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Green Team Column #7: Zero Waste, the Environment and You

Zero Waste, the Environment and You

Zero Waste is the new environmental buzz phrase of the moment and for some of us, the idea of creating no rubbish in our daily lives seems near impossible.

The big problem with using the term Zero Waste is that it seems like such an all or nothing prospect with no middle ground to hide in. What we have to remember though is that change doesn’t happen overnight; it is a journey to a goal and you don’t need to change everything all at once. What might seem like small, almost insignificant changes to the way we behave, can add up to massive benefits for the environment. And the best part is, each change you make gets a little easier as you go.

Start small. Ask yourself first ‘Do I really need that? There is nothing wrong with the answer being yes, you just have to follow that question with ‘Can I get it without the disposable packaging?’ Maybe you can bring your own coffee cup, or your own salad bowl – it’s worth asking. Maybe you don’t need the plastic spoon/fork/straw.

Positive anti-plastic actions are happening all around us, with New World leading the way and now Mitre 10 will be stopping using plastic bags in a few weeks too. The UN’s World Environment Day, 5 June every year, has “Beat Plastic Pollution – if you can’t reuse it, refuse it” as its theme this year.

Sometimes what we need is a little inspiration, someone to show us just how easy it can be to take those first steps and how small those steps can be.

We are fortunate to have ‘The Rubbish Trip’ visiting Westland District Library on 6th June to inspire us with ways to reduce waste – and they’ll be sharing rubbish free snacks too, so put 5.30pm, 6th June in your diary and start your own Zero Waste journey today.

‘The Rubbish Trip’ has been created by Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince who call themselves Two No-Waste Nomads! They have drawn on their three years of zero waste and wide-ranging research to help guide us through the whys and hows of life without a rubbish bin. We know that what goes into the rubbish bin doesn’t disappear, it ends up in landfill and can cause problems from there.

So come and discover innovative examples of reducing waste from around the globe that will help you reduce the rubbish in your life – and our community.


Photo: Hannah and Liam, the No-Waste Nomads!

Green Team Column #6: The Youth-Quake Begins to Rumble…

The Youth-Quake begins to Rumble….

Sometimes it takes the wisdom of youth to make us pay attention to a problem that sticks out a mile. ‘Youth-quake’ is a term we will soon be hearing more often, where young people speak out to change something for the better. The wise words in this Green Column have been written by Alanna Nicholls, aged 10 of Kokatahi-Kowhitirangi School.

Have you ever thought about how much plastic you are using? Or where it goes after you have finished with it? Well, most of it goes straight to the landfill, and after that, some ends up in the world’s bodies of water.

Did you know that in the ocean, there is a rubbish dump the size of Texas? Not good. In my opinion, everyone should start refusing to use plastic.

First of all, why do you even need to use plastic? Plastic is actually quite new, and people got on fine without it. Plastic bags aren’t needed. You could use recyclable bags made of things like cloth and paper. And even those little ones at the supermarket that are used for loose fruit; again you could use reusable and recyclable bags. [Green Team note: paper bags are now available at New World in Hokitika for your fruit and veggies.]

Also, plastic plant pots. For gardening shops, why not make plant pots out of card? It would save a lot of plastic, especially if you have a very busy shop. Don’t forget that gardening is meant to help the planet – selling plants in plastic is not a very good way to go about it.

If it is absolutely necessary for you to use plastic, the next best thing to do would be to reuse it. This means that if you have any plastic that you have used, try to use it again and again until that is no longer possible.

When you can’t reuse your plastic anymore, recycle it. It is not just plastic that you can recycle, it is almost anything. Glass, tins/cans, paper, cardboard – all of these things can be recycled. Recycling does not mean chucking it into one of the planet’s bodies of water or the waste bin, it means collecting it, cleaning it, and recycling it – in your recycling bin or by taking it somewhere for recycling.

