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.