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How ‘green’ is your green alternative?

Whilst it is really encouraging to see many businesses around town switching to what looks like environmentally friendly bags, cups etc some of the options aren’t as good as they seem at first sight. I’m sure our local businesses think they’re doing the right thing and would be horrified to know that actually they could be causing more problems than they solve, so please be gentle with them if you’re pointing it out. For example ‘degradable’ just means it breaks down into little bits of plastic, which on the plus side means bags are unlikely to be eaten by a turtle thinking it is a jelly fish, but on the negative side means it joins all the other microplastics and ends up not only polluting the whenua and moana but gets into our food chain.

This article here gives a really good explanation of the differences between degradable and biodegradable, compostable and home compostable, bioplastics and recyclable. The best option of course is not to get anything that is intended to just be used once and then disposed of! 

This is why we promote the use of reusable drink bottles and takeaway cups, cloth shopping bags and produce bags. Before anyone starts commenting on the heavy environmental footprint of cotton, and that most netting, tulle etc is made from oil based synthetic fibres, we know! This is why the vast majority of the bags we sell at the EcoCentre are made from materials bought in op shops and remnants from other projects etc. By doing this we’re not only supporting other local charities, but making the most of fabric already in the system rather than creating a demand for more new.

Motueka has tackled the issue of disposable takeaway cups by introducing a ‘Cupcycling’ scheme, people can pay $10 at a participating cafe for a coffee and the ongoing use of a Cupcycling cup. They then take that dirty cup to any other Cupcycling outlet and get their next coffee in another clean reusable cup.

The idea of ‘bring one get one tree’ promotions is growing, Plastic Free July campaigners in Western Australia started off with local cafes supporting a sponsored scheme for the month where they tallied up the number of coffees etc sold in reusable cups and a tree got planted in the local community for every disposable-free takeaway cuppa sold. Some places have community planting days so not only can you add to the trees tally but you can help plant them too!

The collection of local organisations* that worked together on Plastic Free July this year are currently working on a funding proposal to take the work done during this winter’s campaign further and investigate improving the composting arrangements in Kaitāia, such as home collections, commercial hot-composting facilities etc. If your organisation would also like to get involved with this project please contact Waikarere Gregory via the EcoCentre. We will be looking for local businesses to take part in pilot projects, so watch this space!

We’re thinking about what we can do to promote Plastic Free July in 2019 and encourage locals to ditch the disposables altogether, and not just for July. What would encourage you to remember to bring your own cups, bags etc with you when you come in to town?

*The organisations working together this time are: Te Pokapū Tiaki Taiao O Te Tai Tokerau/Far North Environment Centre, CBEC Ecosolutions, Para Kore, with support from Far North REAP, FNDC, Transition Towns Kaitāia and the Corrections Dept.

by Anna Dunford

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