In Hokitika, New World Supermarket is going to stop using plastic bags this year. Personally, I think that this is a great idea, as it will help the community to think about how much plastic they are using. If all of the shops in Hokitika could do this, then the whole community would benefit. There would be less plastic bags, and it might also encourage other places to do the same. Before then though, everyone could use their own reusable and recyclable bags.

I hope that everyone will pay attention to this and keep it in mind before you buy or use plastic.

If you like Alanna’s message about using less plastic, you can ‘walk the talk’ by using Boomerang Bags. These are hand-made cloth bags, are offered at a couple of places in town so far, replacing single-use plastic bags and with the aim of having them returned so they can be used over and over again.

If you want to go one step further and help to make these bags, there is a Boomerang Bag Sewing Session this Friday, 20 April 10.30am at Poutini Waiora (17 Sewell Street). Anyone is welcome. If you have a sewing machine, bring it along; also any scraps of fabric or thread.

The Green Team meets every six weeks and is always interested in eco-friendly ideas. If you have something you wish to share, we’d love to hear from you on our ‘greenteamhokitika’ facebook page.

Let’s not worry about age – if it is important enough to change, we can start our own “youth-quake”!

Green Team Column #5: Soft Plastic Recycling in Hokitika!

Soft plastic recycling is here courtesy of New World!

What’s all the fuss about you might ask? Well, all the soft plastic that can’t go into our recycling bins can now be recycled – just collect it at home and drop it into the special bin in the foyer at New World.

If we all do it, New World Owner/Manager Marc Brokenshire will be delighted!

“Quantity is not a problem” he said, “we’ll cope! It’s collected, taken to Christchurch and will be recycled into new bins, benches and bollards among other things. Two of the new benches have just been installed.” The benches are made from the equivalent of over 21,000 shopping bags so it’s great to see the end product of our recycling.

Since Marc and wife Melanie took over the reins at New World, they have reduced the amount of waste going to landfill by around 50%, and now divert and recycle around 90% of total waste generated. Marc says they are always looking for new ways to further reduce the waste at the store.

And now they have enabled us to divert much of our own waste from the landfill.

Currently, we can put plastics with recycle numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5, into our yellow topped bins, along with paper, cardboard and tins, but other plastic was going to the landfill.

Now we can recycle soft plastic, like single use shopping bags, bread bags, frozen food bags, toilet paper bags, chip bags, biscuit wrap including silver lined packets, rice bags, courier envelopes and those bags that keep our Guardian from getting soggy when it’s delivered! Basically, anything made of plastic that can be scrunched into a ball, as long as it is empty and dry.

A very limited amount of contamination can be tolerated, but spare a thought for the lovely people who have to check and sort through it, so if not clean, you can give it a quick rinse, turn it inside out to dry overnight and then add it to your collection to take to New World next time you shop.

We’ve looked into the Frequently Asked Questions for you, or you can read them all at the packaging forum website, www.recycling.kiwi.nz.

For example, those trays protecting biscuits are not soft plastic. They are classed as rigid and unfortunately cannot be recycled locally unless they have the right recycle number (1, 2, 4 or 5).

A little bit of rigid plastic can be handled, for example the top of ‘suckies’ – those little soft plastic packets of yogurt or juice, also known as squeeze pouches.

Another challenging new plastic is one that is bio-degradable or compostable. These are designed to break down in the normal waste stream at the dump and cannot be recycled.

So, some things will still end up in the landfill, but our challenge to you is to keep reducing what goes into the green waste bin.

If the packaging can’t go in the yellow topped bin or the new soft plastic recycling bin at New World, get stroppy and let the manufacturer know you’re not happy, or switch to another brand with more thoughtful packaging.

For now, if you can’t easily avoid them, collect soft plastics, drop them to New World, and perhaps take a seat on a recycled park bench that you have helped to create.

And don’t forget to follow us on facebook – greenteamhokitika!

Green Team Column #4: The Plastic Pandemic and Animal Pests

Conservation Week – The Plastic Pandemic and Animal Pests

New Zealanders love getting outdoors, be it in their own backyard or the local park, beach or forest. This year we’re celebrating Conservation Week on 14-22 October with the theme of “Love my backyard!” We encourage all New Zealanders to get outdoors and show a little love for nature.

