Saturday, August 31, 2019

The old ‘away’ returned

Soft plastic recycling restarted in Auckland back in May, which is a good thing for Aucklanders: It provides a way to get rid of soft plastics that would otherwise have to be thrown away in the general rubbish. But its resumption happened shortly before New Zealand’s ban on single-use plastic bags took effect. That created some issues, but for us it meant better solutions.

After the end of the original soft package recycling programme, I routinely threw our soft plastics away in the ordinary rubbish, as everyone else did, too. But by then I was also trying to reduce the amount of soft plastics we had to get rid of.

My first move was to buy some mesh bags to put fresh fruits and vegetables into rather than the plastic ones that were still in the grocery store (because I use them exclusively, I actually don’t know what grocery stores have now, but they kept using them for a very long time). I also stopped buying fruits and vegetables—apples, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, that sort of thing—in prepackaged plastic bags (this had the additional benefit of reducing waste: I now buy only what we need, so nothing has a chance to rot). But meats are still packed using plastic wrap, even if the trays are usually recyclable, as I talked about way back in 2016.

So, the soft package recycling scheme restarted, but we had less soft plastics to be recycled. What we did have, however, no longer included plastic shopping bags that stores used to give out, and that meant I needed a new solution for packing up the plastics.

The photo above is my solution: Bread bags. Some time ago, I realised the bread bags would be useful for bagging “icky” things. It was a natural choice for bagging the soft plastics.

It turned out to be the ideal choice because the bags are small, and even if overstuffed, they fit into the collection barrels without any problem because their diameter is smaller that the diameter of the barrel opening. Since then, I’ve also used a plastic bag that some sort of electronic thing was put into before being boxed. The bag had holes punched in it (probably so the ting could "breathe"), so it wasn’t useful for anything that might leak; this was a good and useful way to get rid of that bag.

Now that the scheme has been running for several months, I know for sure that we have far less soft plastics to get rid of than we did when the original scheme was running. That’s good in itself.

This is just a part of our efforts to tread more lightly on the planet by, in this case, reducing waste. Because the reality is that there’s no such thing as an “away” to throw things to. Still, at least we now have less to send to the mythical “away”.

Small steps.

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