Climate Change Report: More Needed To Tackle Our Make-Take-Waste Culture
COMMENTS BY Pablo Kraus from ecostore; Nada Piatek from Again Again; Florence van Dyke from Chia Sisters; Mike Murphy from Kōkako; and Rich Old from Batchwell.
A collective of New Zealand business leaders has praised the Climate Change Commission report but says more work is needed and actioned now to tackle our make-take-waste culture and close the loop on resource use.
The Climate Change Commission, in its draft plan, has advised that Aotearoa needs to fundamentally change the way it deals with and thinks about waste. A transformation to this sector will not only reduce emissions but move us from a throwaway culture to one that values our resources.
Its plan recommends creating a circular, self-sustaining economy to reduce Aotearoa’s waste emissions. Strengthened product stewardship and a commitment to resource recovery and reuse must be part of this approach.
Pablo Kraus from ecostore, Nada Piatek from Again Again, Florence van Dyke from Chia Sisters, Mike Murphy from Kōkako, and Rich Old from Batchwell believe a missing component of the Climate Report is enabling action and providing solutions to tackling waste – a sector with significant potential to cut emissions – and supporting businesses to move to a low-carbon circular economy.
If we really want ambitious product steward schemes that give us a realistic chance of building a true circular economy, it is essential that a wide range of stakeholders sit at that design table: not just government and industry representatives but also business leaders, zero waste experts, community and consumer representatives.
Pablo Kraus, ecostore
I am a supporter of the Climate Change Commission and what they are trying to achieve, and I’m pleased to see the report refers to ‘waste’ and ‘circular economy and commitment to reuse being necessary’, but the Commission has missed an opportunity to offer real solutions to reduce waste and take the step from conclusions to solutions. The report focuses on recycling, but recycling is plan C – the one people should only turn to as the last option.
We need more support from the government in the form of taking action and driving solutions. We need more emphasis on rethinking plastic, waste, and how to move to a low-carbon circular economy in the report, and clear national goals, key actions and readily available information for manufacturers, shoppers, and householders.
Waste is a very large problem that can’t be fixed with just one solution so we have many different options: ecostore shifted from fossil-based plastic to plastic made from a sustainable resource (sugarcane), incorporated post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic into our products; provide refill stations to enable people to reuse bottles and have made these easier to access for more people by increasing the number of stations and expanding from green stores to mainstream supermarkets; introduced a closed-loop packaging return programme to take responsibility for our products at end-of-life; and now ecostore is launching reusable bottles made from recycled aluminium.
We have also teamed up with companies – Again Again, Chia Sisters, Kōkako and Batchwell – on a new initiative. Our first dedicated refill event takes place on Friday 19th March – COVID dependent – at Britomart Place between 11am – 2.30pm to reduce plastic waste by educating others about the circular economy through reuse and refilling.
These businesses are all exemplars of how a business can take transformative action and inspire systemwide change. In 2021 we need to see an increase in collaboration across industries, like this refill event.
Nada Piatek, Again Again
I welcome the Climate Change Report as a proposed tangible framework that can help Aotearoa New Zealand step up to address the climate crisis. We can no longer lean on our (perceived) clean green image. We need tools and a plan.
While the waste hierarchy ‘Reduction’ as the key and first principle - decreasing waste generation through redesign and avoiding waste - little of the commentary that followed addressed this. Instead, it focused on recycling and recovery.
Reducing waste relies heavily on end-user behaviour: this is harder to implement than infrastructure change. But Kiwis are innovators and have shown our collective ability to work together for common good (thanks COVID!). We can lead the world in designing and implementing systemic change to reduce waste. That certainly keeps our small team humming.
Each year, 295 million single-use cups are sent to landfill in Aotearoa, all producing methane as they degrade. Again Again's network of more than 160 cafes nationwide currently keeps an estimated 800,000 single-use cups out of landfill or nature each year.
