Putting the FREE into plastic-free

Putting the FREE into plastic-free

Aaron Jones is the founder of Zerobag™ and an all-round good human. We caught up for a chat about the latest awesome project he’s working on to help save the world from single-use plastics.

“We’re really excited to be teaming up with the Pacific Island Games to be held in Samoa in July.”

“This is the first time ever that the games have planned to be totally free of single-use plastics. We’re donating 6,000 Zerobags, so it’s pretty huge for us!”

The bags will be given out to athletes and other attendees from the 22 countries competing.

The partnership has a mutual benefit – the bags had failed the company’s quality control process due to a minor construction flaw in the pocket length, so by accepting the donation, the Pacific Games organisers have helped Zerobag maintain their Zero waste policy in house and the games is a step closer to being the first ever plastic-free event. 

Kerry Logistics have also kindly offered to join the cause, freighting the bags free of charge to Samoa for the event. The Environmental Minister in Samoa is arranging for goods to be received for the event free of any taxes or duty, so this can be a full charitable donation at no cost to anyone.

The Pacific Islands have a big goal to be less reliant on single-use plastic. The organisers of the Pacific Games have been bold in their vision to go plastic-free for the first time ever, and they are installing a whole range of initiatives to achieve this.

As Aaron points out, “All of their ideas are really simple, interesting and admirable. Many other events could learn from this what these guys are doing.” 

“We’re thrilled to able to provide their plastic single-use bag alternative with Zerobag.” 

If you haven’t discovered Zerobags yet, you’re missing out! We reckon they’re a great part of your reusable bag arsenal. The clever little bag folds away into itself and is the size of a mobile phone – perfect for throwing in your pocket. They’re extra strong, so they’re ideal for those heavier loads. In fact, you’re more limited by what you can physically carry than what the bag can handle.

The original Zerobag is made from upcycled parachutes and the Zerobag 2.0 is constructed with certified 100% rPET fabric made from recycled plastic bottles.

Grab yours here!

The ban is coming!

The ban is coming!

We’re about to take a big step forward in the mission to solve plastic pollution in New Zealand. The nationwide ban on plastic bags officially comes in to force on 1 July. As excited as we are about this, we’re also really aware this change will be difficult for some people and some businesses to come to terms with.

For many of us, plastic bags have been in our lives since birth. We were taught to turn up to a store with nothing but our wallets, and leave with our purchases in free plastic carry bags. Sometimes just one item per bag, or even multiple bags for one item!

We didn’t question it. This is what everyone else did. We learnt from watching others in our community and it became part of our culture.

And then finally, someone started to question the intelligence of the uncontrolled handout of shopping bags – to be used for mere minutes – that were made from a material that doesn’t biodegrade and doesn’t return to the circle of life. If it doesn’t break down, what happens to it?

Well, what an uncomfortable truth that has been.

We now know that plastic bags play a starring role in the plastic pollution crisis. Plastic has been found 10,898m under the ocean at the bottom of the world’s deepest trench, the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench. Plastic has been found in thousands of dead marine animals, and microplastics have even been found in bottled drinking water and on the top of the Pyrénées. The even scarier news is that plastic production is expected to continue to skyrocket, while less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled globally.

As hard as it is to learn that we have all contributed to this crisis, the good news is we now know how to solve it.

And removing plastic bags out of our economy is a big part of this – with such an easy solution: always take a bag shopping!

The hard part is learning new habits, and unlearning the old ones.

Let’s all remember that none of us made the transition to reusable bags overnight. We’ve all been through the various stages of carrying shopping in our arms and pockets, dropping things on the ground, or having to go back to the car while at the checkout. It takes practice to teach yourself a new behaviour – and to make it a habit.

So for those of you who are already in the habit of taking your own bag shopping (most of the time!) we ask that you help those who are just starting their journey. Remember what it was like for you, show those people a healthy dose of empathy, and share with them with the tips and tricks that helped you remember.

And we also ask you to be understanding and supportive of those businesses who need to transition. The best thing you can do is to always take a bag shopping, but there will be businesses around New Zealand, especially smaller family-run businesses, who will find it really difficult, or who may be completely unaware of the new laws. So support your local stores by taking a bag and if necessary, gently let them know about the ban and inform them they are liable to fines of up to $100,000 for breaking the law. For all the information on the new plastic bag laws follow this link.

