Paula ponders Plastic!

The challenge of the nearly Plastic Free July!

Over the last month I've been thinking a lot about plastic. Mainly how to avoid it. Taking on the challenge of Plastic Free July. I knew I would not be able to avoid all plastic, but I was going to do my best to reduce the amount I bought or brought home.

And how did I do? Not too bad, I think. However more to the point I became a  much more conscious consumer and learned a fair bit.

I leaned that:

  • Habits take time to change ( and you have lapses, like the time I got all the way back to the car from the chemist before I noticed the plastic bag I was holding..grr)
  • Talking of chemists, there are so many plastic encased products there, but often that is for hygiene and security. Plastic is wonderful in some cases, so we will still need technological solutions for recycling some plastic.
  • Sometimes unwanted plastic arrives in the mail. Some business still wrap their letters or advertising in plastic. I don't want it.  To those businesses; you know who you are!
  • It isn't always as easy as you'd like to find alternatives to some plastic goods. I did have to but plastic toothbrushes in Thames ( grr for forgetting the toilet bag on the way to a few days at the beach).
  • Swapping out single use bags is the easy part. It is cheap and easy to buy re-usable bags and some are very attractive. (see below)
  • Even bulk food stores have product in plastic ( prevents contamination of grains and such) and local butchers do shrink wrap fresh product, but supermarkets are are a case of plastic, plastic everywhere and, the only paper bags can be found by the mushrooms and sometimes fresh bread. Not everything you need comes in tin or glass.

The future?

Local Government, at the recent conference, voted to "Walk the Talk" and promote to Government to plan  to eliminate single use plastics while Councils themselves phase them out at Council events and facilities.

They also vote to implement the LGNZ Waste Manifesto to create national date collection and a consistent national approach to recycling including a container deposit scheme. Good steps!

A number of local Hamilton businesses embraced the challenge of Plastic Free July but are also pushing to better deal with all of their waste and they are making a difference. Fabulous!

There is a lot of International attention on this issue raising the extent of the issue and the impacts. Thank you those advocates!

However, the problem is a big one and complex. The solutions will are also diverse and complex.

We have focused a lot on reducing, recycling and re-using and that's great. Avoidance must still be part of the solution. If you don't need plastic don't take it. Support businesses that do the right thing. Use more glass, and tin. Support the move to better waste data, better collection and better recycling, including new technologies, because like it or not, plastic has it's uses. My sterile eye drops come in plastic and I am happy with that.

Are small personal efforts worth it? Yes. They are. It is the cumulative consumption that that got us into this mess. Let's not compound it by adding any unnecessary items that might end up in our river and oceans.

Finally, Councils need to talk about how to design communities to make more sustainable communities. Call me a romantic but, I love the idea of local villages (you can walk to) and get fresh veg, fresh meat, bread and dairy goods in your cane basket ( see I am sentimental). I like Farmers Markets and had a great time at the Hamilton one on Sunday, great coffee and jazz and a good chat with the food growers and minimal plastic. These are big trends overseas. It make neighbourhoods pleasant, valuable and desirable. This is not an anti supermarket stance. They have their place too. We have lots of people to feed. But we need to think about how we create choices for the growing numbers of  becoming more conscious consumers like me?


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