It is clear to us that there is a growing appetite from our community to be a part of the solution. Reuse systems like Again Again are new, and still take some working out. But they are the future!
Florence van Dyke, Chia Sisters
Chia Sisters is in full support of the Climate Change Report. As Rod Carr states in the introduction of the report, “no emission reduction is too small – or too soon. All of us have a part to play and a contribution to make.”
We also feel there is an opportunity to make bigger changes – to go beyond just counting emissions. We have an opportunity to reinvigorate and revitalise our eco-systems, biodiversity and global resilience.
Encouraging businesses to eliminate waste and packaging can play a key role in this. Since we launched Chia Sisters in 2013, we have bottled our juices, sparkling coconut waters and smoothies in recycled glass. Glass is infinitely recyclable. This has saved over 4 million plastic bottles going to landfill and 200,000 litres of oil, a finite resource, from being permanently extracted from the planet.
But we can do better. By 2025 our goal is to have 50 per cent of all sales from kegs, on tap, into refillable vessels, thereby eliminating all waste from our products. This is a work in progress, and difficult because it requires behaviour change from both consumers and from the food service and supermarket industries. Pubs, restaurants, supermarkets and cafes are not accustomed to serving juices and other non-alcoholic beverages in refillable kegs. Convincing them to embrace change is difficult.
Currently beverages are the biggest source of waste of any product in the world. If businesses can work together to normalise waste-free packaging options and a circular economy, we will make great change in this space.
In 2021 we need increased collaboration across industries, like our refill event. The Commission can encourage this, and push harder for large suppliers like supermarkets to trial and implement packaging-free options. By sharing information, we can speed up this process. We can create a blueprint of what works to share across categories, industries and with the world.
Mike Murphy, Kōkako
The Climate Change Report is an important stake in the ground for every New Zealander to consider, and many progressive organisations have already begun implementing or at least considering some of the recommendations that are outlined.
Managing waste is a key recommendation in the report, but will require considerable behaviour change across many sectors. We need to consider how a circular economy that values and embraces organic and regenerative agriculture can help reduce climate change.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, reuse and refill was gaining traction; there is more awareness about single-use packaging waste, but we need to push consumer brands to embrace the refillery concept.
In October 2019, Kōkako launched its first fleet of coffee buckets to reduce packaging waste to their Auckland wholesale cafe customers. As of November 2020, we had successfully delivered 297 four-kilo buckets and 1,139 six-kilo buckets to customers across Auckland. Collectively these deliveries have eliminated 8,022 single-use bags: a huge win for Kōkako and our network of cafes.
As a nation, we need to show leadership to influence and inspire other countries in sustainable innovation. This will become more important for businesses as we encourage behaviour change and better report on our climate risk exposure as part of our stakeholder reporting.
Rich Old, Batchwell
I welcome the Climate Change Report and the drive towards a circular economy. I would like to see a more robust framework around changing end-user behaviours, which needs to stem from systemic improvements that make sustainable everyday actions more easily executed.
The perceived safety of single use containers in a COVID world affected the general public’s willingness to embrace reusing and refilling. Some companies who were starting to embrace reuse have put their initiatives on hold.
In 2021, we would like to see an improved and more easily understandable recycling structure, and big business getting back on board with reusables and ‘closing the loop’.
Batchwell is committed to being plastic free, using glass bottles and aluminium cans in cardboard packaging. We began as a kegged product, allowing for hundreds of refills from a single keg and for retailers to serve in reusable containers. This is something we are passionate about and are continuing to grow - you’ll find us on tap in top restaurants, cafes, and refilleries.
To dream big, we'd love to see a reuse facility set up that could retrieve glass bottles, de-label, clean and sterilise them, and resell them to be refilled. The recycling symbol also needs an overhaul - currently plastics 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are not accepted by recycling companies, yet they carry the recycling symbol, which the public can’t reasonably be expected to understand.