What ever happened to ‘Be a Tidy Kiwi’? – surely one of the best social marketing campaigns ever waged from that day to this.
One of the more enduring images of my childhood was at Maraetai Beach in East Auckland, when a sudden gust whipped an iceblock wrapper from the hand of a great big hairy patched gang member. Doubtless he embarrassed himself in front of his brethren, but his first, impulsive reaction was to leap to his feet and chase it down the beach. Everyone turned to see: the wrapper was doing its thing – catching on something, coming loose, travelling a little further, catching again. His great boots, try as they might, could not pin it; it eluded him until, finally, down by the water, he sheepishly caught it.
At the risk of sounding like a ‘those-were-the-days’ nostalgic old man, those were the days.
Ask Sam Judd, founder of Sustainable Coastlines, the charity caring for our nation’s beaches with monumental clean-ups, about what is flooding down the stormwater drains into our oceans. Overwhelmingly single-use plastics, which isn’t surprising, given that over half of all plastic products are designed for just one use.
“Nothing will see the organic waste collection rendered pointless quicker than fees”
Sam makes the point that education is the best waste to tackle indiscriminate littering rather than catching it in the drains, or picking it off the beaches.
What is to be done about this tide of waste? When cost is involved, habits change drastically. Take Ireland, which in 2002 through the simple vehicle of imposing a levy on each plastic bag, cut usage of the things by 90 per cent almost overnight.
And witness Cuba’s response to their own, localised oil crisis in 1991 (see Tim Rainger’s story on page 16) – when rocketing prices saw an unprecedented exodus to household and community vegetable gardens, bio fertilisers and pest control, and public transport – all because to carry on as normal was simply too expensive.
A three-bin collection system in Auckland – one for waste, another for recyclables and a third for organic waste is proposed, but nothing will see the organic waste collection rendered pointless quicker than fees, when a compost heap or basement worm farm will do the same job for nothing.
Then think backwards from the volume-costed rubbish collection: consumers will go up and down the aisles of their supermarket, with the tiny nagging thought that everything they buy in packaging that can neither be composted nor recycled will have to be paid for.
Someone will come up with a Certified Compostable Packaging label, and brands will sport it as a badge of honour.
Sales of Sunsweet individually wrapped prunes – the rightful winner of the Unpackit Worst Packaging Award last year – will rightfully plummet until they can get their act together. Now we’re getting somewhere.
A little imagination from us all is all it takes not to contribute to the sea of plastic rubbish floating around in our oceans.