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Green Team Column #2: Plastic Free July 2017

Plastic free July! Are you up for it?

Last month, we introduced the Green Team, a bunch of enthusiastic local people representing key businesses and groups who are working together to give our town a better future. A few weeks ago, the Green Team hosted a thought-provoking movie about the sad decline of earthworms in modern agriculture and how simple farming methods can bring back the little wrigglers.

Now, if you think this is ‘a load of old rubbish’ you’re right; rubbish is something The Green Team talks about all the time!

The recent waste manager at Westland District Council was Eddie Newman and he loved talking rubbish. He told school children visiting the landfill site: “We are caretakers of the environment and we need to keep it healthy for the next generation.”

He also told them, “Don’t stand downwind of the pit when the dump truck is dropping its load!”

Rubbish, or waste, is a huge problem and it comes in all shapes and forms. The good news is that if we all work together, we can make a huge difference to our waste problem in a very short time. Small actions can make a big difference.

We all know about the ‘Three Rs’, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We also know that it takes a good amount of effort to do these things. ‘Reusing’ and ‘recycling’ are very effective, but if you want to nip the problem in the bud, ‘reducing’ the amount of rubbish you create in the first place almost cancels out the other two.

Did you know that this month is ‘Plastic Free July’? This simple idea developed in 2011 encourages us to eliminate the use of single-use plastic during July each year. Wow, that’s a big ask – cutting down on plastic is the biggest challenge you are likely to face in this throw-away plastic world.

Plastic is everywhere and as a consumer it is hard to avoid. So many products come pre-packaged (often in plastic) that it is difficult to find another with less packaging. It will be a good day when manufacturers get the message that over-packaging is over-rated!

There is one item you can easily cut down on – the simple plastic shopping bag.

Recently, the Mayors of Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin asked Mayors around the country to join the call to central government to impose a national levy on single use plastic bags or give local Councils the power to do so themselves. Such a levy would benefit charities. Our Mayor has supported this call to action.

In New Zealand we use 1.6 billion plastic bags a year, and each is used on average for just 12 minutes before it becomes waste. Many rogue plastic bags end up cluttering our landscape, polluting waterways and threatening wildlife. (Did you know that it only takes one plastic bag to kill a whale?)

‘Plastic Free July’ is a great time to take action. Take your reusable bags with you when you go shopping. Politely refuse single-use plastic bags. You could also avoid plastic in straws, bottles, pre-packed fruit and vegetables, that kind of thing. You might go plastic-free for a day, a week or longer – have a go and help to keep plastic out of our landfill!

We want to highlight common sense ways of caring for our environment. We aim to share some great ideas for small actions that will make a big difference.

Reducing your plastic footprint is a good place to start!

Green Team Hokitika