Waste starts with us and ends with us.
Product choice has increased in all aspects of our lives. Advertising tells us that buying things makes us happy. Our purchases have increased the flow of plastic and cardboard packaging. To pay for these products we now work more and have less time available. For convenience and to save time, more single-use, throw-away packaging is now in use.
Not all waste is recycled. A lot is still sent to landfills or is straying into our environment. Stray plastics are a huge problem, when thrown away they never go away. When we buy products, we also buy the packaging. We are responsible for the amount of packaging going into our waste streams.
This responsibility relates to our consumption of products at home, at play and in our workplace. How effective is your workplace in reducing landfill waste and increasing recycling?
Clean paper and cardboard waste is easy to recycle and it means fewer trees are felled. Glass, aluminium and steel containers are the easiest to recycle, they return as they started with no new minerals being mined. Not all plastics are recycled. Some types are easier to recycle than others (1,2 and 4). Some get contaminated with food waste and cost more to be recycled (take-away food and drink containers). Some plastic types (3,5,6 and 7) are harder to recycle. There is low value in the recovered plastics because they are harder to recycle and/or manufacturers struggle to make any profit from them.
A cradle-to-grave approach to product and packaging design is not sustainable. In leading countries, a cradle-to-cradle design approach is used. This approach involves making products, selling products, using products and returning packaging and any redundant products back to the manufacturer.
NZ is way behind the rest of the western world in waste management. It costs 15 times more to send waste to landfills in the UK compared to NZ. Higher landfill levies in NZ would reduce waste going to landfills. Do not assume someone else will do the right thing. It is likely that only 50% of what you think is being recycled is actually recycled. Take ownership of your waste footprint. Choose products without packaging or small amounts of recyclable packaging. Say no to plastic bags. If you cannot find a local recycling bin (we supply these for businesses) do not place packaging in a rubbish bin. Take it home and use the systems set up by your local council.
When you buy a product you also buy the waste, you are responsible for it. Waste starts with you and ends with you.