Waste-free challenge, completed!

Clearly living a waste free life takes continual effort and requires vigilance to monitor the use of resources that are used in creating stuff that will be thrown away.

After a week of this I have become far more conscious of the everyday items I use that end up in the waste stream.  Today’s example is the sticky luggage tag that gets printed out and stuck on my bag when I’m flying.

Now I know that this luggage tag was made to address a problem.  There’s a bar code  printed on it which means that the bag can be traced.  The tag is durable – it won’t come off from handling or if it gets rained on during the process of loading it and unloading it – and I can see that all this is good.  It just means that I have to dispose of the damn thing after I’ve got to my destination.

As I enter my final hours of this challenge I remain convinced that while it is good for individuals to consciously reduce our waste the producers of products must step up and do their bit.  It’s time we had a choice as consumers of products that we know come from a sustainable source and that can be reprocessed or re-used at the end of their life cycle. That means that producers need to think about what happens to their product at the end of their life.  The compostable vege-starch based PLA plastic drink container is a classic example.  It uses sustainable material for production but it is manufactured overseas and imported here and because it can’t be recycled in New Zealand it contaminates our current oil-based plastics supply lines.

I’m aware that the packaging industry is looking at the way they use resources.  Some New Zealand based soft drink manufacturers are now using a lot less plastic in the production of their drink bottles. But we have no reliable source of information that tells us how much of the packaging we produce or import actually ends up being recycled as the commodity market means a lot of it is shipped off-shore to other countries for re-processing.

The Waste Minimisation Act (which was shepherd-ed in by the Greens) is nearly six years old.  It was envisaged in the original bill that the Waste Advisory Board that was set up as a result of the legislation would advise the Minster for the Environment and keep an overview of waste minimisation in New Zealand and look for areas where we could improve our efforts.

In those six years we have had had no recommendations for any products be deemed a ‘priority product’ under the legislation which would automatically require a product stewardship scheme to deal with it at its end of life.  I asked the Minister – Amy Adams if she would consider doing this for TVs – However she declined, saying that she thought voluntary product stewardship schemes are the way to go.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the Waste-Free Challenge.  I for one hope to continue to examine my consumer behaviours.

PS. I ordered a coffee to drink in the cafe and it arrived like this! The proprietor said it was recyclable but it’s unlikely.

Not actually recyclable

Not actually recyclable

2 thoughts on “Waste-free challenge, completed!

  1. Thank you for this series of blogs Denise. We appreciate your efforts to highlight these issues.

    I am living in UK at present and in many ways the problem is greater here. I am looking forward to seeing if the move to compulsory charges for plastic bags has an impact.

    However, I think the worst aspect is the wrapping of vegetables (particularly cauliflowers, broccoli and other greens) in a plastic film. I guess someone has determined that wrapped veges have a longer shelf life in the supermarkets. The only good aspect of this is that revulsion pushes more people to go to the Farmers’ Markets.

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