Download our free posters

We’re really keen to do our bit to help Kiwi businesses make the transition as smoothly as possible, so we’ve put together these artworks. They’re FREE for anyone to download (A4 and A5), print and display.

We got this, New Zealand!

Bags Not

Download in A4 and A5 sizes here!

Download in A4 and A5 sizes here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download in A4 and A5 sizes here!

 

How to be (almost) plastic bag free

How to be (almost) plastic bag free

We’ve all got used to taking our reusable bags to the shop, but how about that collection of single-use plastic bags we still have stashed in the kitchen drawer? The ban on disposable shopping bags starts on 1 July, so check out our simple alternatives for the other common single-use bags in your life: produce bags, bin liners and dog poo bags.

Sign up for Plastic Free July and #choosetorefuse single-use plastic bags

Produce bags

Produce bags for your fruit and vegetables will still be given away in supermarkets. Here are some tips to rid your life of plastic produce bags forever:

  • Do you even need a bag? Single items such as broccoli or a banana bunch can go straight in the trolley.
  • Pop your fruit and veggies straight into one of your reusable shopping bags already in the trolley.
  • Smaller netting or fabric drawstring bags can be washed and re-used. Just remember to pop them back in the car once the fruit and vege is unpacked.
  • Avoid the pre-packaged produce and pick your own nude carrots and potatoes from the shelf. This way you take only what you need and avoid creating food waste too. Make sure you give all your fruit and veg a wash when you get home.
  • Reuse your old rolled oats bag or bread bag. They may still be plastic, but if you already have them you may as well reuse them as many times as possible before throwing them out.

Bin liners

With no more shopping bags to line our rubbish bins, some people are spending money on buying plastic bin liners. Eeek! Decide whether you really need a bin liner at all (the answer is probably no!). The key to living without plastic bin liners is separating your wet food scraps from your other rubbish. The remainder of the rubbish in your kitchen bin will be dry and non-smelly. You can separate your wet food waste by:

  • putting it in the kerbside food scraps collection if you have one
  • arranging a private collection if the service is available in your area
  • composting your food waste or putting it in a bokashi system or worm farm (and helping to restore our degrading soils)
  • using an old chip packet or bread bag to collect food scraps in separately before adding to your wheelie bin outside
  • collecting food scraps in a container on your bench, wrapping it up on newspaper and adding it to the wheelie bin on rubbish day.

 Tip: If you have space, store your food scraps in the freezer or fridge so they don’t smell.

Once you’ve separated out your food waste, you can either:

  • go bag free completely and just wash out your bin when you empty it, or
  • make your own bin liner out of old newspapers. You can use the origami method of paper folding or grab a glue stick.

Other useful tips

  • For your bathroom rubbish bin, empty it out just before a shower, then wash it out while you wait for the water to heat up.
  • Oil and fat: pour into an empty glass jar and store it for next time, or use the solidified fat to make a bird feeder, or place the hardened fat into the chip bag of your foodscraps to be placed in your wheelie bin on collection day.

Dog poo bags

Under the new plastic bag phase-out, dog poo bags will still be sold. But it is possible to go dog poo bag free!

To deal with dog poo you need something to pick it up with and something to carry it home in.

  • Collect poo using old tongs, a shovel, pooper-scooper or make your own out of an old bottle.
  • Cut cardboard cereal boxes in half and use them as compostable single-use scoops.
  • Use a glass jar or reusable small plastic container (you can use the lid as a scoop) or wrap the dog poo in old newspaper or in a pre-used bag. If using a container make sure to wash it thoroughly in hot soapy water after each use.

If you are up for composting dog poo, great advice on how to compost dog poo can be found here.

So take the Plastic Free July challenge and #choosetorefuse all these bags this July!

All good things…

All good things…

We’ve got some bad news folks. The nationwide soft plastics recycling scheme has been suspended. We suspect in the past few weeks many of you have already turned up to your local collection bin with your dutifully cleaned and separated soft plastics, only to find the bin no longer there!

