do use them make sure that the most energy efficient lights are used and only enough for the needs of the event.
Water usage, washing: Water is a finite resource that is under pressure everywhere. Water wastage has a detrimental effect on our environment. Whether it is for washing food or people water usage should always be kept to a minimum. Employ water-saving measures such as spray Wudu facilities and using rain water harvesting.
Water usage, drinking: As with washing, using excess water for drinking can have negative environmental impact. If the mains water is suitable for dinking, then use this instead of bottled water (as with plastic free iftar). If drinking water needs to be brought use larger containers and decant into jugs etc. avoiding the overuse of small disposable bottles.
Travel: As well as the transport of goods and food it would be good at looking at how guests get to the meal. Make sure that guests use the least fuel to come to the iftar. This could encourage people who are nearby to walk or com by bicycle. Encourage car-pooling and perhaps see if a minibus service can’t be initiated.


4 Social Media & Resources

Ways you can promote your #PlasticFreeIftar campaign

  1. Send a text message or Whatsapp to all your contacts inviting them to your iftar
  2. Utilise all your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram etc) for the campaign.
  3. Use the generic e-poster attached if possible
  4. Post pictures of your iftar on all your social media accounts afterwards
  5. Use the hashtag #PlasticFreeIftar & #WorldEnvironmentDay2018
  6. Try to post short videos from participants describing what they learnt.
  7. Encourage your followers/friends to share your campaign


5 Frequently Asked Questions

Disposable materials are convenient and save time. How do we go plastic-free when we are busy and very time-pressed in Ramadan?

Understandably, we are all time-pressed during and after iftar, especially in late-night summer Ramadans when we have to rush to taraweeh and home to maintain a reasonable sleep schedule for work. Though using plastics does considerably speed things up in the pre-taraweeh rush, sufficient preparation of materials before iftar should ensure a smooth and speedy process and one that better aligns with the spirit of this holy month. Whilst purchasing and using reusable materials can be more time-consuming initially, after some adjustment, an efficient plan of action can be worked out in your home.

Isn’t it too expensive to have plastic-free iftars?

Buying reusable cutlery and plates is initially more expensive, but in the long-term saves money. And yes, better quality ingredients are pricier, but it is important to invest in one’s health and the environment.

A note on Recycling

Recycled/Recycling plastics: Whilst much is made about recycling, the reality is that plastics do not generally recycle well. Currently 91% of plastic produced is not recycled (National Geographic). For this reason recycling plastic or using recycled plastics are not especially useful ways of combating plastic waste. The recycling of plastics uses more fossil fuel (impacting climate change) and can be seen as shifting the problem elsewhere much like “brushing it under the carpet”. So, for the purposes of this project recycled and recycling plastic will not be included as an option.

Where you can’t eliminate plastics in your iftar, try to reduce it as much as you can. This will give you something to talk about to guests and perhaps can be a starting point of a debate on how reliant we have become on plastics and to discuss ways of finding alternatives. Where plastics cannot be eliminated then try to use plastics that can be reused or recycled successfully.

And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: behold in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect

Qur’an, The Crouching (Al-Jathiyah) 45:13