The waste minimisers

Materials discarded or sent to landfill can harm our environment, damage our health and  constitute  a wasted resource. A system of regulated product stewardship for six "priority products" - including single-use plastic packaging -  is coming into effect under the Waste Minimisation Act. Maureen Howard asks six waste minimisers, who aren’t waiting for the legislation, what they are doing to make a difference.

We asked six local waste minimisers three questions:
1. What do you do to minimise waste to landfill?
2. Why is it important?
3. What would make it easier?

Clinton Chambers
Clinton Chambers

Clinton owns Dunedin organic store and cafe Taste Nature.

1. As a retailer our aim is to assist our customers to purchase products that don’t come with unnecessary or excessive packaging, thereby helping them achieve their goals of waste minimisation. One example of how we successfully achieve this is through our "refilled not landfilled" board. This one-of-a-kind board keeps a tally of the total number of containers that have been refilled at the organic grocery store over a period of a year. The final total? 35,595 containers.

2. I feel there is more impact with change if we let consumers know how they can be part of this change. It is important that our customers feel like they are contributing to something. Sometimes they can feel like nobody is acknowledging their efforts, but the board means their efforts aren’t going unnoticed. We hope the impressive end total and success of the board will inspire other organic stores and refilleries to follow suit. Imagine if this was multiplied by even just 10 around the country?

3. The only way we can bring about mass change is through government intervention and policy. The Government wants New Zealand to move away from hard-to-recycle and single-use items. By banning hard-to-recycle and single-use plastic products this will encourage uptake of more reusable alternatives and greater use of recyclable material.

Catherine Paul
Catherine Paul

Sustainability projects co-ordinator with the community-led development programme Project Bruce. Catherine lives in Waihola.

1. I am minimising multiple waste streams in my home by making my own cleaning products, buying zero waste food and groceries where possible, using beeswax wraps, composting and using a worm farm. I also run waste minimisation education workshops in our community.

2. Pollution from single-use/disposable items is becoming a critical global issue. There is a steadily increasing amount of plastic in our oceans with micro and nanoplastics beginning to show up in our soils, which inevitably make their way into the food chain. There is also a large amount of energy consumption and inefficiency in producing single-use/disposable items.

3. A wider range of options for consumers! Particularly for those who live in rural communities where [limited] accessibility to low waste items can be a barrier. A bigger emphasis on product stewardship. This puts the responsibility of the environmental impact of a product back on the manufacturer, rather than the consumer. More funds diverted into resource recovery. Resource recovery centres are a great way to repurpose items that would have otherwise been put into landfill.

George Meikle
George Meikle

George, of Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki, is the gardener at Puketeraki Marae, Karitane.

1. I believe recycling whatever can be recycled is in the best interests of the planet and here at Puketeraki we all do our best to carry this out, whatever that material may be. Composting is one way we do that. Throughout the year, we accumulate large amounts of vegetation including grass clippings, tree tops and vegetable offcuts from the mara (garden). Our kitchen staff are dedicated to the Bokashi method of composting vegetable waste. It’s satisfying that we grow the vegetables for the marae and any compostable waste is sent back to the mara to be composted only to produce more vegetables for the marae.

2. Our plan to build a mara four years ago coincided with the publication of Jessica Hutchings’ book Te Mahi Mara Hua Parakore. In building the mara I have followed many of Jessica’s guidelines on how Maori have gardened for many decades. Jessica wrote about Maori food sovereignty as a return to eating from the landscapes that we come from. This creates a sense of knowing our land from within ourselves — from within our divine senses. Soil sovereignty holds the same premise, it is about returning to our soils and beginning to know our soils and the life that grows from her once more. Maori food security, food sovereignty and sustainable food systems all start in the soil.

3. Here at Puketeraki we have enjoyed the successes of sustainable gardening and await the produce from our young orchard. Although we have regular members who assist on weekends, we encourage all members to come along and get involved and help out.

Leigh McKenzie
Leigh McKenzie

Northeast Valley resident Leigh McKenzie is a waste minimisation officer based at the Dunedin City Council.

1. At work we reduce the amount of waste going to landfill through projects working with other organisations, particularly community groups. At home and work, some nice easy wins we make are: refusing single-use items, bringing our own bags, containers, cutlery, and cups; growing produce and herbs; reusing and refilling for groceries and cleaning; opting for bars not bottles in the bathroom; op-shopping; repairing rather than replacing (often cheaper than buying new); and, composting. Each new thing we change is empowering and rewarding — even if it is small, it adds up.

2. Waste is unsustainable! Each little bit we do makes a difference. Plastic-free lunch workshops at schools really emphasised this for me. When each pupil avoided a couple of items of plastic each lunchtime, the amount of plastic reduced really added up!

3. I recently came across the term "eco-despair". I think a lot of people are feeling this. It is hard to balance choices of carbon footprint, fair trade, organic, local, and waste. But appreciating that just trying to achieve a mix of these things is a step in the right direction, makes it feel easier. Replacing wasteful options with better ways like more refilling, container return schemes, product stewardship, and designing waste out in the first place is a great place to start.

Alex Gorrie
Alex Gorrie

Alex volunteers at DIY bicycle repair workshop, The Crooked Spoke, based in Dunedin.

1. We help people repair their bicycles. The idea is to reuse as many parts as possible and send any irreparable metal pieces to the scrap metal recyclers. Worn out tyres are recycled. Ruptured inner tubes are reused as tie-downs. We accept donations of bicycles that people no longer want. They can be done up and passed on to new riders.

2. Many bicycles are thrown out despite needing only a small amount of work to be rideable again. We help new owners get these bikes up and running in a way that is as accessible as possible to everyone. We aim to minimise barriers such as cost or skill level, which may prohibit some people being able to have a rideable bike. The space has been run by volunteers for 11 years. The kaupapa is that we will help you do the work, rather than doing it for you. In this way, people that use the space pick up repair skills. All services by koha (mahi, putea, kai etc., etc.).

3. More storage space and space to process bikes, more volunteers to help process bikes and parts and to sort tools, a greater selection of 8-10 speed components to help replenish our second-hand stocks.

Dale Smart-Flett
Dale Smart-Flett

Stay at home mum of two boys. (Pictured with Logan, 1 year 7 months). Dale is Dunedin representative for the Raising Ziggy — Cloth Community NZ Fund, runs the Caversham Community Sewing group, and workshops on how to sew reusable cloth pads at Stitch Kitchen.

1. My family uses a lot of reusable products, we have chickens who eat our food waste and we grow our own veges. I’m also a keen sewer. The biggest thing we do to reduce waste is use cloth nappies and reusable wipes for our baby. My passion for waste reduction led me to becoming the regional representative for Raising Ziggy — a cloth nappy pay-it-forward group. I’m in charge of collecting cloth nappy donations, strip washing them and making up starter packs to pass on to families who want to try reusable nappies. We accept all nappy donations as long as they are clean and in good usable condition.

2. A lot of people want to use cloth nappies but the initial cost of buying reusable cloth can be a barrier. One child can go through 5475 disposable nappies a year that will end up in the landfill. We aim to reduce that waste by encouraging families to use cloth nappies through these starter packs.

3. We are a small not-for-profit with a big vision. Donations/funding would help us a great deal and also a space to run our cloth nappy group meet-up.


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