Working Towards Zero Waste

Dec. 3, 2018, 6:03 p.m.

Many councils around the country are no longer accepting soft plastics, including Whangārei and with Re-sort on Kioreora Road also closing their doors to them, there has been confusion about what to do with our growing plastic problem.

Whangārei mother Leigh Williams is passionate about waste reduction and said there has been a lot of confusion around what goes in the recycling bin which pushed her to approach the district council for clarification.

“No one knows what (soft) plastics can or cannot go into those things, so I suggested they do some instructional videos for what we can do here in Whangarei,” she said.

Broken down cardboard boxes, newspapers, washed cans, glass and squashed plastic bottles are still acceptable according to the video posted to the Whangārei District Council Facebook page but solid waste engineer David Lindsay said soft plastics have nowhere to be recycled in New Zealand and the value of them is so low it’s not worth collecting.  

Educator for Eco Solutions Anton Bowker also agreed that softs are one of the lowest valued recycled products which are difficult to compress and often get mixed in other foils.

Supermarket chain Countdown has recently extended their popular soft plastic recycling drop stations to Whangᾱrei at the Tikipunga and Okara branches and Far North District Council are also accepting at a number of their transfer stations.

“The best thing we can do is reduce the volume of soft plastics we buy and look for alternative packaging,” Bowker said.

However, it’s not just plastic causing issues in landfill but also food.  Para Kore representative for Te Hiku, Jared Hiakita said that at about 50% Te Tai Tokerau has one of the highest rates of food waste going into bins.

“When we throw food waste into landfill it becomes anaerobic, which means there is no oxygen underneath the surface, it converts into greenhouse gases such as methane which is one of the more harmful gases contributing to global warming.”

Learning to separate rubbish into categories is just one process Para Kore will educate marae, kohanga and kura on as well as teaching composting as a recycling system. It is hoped that by educating these community hubs, skills will then be transferred into the home.

“Kaitiakitanga is the focus of what we do.  When you think about it, Papatūānuku is our kaitiaki because Papatūānuku gives us everything we need."  

“We have a role to play as receivers of those gifts.  At the moment, we extract them faster than Papatūānuku provides them for us and then we dispose of these materials in a way that is harmful to the taiao.”

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