The reason is the same one that plagues all plastic recycling. It just hasn’t been viable. Our soft plastic was getting transported to Australia where there’s a company that has the specialised equipment to recycle it and produce plastic bollards, picnic tables, bench chairs and other similar items. However, there was so much soft plastic coming in and nowhere near enough of these items being purchased. Supply massively outweighed demand. 

Further pressure was added with China deciding to no longer be the dumping ground for the developed world, leaving Australia with much the same challenges as we have.

It also didn’t help that there were high levels of “contamination”, meaning that people were putting dirty plastics, food, and other materials that weren’t soft plastic into the bins.

There is still hope that the scheme can be revived, but it will almost certainly be provided to a reduced number of regions.

So, where does this leave us? In a bit of a pickle, to be honest. Our only real option for now is to put soft plastics in our rubbish bins to be dumped into landfills. 

There was a glimmer of hope when a NZ business recently started processing some soft plastics and plastic milk bottles to make recycled plastic fence posts. But it hasn’t been able to get to a scale that could deal with the massive volumes of soft plastics trash we create.

So what’s the best solution?

Simple. Refuse the plastic in the first place. Turn off the demand. If we don’t have any soft plastics waste, we won’t have to worry about it contaminating our environment, breaking into microplastics and making its way into our food, or staying in a landfill for eternity. If you haven’t already done so, check out our blog post ‘Imagine the headache if there was no soft plastic to recycle?’. And to learn more about the challenges of recycling plastics, check out the Recycle section on our website.

Here are our top tips on how to reduce your use of soft plastics:

1. You won’t believe it… always take a bag shopping.

2. Replace plastic cling film with reusable beeswax wraps (cheap, and easy to make) to wrap your sandwiches.

3. Use a reusable container to store your leftovers, rather than wrapping in cling film (or wrap in a beeswax wrap where feasible). 

4. Don’t buy produce that comes in plastic. 

5. Shop at stores, butchers, and/or markets where you can refill your own containers. 

6. Use reusable produce bags for your fruit and veges (look on YouTube for videos on how to make your own) or simply put your produce straight into your basket, shopping trolley, or reusable shopping bag.

7. Buy fruit and veges from a local farmer or delivery service that doesn’t use plastic packaging. 

8. Grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs.  

9. Choose products that come in recyclable materials (cardboard, glass, tin, aluminium), or compostable packaging if you have access to a compost. (Just check whether it is home compostable or commercially compostable, as the later won’t compost in your home compost because it requires high compost heat to biodegrade.) 

Deck the halls with sustainably grown holly.

Deck the halls with sustainably grown holly.

It’s that time of year when we clean out our chimnies, hang up the stockings and leave out the biscuits and milk.

Yes, we’re talking Christmas.

It’s a time for getting together with families and friends, eating great food, enjoying a drink or two, and giving presents.

There’s no doubt giving and receiving gifts creates a lot of joy. But it also creates a lot of trash. And considering the plastic piling up at refuse stations as well as plastic continuing to litter our streets, beaches and waterways, we think it’s worth asking “can you have a Christmas free of single-use plastic?

You won’t be surprised to hear we think you can (or at the very least drastically reduce your use). So below are some tips and tricks to make sure your Christmas joy is maximised and your plastic waste is minimised.

  1. Buy experiences rather than stuff. Think about getting your loved ones a ticket to a concert, a festival, or a sports event. Buy them a voucher for a massage or haircut, or perhaps they could do with some cooking or dancing lessons? If you love them that much, you could even go with them!
  2. Pool your money with others to purchase one better quality present, rather than multiple lower quality ones.
  3. Wrap your gifts in something other than wrapping paper – like tea towels, nice fabrics, reusable gift bags or boxes. Wrapping paper is pretty crazy when you think about it. All those resources to make and transport it – only to get ripped up and thrown in the bin. Without wrapping paper, you won’t need sellotape either!
  4. Donate to a charity on their behalf. We appreciate this is still a hard one for lots of people to fathom, but think about giving to someone who’s more in need this Christmas.
  5. Offer people your services. Do some jobs around the house or in the garden, or perhaps cook a meal so your loved ones can go and do something they really enjoy, or just kick their feet up.
  6. Do they love listening to music, or watching documentaries or TV shows? Sign them up for (and pay for) their subscription to streaming services.
  7. Offer to pay their bills. We admit this one sounds pretty dull, but a lot of people would appreciate their bills being paid for them!
  8. Give a reusable gift. Ask yourself if your gift can be reused hundreds of times? And where will it end up?
  9. Purchase second-hand items, like clothing. Just check out your local second-hand clothing stores for some great gifts. According to a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation “A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future”, every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. An estimated USD 500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that’s barely worn and rarely recycled.
  10. Choose products that are made from recycled materials. Only 9 – 15% of plastics are recycled globally. A large reason for that is there is not enough demand for the recycled plastic.

