Since the new era of less waste, more recycling dawned two months ago some Waikato people have gone to extraordinary lengths to reduce their trash.
The Waikato District Council has no idea how people’s efforts are going district-wide but if even some are doing as well as Gordonton woman Annette Taylor the flow to landfill will have been cut considerably.
Taylor, editor of Number8Network, says her top tip for reducing rubbish is … to get a jar.
“Normally we’d put out a rubbish bag about once a fortnight, but since the changes kicked in on July 1, we haven’t put out a single rubbish bag,” she wrote.
“And there’s still room in our glass jar for more! That’s eight weeks’ worth of trash not going to landfill.”
Taylor had extra motivation for reducing her household’s rubbish. Each month, she and husband David Riddell undertake voluntary beach patrols for the Waikato branch of BirdsNZ and they have been appalled by the amount of rubbish they’ve seen on local beaches.
“Every month we walk up and down 5.4 kilometres of windswept beaches at Waikorea, between Raglan and Port Waikato.
“Our mission is to keep an eye on the numbers of dead seabirds to understand what is happening to their populations.
“The amount of rubbish along the beach is heart-breaking. Bottle tops, pens, bobbins, buckles, drink bottles, bits of bins and bags and dolls and oh, so much more. And scattered amongst it, dead seabirds.”
Did the birds die of natural causes or, perhaps, ingest a morsel of colourful plastic, she wonders.
Eight million tons of plastic trash ended up in the ocean in 2010.
“That’s equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute, and statistics predict that it’s going to increase,” Taylor says.
“Looking at the never ending tide of trash can feel overwhelming, but the buck stops here. I will recycle, re-use and reuse. I’m saying no to buying takeaways in polystyrene containers, I don’t want my cabbage wrapped in plastic and I’ll buy products made to last.”
How many other people have been similarly or even slightly motivated to reduce their flow of rubbish to the landfill is unknown two months after the introduction of paid stickers for rubbish bags and double the recycling bins.
Nothing to report
When asked how Tamahere and the district in general had responded to the councils big push for change, Tim Harty, the councils general manager of service delivery didn’t know.
“We don’t have available any statistical information on waste diversion to report until at least the end of the first quarter. Anecdotally, we have had no real issues with stickers in your area,” he said in a written statement.
Personally, my experience of the new regime didn’t start well. I had no rubbish but the collectors mistook papers for recycling for rubbish and, even without a sticker, put them in the rubbish stream. With two bins for recycling I used one for unbundled papers only to find that was a no-no when they got left behind.
When I queried why this was a problem the explanation was that it involved double handling and ate into the collector’s time. I needed to put the paper into bags or boxes and stand them beside the recycling container, I was told.
I explained that I was generally short of plastic bags as I had been working to reduce my use of plastic. That’s why I’d used a recycled potting mix bag for paper to be recycled and it had been mistaken for rubbish – despite having no sticker. Bags must be under 60L. Mine are 40L.
Since the slightly bumpy start things have improved. I label my (apparently odd) recycling bags as such and will have to resort to tying paper up with string when they run out.
I’ve put out rubbish bags on three of the last eight weeks since the new stickered, collections began. Where Taylor’s top tip is to get a jar mine is to refuse as much unwanted packaging as possible.
Plastic is never recycled in the sense that it is used again for the same purpose as it was formed in the first place. It is always ‘down’cycled into new, lesser forms and this can only be done a few times before it is, inevitably, waste. Zero waste campaigners recommend we refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot, in that order.
I use my own bags when shopping, including for fruit and vegetables (Onya bags) and buy as much bulk, loose goods from Bin Inn as possible, where I recycle a bunch of resealable plastic bags I’d accumulated over time. I buy whole loaves of bread from a baker and, again, carry them off in my own bags.
For a wealth of tips on how to cut waste I can recommend Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home and Amy Korst’s The Zero Waste Lifestyle – live well by throwing away less. Both are available in the Hamilton library.
Christchurch couple Matthew Luxon and Waveney Warth, who went rubbish-free for a year, also have many useful tips on their RubbishFree website.
I’d be keen to hear of other people’s experiences and tips for cutting down waste. Let me know. Thanks.