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Reducing plastic waste

Reducing plastic waste

By Jason Woodroofe, Cameron Stirling and Caitlin Hook.

How many plastic bags do you use a week? Be honest, we are all guilty of it. 5? 10? 20? The answer is that you probably don’t even know.

And that’s part of the problem.

Yes, another opinion piece about plastic waste. But to lay plain and simple, the issue receives all this hype because it really matters.

Each year Kiwi’s produce 220,000 tonnes of plastic waste. That works out to be about 66kg of plastic bottles, bags, packets, chocolate bar wrappers, coffee cups, lolly wrappers each.

Some might say that's not much, but when you think about how that plastic waste might be heavier than the person reading this article you can really see the size of the problem. The bottom line is that reducing plastic waste means changing the way we shop.

It might sound dire but there is an upside! It’s not that hard to change our wasteful habits and there are many people ready to help with the change.

It is heartening to see the progress that has been made recently, with the government initiating a process toward phasing out plastic bags and seeing leading supermarket chains Foodstuffs and Countdown jumping on board too. Last time I went shopping I was absolutely amazed by the number of signs reminding me about my reusable bag, from the moment I left my car to the moment I swiped my eftpos card.

Want to take it a step further?

How about supporting Howick New World, or the other stores that are now letting you bring your own containers to the meat and seafood sections. Even linking up with the anti-waste coalition that has demanded leading supermarket chains Foodstuffs and Woolworths reverse their bans on BYO containers for over the counter purchases. Add your voice to the momentum!

Ideally, Foodstuffs and Countdown might follow the examples of Farro and make BYO containers not only accepted but encouraged! Let them know if you back this idea!

How about encouraging your local store owner to cut some plastic too? Many store owners that have phased out plastic bags say they didn’t receive any thanks or acknowledgement and instead received angry emails from customers. Let’s change that attitude and support positive steps in our own communities.

If you're a business owner, you can also take some easy steps too by engaging with organisations like the Sustainable Business Network (SBN). They’re all about helping business make the connections necessary to be sustainable and environmentally friendly.

At the start of this month Rachel Brown the CEO of the Sustainable Business Network spoke with James Blackwood from Bags Not about the issue of plastic waste in Auckland. She spoke of how New Zealand needs to move towards being a Circular Economy.

Rachel explained that a circular economy is one that is based on sustainability where organic materials can be safely composted or returned to the environment, while materials such as plastics, metals and manufactured products are reused in a more sustainable way.

Although this may seem like a huge task, Rachel highlights that we are already taking some awesome steps in the right direction. She claims that New Zealand could achieve a circular economy within a generation and that research shows Auckland would save over $8 billion by 2030 if it transitioned to a circular economy.

Environmental issues like this can often seem big and overwhelming, because they are. These are huge issues that have extremely serious consequences for the planet and people around the world, and there is no single solution. There is an upside to this though, and that is where no one single solution exists, every single person can make a difference in their own unique way.

The successful transition to a circular economy is going to require more than a change in technology though, it’s going to require a change in the way we think and behave, especially in how we consume.

Action is what we need, now more than ever. What we want to see is government and business doing more to help us as individuals to make those differences, but for that to happen requires individuals like you to get on board!

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