The amount of waste that we are producing is becoming a serious issue and having a disastrous impact on our community, and our world.
We are surrounded by products and common objects that are not exactly the most environmentally friendly items. Things such as plastic packaging, plastic bags, single-use takeaway containers, cups, cutlery, and straws are a part of our everyday lives. All of these materials are causes for concern, as many people are still not disposing of them correctly. They are ending up floating down our waterways and, with no way to be broken down, they are clogging drains, contaminating water, and proving to be harmful to animals that mistake these objects for food. Our landfills are becoming unnecessarily big and contain a large amount of waste that could have instead been recycled, composted, or reused in some way.
Although a lot of us don’t think about changing the way we dispose of our waste due to it being too much of a hassle, it is a more important time than ever to start by making small eco-friendly choices that have a positive impact. I have been seeking out some small changes that everyone can easily pick up in their own lives to reduce the large amount of rubbish that is being delivered to New Zealand’s landfills every day.
Think about the amount of packaging that you are buying when you do your weekly supermarket shop. As consumers, we are constantly picking up food items that are wrapped in soft plastics, which can be hard to recycle. Luckily, there is a place for you to dispose of these correctly rather than giving no second thought and dumping them in with the rest of your rubbish. Some local supermarkets provide soft plastic bins that you can bring your waste to and have it recycled properly, as these types of packaging do not belong in our council recycling bins for hard plastics and cardboard. The supermarket bins are also a safe place to dispose of single use plastic bags, which are a large problem in our rubbish systems. You can also reduce the use of plastic bags by using fabric ones instead, and mesh bags for produce, which are especially great habits to get into with the plastic bag ban (thankfully) approaching shortly.
An alternative to creating waste while eating out is to take along your own containers for takeaway food and having a reuseable cup for your morning coffee. There are a lot of places that encourage this by adding a special discount for people that have their own keep-cups and containers with them. This can go a long way towards helping to reduce the amount of one-use plastic packaging that usually comes with takeaway options at cafes and restaurants.
Investing in products that can be used multiple times isn’t too hard and it is one of the first steps we can all take in creating less plastic waste. You can also purchase, or just as easily make, beeswax wraps, which are an effective alternative to using piles of glad wrap to keep food fresh or keeping items separate in kids' lunchboxes.
These changes are a matter of taking old habits and turning them into new ones, which can be challenging for those who haven’t seriously thought about the dire effects of waste. For our younger generations, there is the opportunity to start living with good environmentally friendly habits early in life. Being generally more conscious of environmental effects of the decisions we're making, means positive lifelong habits are being created.
Beach Haven Playcentre has started encouraging these habits among its children. It is promoting the use of four bins; teaching children how to carefully dispose of waste correctly by dividing them into hard plastics, soft plastics, cardboard and litter. They also encourage beeswax wraps as an alternative to plastic wrap for lunchtimes, and some families have invested in metal lunch boxes with dividers in them for easy food storage, instead of the common plastic ones that many children are still using. They also incorporate the use of a compost bin for all food scraps, which the children are encouraged to empty themselves after meal times.
By starting with the smallest steps, you too can make yourself and your family more conscious of your decisions, and make the change to become more eco-friendly. It is easy to make yourself aware of the damaging effects that waste can have on our earth, especially with the beautiful green landscapes that we’re known for in New Zealand and our wish to protect these for the future. Invest in reusable containers and coffee cups and bring them along to lunch, and whenever you grab a takeaway coffee. Adjust the amount of plastic you use by choosing fabric options to carry your shopping in, and recycle the right things in the right places - including the soft plastic drop offs that are available to the public at local bin locations. Together, small steps can make a big change.