To mark the occasion, the Green Team and the Department of Conservation are running a few events. For those interested in learning about issues facing our marine environment, we’re hosting a special film screening of A Plastic Ocean in Hokitika’s Regent Theatre at 7pm on 15th of October.

The documentary follows journalist, Craig Leeson, on his search for the elusive blue whale. Leeson discovers an immense amount of plastic waste in the ocean so he teams up with free diver Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers to investigate the plastic pandemic. They travel to twenty locations around the world to explore the fragile state of our oceans. Along the way they uncover alarming truths about plastic pollution, and reveal working solutions that can be put into immediate effect.

The Green Team hopes to make the event an enjoyable occasion with the screening of the documentary, followed by a cup of tea. There will also be the opportunity for conversation and to purchase useful household products that offer a sustainable solution to disposable plastics. These will include wax sandwich wraps and solid shampoo bars. In addition, Hokitika New World Owner/Manager and Green Team member, Marc Brokenshire, has promised a free reusable bag for everyone who attends, so we’re hoping that you’ll be able to start replacing plastic straight away!

The Department of Conservation is also running a “Build-Your-Own Backyard Trap” workshop at the Westland Industrial Heritage Park on 14th of October from 2-5pm. With materials generously donated by McMullan’s ITM, DOC staff and Westland Industrial Heritage Park volunteers will be on hand to help families and others in the community construct DOC150 stoat/rat traps to take home and catch backyard pests. Only last month, DOC staff found a male stoat weighing a whopping 414g, nearly 100 grams heavier than the national average male stoat! If you want to get involved in some local predator free initiatives, this event is for you! Please register in advance at the Westland District Library, Hokitika i-SITE or Hokitika New World to participate.

Conservation week is a great chance for everyone to get out into nature, get involved in the community and most importantly, “Love your backyard”!

Green Team Column #3: The Nine “R’s”

How many Rs does it take to be Green?

We started out with reading, writing and arithmetic. Then we got hammered with reduce, reuse and recycle. And you might have seen the three values of Awahono School highlighted in the Messenger recently: respect, responsibility and resilience.

With a bit of inflation, we have six more Rs of sustainability: reinvent, rethink, refuse, repair, replace, rebuy. Alongside the usual three (reduce, reuse, recycle), we now have nine Rs that will help save the world! The idea is that when we apply all these Rs to our lives, we pave the way for the future, which means that we respect our environment, take responsibility for our actions and create resilience in our communities. Wow, everything is connected!

You might say that small actions such as taking your reusable bags to the supermarket, saying no to a lid on your take-out coffee cup, or turning off the lights is just a drop in the ocean and won’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things. But as they say, every little bit helps and there is a great story that highlights this point.

Early one morning, an old man was walking along the beach after a big storm and found huge numbers of washed up starfish. He could see a small boy approaching who was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.

The old man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what you are doing?”

The boy replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. They can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun comes up, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man laughed and said, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “I made a difference for that one!”

Each one of us can do something small and it will start to make a difference. If many people do it, it will make a bigger difference. If our whole community does it, we can make a better future for all of us.

Then there are people like Al Gore who have the influence and vision to make life better for all of us who call planet Earth home.

You might have seen Al Gore’s startling and powerful documentary a few years ago, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. At the time (2006), some ridiculed his warnings and predictions about climate change. But now, he has created ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’, and in just over a decade, some of those warnings are already a reality with record breaking temperatures and bigger, more frequent storms.

We’d like to add one more R to the list – the Regent. Hokitika’s Regent Theatre will be showing ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ premièring this Thursday (24th August). So rock on down to the Regent and all will be revealed!

In the meantime, have a think about how you could weave those Rs into your life. Start with the small stuff: refuse a bag at the checkout, rebuy some clothes at the op shop, and rejoice when you see a starfish!

Green Team Hokitika