Plastic report for 2019 outlines that Kiwis have lots of room for improvement in 2020
If this was a school report for our nation it would say “New Zealanders show some promise in reducing the impact of plastic on the environment, but there is plenty of opportunity to do better in the coming year”.
Despite our generally safe drinking water supply, the average New Zealand household disposes of a whopping 188 single use plastic bottles per year. That’s nearly four per week! While we might think, “But they’re recyclable so does it really matter?” Well, yes it does, actually.
Appropriate bin knowledge
Of the 188 single use plastic bottles disposed of annually by the average household in Aotearoa, 36 of these never get the opportunity to be recycled because as Kiwis, we put them straight into our rubbish bins headed for the dump. That’s on top of the plastic bottles that we place in public place litter bins when we’re out and about. Sadly, single use plastic bottles are also a common item found littering our environment – another reason they don’t get recycled. Recently, a young albatross was found dead on a NZ beach with an intact plastic bottle inside.
2020 Goal: Always put plastic bottles in the recycling bin and pick up any that you might see littering the beach.
Reuse comes before recycling
If we really want to make a big impact on the environment, look no further than the waste hierarchy, which tells us it’s better to reuse than to recycle. The waste hierarchy shows us that making choices where we avoid waste in the first place is better for the environment, and often better for our pockets too. When it comes to single use plastic bottles the best thing to do is purchase a reusable drink bottle to refill when out and about. The investment will quickly pay off compared with always buying water or other beverages.
A clever Kiwi organisation called RefillNZ is removing the barriers to refilling reusable drink bottles by working with councils, cafes and other local businesses to make free drinking water available to the public so we can refill our water bottles for free when out and about. Download the RefillNZ App to find a refill-friendly location nearby.
2020 Goal: Take that reusable drink bottle with you whenever you leave the house.
Help the recyclers recycle
Did you know some plastic bottles have a sleeve on them? This is a soft plastic layer that wraps around the bottle. At least 46 million bottles with shrink-wrapped sleeves are consumed in New Zealand each year. If the sleeve covers most of the container it makes it more difficult to recycle. While this is something businesses can address through packaging design, you can also help by removing the shrink-wrap sleeve before placing the bottle in the recycling bin. Some shrink-wrapped bottles even have a perforated strip and instructions to remove the sleeve before recycling. So, use the perforated strip and help the 25 million shrink-wrapped bottles that are placed in recycling bins each year get easily recycled. For those of us living in Auckland or Hamilton, the shrink-wrapped covers are accepted by the Packaging Forum’s Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme. Their store locator shows where the nearest drop off point is.
2020 Goal: Help our recyclers by removing shrink-wrapped labels.
Want to go further?
The Plastic Free July website has heaps of ideas to help you reduce your plastic consumption.
Let’s aim for a better report card next year!