A Bin Inn customer filling up a jar with an ecological shampoo, costing $15.20 a litre. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

ARTHUR HAWKES
arthur.hawkes@age.co.nz

You may have heard the buzz about going plastic-free for July and wondered how to go about it, especially with the supermarkets being a sea of glad-wrapped meat, and veggies in individual packets.

But people all over Wairarapa have joined the cause, which aims to reduce the plastics that make their way into oceans and waterways, damaging marine life and spoiling rivers and beaches, in New Zealand and all over the world.

New Zealand has few options to recycle plastic: the only facility in the country to recycle a common plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, opened last year in Lower Hutt.

The majority of New Zealand’s plastic is shipped off in bales to be dealt with by countries such as China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

One shop that has been promoting plastic-free July is Bin Inn Masterton, which caters to those looking to ditch the troublesome packaging, offering ecological, plastic-free alternatives to many types of product.

Customers pay by weight or volume and receive a five per cent discount if they bring their own containers.

In April, owner Sally McQuade took over the business, which runs as a co-operative.

“Some people bring in little fabric bags with a drawstring and fill them up with oats and things like that, that’s a really good way to not use plastic bags.”

McQuade had seen a surge of interest for plastic-free July, particularly among younger people.

“It’s been really good. I’ve got a lot of young people who come in on Saturday morning, bringing their own containers to reuse.”

While some have voiced concerns in the past that self-serve, organic produce shops end up being more expensive, when several products available today were compared with a supermarket, they ended up being similarly priced or cheaper, such as a shampoo which worked out cheaper [per litre] from Bin Inn.

Food Forest Organics in Greytown is another offering which provides some unpackaged food, as well as offering alternative packaging.

The Rubbish Trip, a zero-waste advocacy group, recommended that people in Wairarapa head to farmers’ markets, with their own containers and bags.

“No two ways about it, if you want to get a good source of unpackaged [often locally grown] produce, markets are the place to go,” The Rubbish Trip’s co-founder Hannah Blumhardt said.

The Wairarapa section on their website is particularly useful for zero waste shopping options.

Jo Dean, Wairarapa Zero Waste co-ordinator, said making smart consumer choices was the key to lowering plastic usage.

“As consumers, we are constantly concerned about the environmental impact of plastics, and this is mainly the plastic packaging that comes with our purchases.

“If we can rethink how we purchase, that impacts the reduction of each and every one consuming.”

Dean highlighted the plastic bag ban as a “huge feat” in terms of our national waste.

According to the waste advocacy organisation WasteMINZ, the average New Zealander generates about 31kg of packaging waste a year.

For a household of four, that adds up to an equivalent of 124kg of packaging annually.

Of this figure, only about one sixth is recycled.

Waste Management World 2018 research found that New Zealand produced 3.68kg of waste a person a day – this was the worst in the developed world.

  • WasteMINZ advised starting your plastic free journey with the “Big Four – bags, cups, straws, and water bottles”.
  • Those wanting to join in are encouraged to take the plastic-free pledge on www.plasticfreejuly.org