18th of March is Global Recycling Day. At first look one could be cynical and think shouldn’t every day be recycling day? Also, as there doesn’t seem to be a universal “language” of recycling isn’t it difficult to get behind the idea of global recycling?
Putting cynicism aside I did a little investigating and it turns out there is a Global Recycling Foundation. This is the organisation that started Global Recycling Day in 2018 with purpose of expressing to world leaders the value of recycling properly and calling for a more consistent approach to recycling globally.
This year’s theme is #RecyclingHeroes. So I thought I would look into the resources we have available here in my backyard to help each one of us be #RecyclingHeroes.
The links and resources I am sharing here all focus on Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland or wider Aoteaora/New Zealand. My hope is that if you’re reading this and live somewhere other than beautiful Aotearoa, you will be inspired to do a little research in your own backyard. I have no doubt you will come across wonderful humans with similar initiatives you can get onboard with.
Let’s start with Recycling. Here in Aotearoa we are privileged enough to have a good kerbside recycling collection system. However, its efficacy does somewhat depend on how well individuals in households and workplaces do at putting the right things in the right bins! This isn’t always super convenient and so perhaps contamination rates are higher than they should be.
I have to say, though, it does not take too much effort to double check if you are not sure and there are some great resources supplied by Council to assist.
Make The Most of Waste – this website is a handy one-stop for waste disposal info and covers a lot more than just Recycling. It even has a quick quiz game you can play and links to Just Ask Binny – your Auckland recycling buddy!
A large percentage of plastics, particularly soft plastics from a whole lot of food packaging, cannot go in your regular recycling collection. Much of this type of plastic is the sort that lands up in waterways and oceans on its way to landfill. So we have banned single use plastic shopping bags, but we haven’t stretched that to a ban on soft plastics on food packaging? This is essentially single use plastic as well. Baby steps, I suppose?
Thankfully we have initiatives like Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme. This excellent scheme turns soft plastics into other usable plastic products like fence posts and ducting. Again, this isn’t super convenient. You need to keep your soft plastics separate from the rest of your household waste. The soft plastics also need to be clean and dry. And then you will need to drop them into the collection bin at your local supermarket, if your local is part of the scheme.
So Recycling is a good thing, right? And we want to encourage it over waste simply ending up in landfill or worse, right? Yes, but this is only part of the picture. No doubt we all grew up knowing 3Rs – Reduce , Reuse, Recycle! Reduce and Reuse come before Recycle and there is purpose in that. We need to Reduce and Reuse way more than we Recycle.
These days we can add a number of other R-words to our pyramid. This is my take on things with a 7Rs pyramid.
I have Refuse at the top of my pyramid. That is Refuse as in say No to! Taking that pause to say do I even need this item in the first place and if I do what will happen to it when I’m done with it.
Here is where I introduce a real #RecyclingHero. I stumbled across this incredible human, Nicola Turner, just recently. Her book Living Lightly: the busy person’s guide to mindful consumption is a delight. She provides mindful consumption and living sustainably hacks for zero waste, food, cleaning, beauty, fashion, out and about, raising eco-conscious kids and so much more! You can find out more of her story on her website Main Stream Green.
I particularly like Nicola’s way of expressing consumption but also what mindful consumption is. Her hierarchy of waste pyramid starts with Rethink before Refuse – love this!
Nicola is a great example of someone starting her Sustainability journey where she was at, making progress, using her voice to share and inspire her community. A R-word Hero in my book.
Rethinking, Refusing and Reducing plastic is my 2021 challenge. Living Lightly, Nicola’s book, has given me some great tips and hacks. And places like Refill Nation and The Nature Co are popping up all over the place now! I think what makes these sorts of stores and online stores extra special is also ticking the box of shopping local.
When we start looking at household waste one of the biggest contributors is food waste. Living in the city this can be a tricky waste stream to navigate as it isn’t necessarily straightforward to compost. Time to talk the R-word – Rot.
Some parts of Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland have kerbside organic collections already. While the rest of us wait for the roll out of this new collection across the city, there are some excellent resources to tap into.
The Compost Collective – this crowd run free workshops or online courses on different home composting methods and give you a discount on your chosen method to get started.
ShareWaste – part of The Compost Collective, the ShareWaste initiative connects you with other composters in your community.
Love Food Hate Waste – another handy website filled with fabulous ideas and life hacks to cut down on food waste.
I believe more mindful consumption and more demand for sustainable ways of living is slowly beginning to change the social norm for city dwellers. I am optimistic that projects, initiatives and start-ups like the ones highlighted in this post will continue to grow and gain momentum. And the more accessible this sort of living becomes, hopefully the more community focused we become. Something sorely lacking in recent decades. A by-product of environmental concerns reshaping the way we live, better social outcomes and individual wellbeing – how would that be!
Urban Agriculture could be one such way we see this combination of social and environmental change for good. The Urban Farmers Alliance is an organisation doing some mind-blowing-ly inspiring work in our communities here in Aotearoa – feeding local communities and building climate resilience.
I started this post from quite a cynical point of view. What I’ve realised here at the end is that there is a place for Global Recycling Day in our quest for mindful consumption, sustainable living and treading lightly. There is a space here for every individual, household, community and business to start where you are at on this Sustainability Journey. Pick one R-word that feels doable and start there… the Rest will follow. Living in the city ain’t so bad…
As well as living the privileged life I do right now, I have also lived in parts of the world that have none of this infrastructure and resourcing to try and create a circular waste stream. People often ask my why I care so much about trying to live more mindfully or sustainably. My answer is this, it is a minor inconvenience for me to recycle right or refuse a straw or consume less. If by making less impact where I am, I provide a space for someone’s survival choice in the developing world, then I will do what it takes to make less of a footprint. That is my Why. What’s yours?