The oceans are awash with plastic, the recycling market struggles to keep up, and manufacturers produce more packaging than ever. But we have the power to stem the flow! Here’s some inspiration and ideas for concerned consumers.
Say no to:
Three rules to shop by
The wise shopper’s glossary to packaging
Compostable/biodegradable plastics*. This type of plastic is generally only compostable in industrial composts - a very different system from your own backyard compost heap. Industrial composts are only available in Wellington by arrangement with organisations such as Kai to Compost.
Degradable plastics*. These plastics are even worse than standard plastic. An additive causes them to disintegrate when exposed to oxygen. This results in countless tiny plastic fragments entering waterways and food chains. Furthermore, the additive means they can’t be recycled! Claims of eco-friendly degradable plastics are misleading greenwash, and are something that companies have been prosecuted for.
*New Zealand has no legal definitions for these packaging terms. In effect, they can mean anything - or nothing. Disposing of these plastics incorrectly can be worse than just recycling ordinary plastic.
Polystyrene. Polystyrene particles are notorious for being eaten by aquatic animals, resulting in their death by starvation. Polystyrene isn’t recyclable in Wellington region.
Plastics 1-2. If buying things packaged in plastic, go for plastics numbered 1 or 2. They have a higher value on the international market than plastics 3-7. Recycling companies often have to stockpile 3-7s because they can’t find a buyer. Plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely - it loses quality as it is recycled, and eventually has to be sent to the landfill.
Ask an expert: Hannah and Liam on zero waste living
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