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Shift in attitude to fight growing waste mountains

Media release – March 15, 2005

New Zealanders must adopt a shift in attitude to fight growing waste mountains

New Zealand has to adopt a shift in attitude in the way people look at waste issues and search for solutions to cope with growing mountains of waste, a leading academic waste expert said today.

Rhys Taylor of Landcare Research said New Zealand had to change for the better, which required a shift in attitude.

``Developed consumer societies have a high through-put of materials and energy per person, at rates above the long-term carrying capacity of the planet meaning that they are ecologically unsustainable and will need to make a profound transformation,’’ he said.

Taylor is guest speaker at the international zero waste conference in Kaikoura on April 5 to 8.

He has been working in a three-year research project called Sustainable Households Programme across many towns and cities in New Zealand. It has been seeking to change people’s behaviour.

The programme is being run in 2005 at a variety of venues, from North Shore and Waitakere to Dunedin and Mosgiel. It helps with reduction, re-use and recycling (such as composting), avoiding water pollution, improving resource efficiency – from water to electricity and building materials, travel choices and health, approaches to consumerism, sustainable gardening, and more.

The programme has been funded by 12 local councils, the Ministry for the Environment and Landcare Research from Lincoln, near Christchurch.

``In New Zealand, the amount of waste that business and households produce is directly linked to how many goods and services we consume - in a consumer culture, the greater our wealth the greater our waste,’’ Taylor said.

``Our research has found people (in the project) have made electricity savings, either achieved by behaviour or equipment changes.

``People have started improving the composting of kitchen waste and garden-clippings which reduces green-waste to landfill. They have avoided plastic carrier bags when shopping, taking along alternative durable carriers,’’ he said.

A greater Wellington survey found that 78 percent of 599 respondents thought they could personally make a difference to the environment. The main barrier to doing more was a perceived lack of time.

Meanwhile, Zero Waste New Zealand has called on local government to commit more funding to helping people reduce the amount of waste they created and start recycling. Every New Zealander dumps about one tonne of rubbish every year.

Top overseas and New Zealand experts at the April conference will be seeking solutions to ending the days of rubbish. More than 150 delegates will hear the latest developments in zero waste and progress being made across New Zealand and overseas.

New Zealand was the first country in the world to have formally adopted a zero waste strategy two years ago. However, rubbish mountains and landfills are growing all over the country.

The issue of escalating waste on Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park will also be a major topic for discussion at the conference. Waste on the mountains has become a major issue as more climbers take to the sport.


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