Hopefully, there are some real gems in there. And hopefully, they help you to have a merrier Christmas.

We’d like to thank you all for your incredible support in helping us build awareness and momentum around solving the plastic pollution crisis AND let’s not forget the Government bag ban announcement!

We’ll leave you with one last thought. Do you remember what gifts you got for Christmas two years ago? What about last Christmas? And where are they now?

Local Hero: The Freedom of Waste-Free Living

Local Hero: The Freedom of Waste-Free Living

Waveney Warth is a waste-free ambassador and a waste consultant at EnVision. She’s passionate about inspiring behaviour change (particularly when it comes to environmental issues) through engaging communications, education and experience.

In 2008, she attempted to live a year of waste-free with her partner. They went on to set up Rubbish Free from the insights they picked up throughout that year. She also starred in the NZ documentary “Living The Change“.

We sat down with Waveney to learn about her story in becoming one of the best spokespeople of ‘Bags Not’ in the country.

What was the a-ha moment that began your waste-free lifestyle?

Single-use plastic. It just suddenly seemed clear one day when I unwrapped an ice block, enjoyed it for five minutes, then threw away the wrapper knowing it will be around for years to come.

Sometime later I heard that scientists now believe plastic won’t ever completely biodegrade but break into microscopic plastic particles that stay around forever. When I finally let my brain acknowledge its longevity, any single-use plastic seemed hard to justify.

Then in 2008, my partner and I challenged ourselves to live rubbish free for a year. We got some reusable bags just before the challenge started, and they’ve been soldiering on ever since. I actually have a small love affair with them, and I’ll be so sad when they finally give out.

What’s your top tip for remembering your bags?

Public humiliation.

I’d been trying for years. Like Homer Simpson stuck in some stupid looping scenario. Then, when our challenge started, I made a pledge to myself that I’d never use a plastic bag again, under any circumstances, and that was that.

I turned up to the supermarket three days later, got all my things on the checkout only to realise I forgot my bags. I had to leave, bright red and in a hot sweat. You only need to do that to once.

What are your top tips for easily reducing plastic waste?

We’re all busy, and I would still be putting out a bag of rubbish a week if I hadn’t been intentional about it. So try and find local markets, butchers and bulk bin stores where you can ask for paper wraps, or take along your own containers.

You can even BYO paper or containers at your supermarket too. And be sure to compost or recycle the paper, it goes really climate-change-nasty in a landfill.

What have been the biggest changes to your lifestyle since going waste free?

We’ve accidentally scared a lot of guests off because they’re too frightened to turn up with their plastic packet of biscuits. As a result, we now bake our own biscuits and typically end up watching Netflix by ourselves on Friday nights. Or wait, is that just because we’re 40?

What have been the most challenging plastic products for you to avoid?

Cheese! Chips! To be honest, I don’t avoid them. It would be like purgatory, so even though I understand that it’s a deal with the devil… 10 minutes of personal gratification for a thousand year problem – I do it anyway.

What needs to happen to help make reducing plastic usage easier?

The government needs to continue to lead. It’s great that they’ve banned the bag, and now they need to raise the waste levy to landfill and introduce container deposit legislation. There’s a petition going right now, so sign up to it at www.kiwibottledrive.nz. Plus, it would great to see more mandatory product stewardship schemes.

Anything else you’d like to add or share?

Anyone who has read this far is awesome. Thank you. If I could give you a chocolate fish I would. Not the ones individually wrapped though.

Don’t worry about where you are at with plastic. I don’t care if you have 10 babies in plastic nappies, sucking from plastic straws, eating individually wrapped lollies, we’re all doing our best, and it’s about the direction we are heading in. All of us thinking about this stuff and making small changes is very powerful. It’s already having a massive impact, and it’s only gaining in momentum.