Plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, getting tangled around fish and turtles. Mountains of plastic rubbish in China. We have all seen the images. But what can we do?
Recycling used to be the buzzword. This is one solution but it uses energy-intensive processes and creates pollution. The idea here is to reduce the amount we buy, choosing products that are not enveloped in plastic. We will be voting with our wallets, hopefully forcing companies to be more innovative about sustainable packaging. Re-using plastic products you already own is part of the andwer too. So don’t throw away those Tupperwares and plastic pottles from the supermarket deli.
You don’t need to save the world immediately. Zero waste is a journey for me, making mistakes and learning along the way. Baby steps are fine. These are a few top tips that anyone can do right now.
1. Supermarket Bags:
THE PROBLEM: Plastic bags for produce and from the checkouts can be recycled in Australia however this is an energy intensive process.
SOLUTION: You probably already know to take a reusable shopping bag with you. Better yet, always keep one or two in your car in case of unplanned shops.
Did you know you can ask for a cardboard box when shopping online with Countdown supermarket? In the ‘Special Requests’ box type ‘Please provide groceries in a box instead of bags’. The boxes can then be returned to the store or recycled.
To reduce the number of produce plastic bags used, consider buying from a farmers market. Fruitguys.co.nz can deliver fruit and veges in a box. Or check out your local vege co-op for locally sourced produce boxes ie Christchurch South Co-op
HOW EASY? Once you get into the habit, it is pretty easy.
2. Takeaway coffee cups:
THE PROBLEM: Takeaway coffee cups cannot be recycled in New Zealand (and some other countries) because of the thin layer of plastic (PE) inside the cardboard cup.
SOLUTION: Buy a ‘Keep cup’ or other reusable cup with lid and keep it in your car or office. Or drink at the café.
HOW EASY? This one really is a no-brainer when you get used to it.
3. Plastic meat trays:
THE PROBLEM: Styrofoam meat trays have to go in the rubbish. Foodstuffs brought out clear plastic meat trays that were meant to be recyclable. However, these meat trays cannot be recycled at a lot of councils around New Zealand.
SOLUTION: The best solution is to go to the local butcher and take your own containers. Plastic takeaways containers can be re-used for this.
HOW EASY? It is not as convenient as the supermarket but I think it is worth it.
4. Plastic cutlery:
THE PROBLEM: You know the plastic fork you get with your sushi, it has to be binned. Straight to landfill.
SOLUTION: Throw a spoon or fork from home into your handbag or car.
HOW EASY? Easy.
5. Water bottles:
THE PROBLEM: Every time you buy a new water bottle, it is resource-intensive to recycle it. Our tap water is clean so there is really no need to buy water.
SOLUTION: Take your own water bottle. Re-use the ones you have or buy a metal one.
HOW EASY? Pretty easy.
6. Glad wrap:
THE PROBLEM: It can be recycled with the soft plastics but, like plastic bags, it is a resource-intensive process.
SOLUTION: Consider purchasing beeswax wraps. Just wash them in water and detergent and they are good for another round.
HOW EASY? Pretty simple after the initial cost of purchasing.
With a little forward planning and change of mindset, you can start reducing what goes to landfill in your house. Pretty soon, you will be preaching to your friends and family. The movement grows exponentially from there.
To find out more, join the Facebook Group Zero Waste in NZ.