Start small to reduce waste, says councillor

Filling a council rubbish bag is taking a long time for Dunedin city councillor Steve Walker. He...
Filling a council rubbish bag is taking a long time for Dunedin city councillor Steve Walker. He and his wife Liana Machado keep their waste to a minimum. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Taking glass containers to get meat from his local butcher, refusing to buy overly packaged produce and getting into composting are a few of the ways Dunedin city councillor Steve Walker avoids putting rubbish in his council rubbish bag.

He and his wife Liana Machado have put out council rubbish bags on the kerb for collection in Port Chalmers at a rate of about one a year.

They have had their current bag for more than a year, and it is only half full.

Cr Walker advised people to think big about reducing waste, but start small.

"Make a goal of changing the way you buy one or two things every few months and ease into any larger changes," he said.

"Also, listen to the advice of friends and family about some of the small changes they may have made."

The couple made a point of not supporting the single-use, throwaway culture, Cr Walker said.

They avoided such things as single-use coffee cups and collected soft plastics over an extended period before taking them to a supermarket about once every six months.

Cr Walker said reducing waste could often be achieved more easily from "a position of privilege", and it was not the biggest worry in many people’s lives.

However, children were becoming great advocates for encouraging parents to do the right thing, he said.

The Otago Daily Times asked Cr Walker for his top five tips.

1. "The simplest way to keep waste to a minimum is to start refusing to purchase overly packaged produce at source, and telling the retailer or manufacturer why you are refusing to support their wasteful practices."

2. Start embracing reusable containers. "I only buy fish and meat using my own glass containers."

3. Get into composting. "This is fun and easy, although not practical for everyone." From July, urban Dunedin residents would be able to separate out food scraps and garden waste for kerbside collection, he noted.

4. Support suppliers and manufacturers that run bottle return schemes, provide refill options or use genuinely compostable material. Many were at farmers’ markets.

5. Try to buy products in glass. Look to make sure plastics are numbered 1, 2 and 5, which can be recycled.