Ten ways to cut down on use of plastic

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Plastic Free July encourages people around the world to cut back on the amount of plastic they use in their day-to-day lives. The Courier‘s Greta Yeoman – with assistance from several community members – has compiled a list of 10 ways to cut down on your plastic usage.


CARRY YOUR OWN REUSABLE MUG AND DRINK BOTTLE – Long-lasting reusable mugs or “keep cups” provide a sustainable alternative to plastic drink bottles and disposable cafe cups. Plenty of cafes sell reusable cups – and several offer a one-off or ongoing discount for those using reusable take-out mugs.

GIVE UP BOTTLED WATER – Carry your own drink bottle so you don’t have to buy plastic bottles from stores. Either reuse a plastic water bottle you already own or buy a long-lasting metal bottle. These are available from outdoor stores, supermarkets and other shops.

Metal water bottles. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

BULK-BUY ITEMS – Bring your own paper bags, glass jars and containers to the supermarket or other bulk-buy stores such as Bin Inn in Timaru to buy items from bulk bins. The Cottage Pantry in Wilson St, Geraldine encourages customers to bring their own containers. Farmers markets are also a good option for buying vegetables, fruit and other items directly from the supplier. Some bakeries, including Fairlie Bakery, sell fresh bread without plastic wrapping, as do markets. The Courier has a list of markets in its What’s On guide.

REMEMBER YOUR REUSABLE BAGS – Retailers have been banned from supplying single-use plastic bags since July 1, so people must now use reusable bags or paper ones. While many shops and supermarkets sell reusable bags, community groups such as the Mackenzie Development Project’s Borrow Bags scheme have been making reusable bags from spare fabric. These are available from the Fairlie Resource Centre.

CARRY YOUR OWN CUTLERY – or just take a set of cutlery from home. Secondhand shops, such as Timaru’s Crow’s Nest, are a good place for buying items such as cutlery, crockery and other containers.

 USE MESH PRODUCE BAGS – Smaller mesh or string bags for fruit and vegetables are an alternative to the plastic bags often offered in produce sections. The Government’s ban on single-use plastic shopping bags does not include plastic packaging and produce bags. Vegetable bags are available from shops around the district, as well as at the Fairlie Resource Centre.

Beeswax wraps. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

ALTERNATIVES TO PLASTIC FOOD WRAPPING – Cut back on the use of plastic wrapping by using beeswax wraps or silicone bowl wrapping. Beeswax wraps are available from Heartlands in Fairlie, and are also sold at the “Bee Covered” stall at the Geraldine Farmers Market. The market is closed for the winter, and reopens in October.

BUY REUSABLE NAPPIES – The Mackenzie District Council has sold “waste-free parenting packs” of reusable nappies and other items (worth $100) for $20 for several years, as part of its work to cut down on waste. The packs include two cloth nappies, a beeswax wrap (to replace plastic food wrap), a reusable menstrual pad and reusable food pouches. Waste Free Parenting initiative founder Kate Meads, who promotes cloth nappies and other reusable alternatives, will return to Timaru in November for another workshop on limiting waste while parenting. Using cloth nappies instead of disposable nappies is estimated to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by several tonnes a year, as well as saving families money.

COFFEE AND TEA ALTERNATIVES – Coffee beans can be bought in bulk from Bin Inn and several coffee shops across the South Canterbury region. Ask your favourite cafe if they sell beans or ground coffee you can take home in a reusable container. Loose-leaf tea without packaging is hard to find, but loose tea is preferable to teabags, as individual teabags contain plastic.

LIBRARIES – An interesting idea found online for cutting down on plastic packaging and plastic in general is to join a toy library instead of buying toys for children. Standard libraries are also a good alternative to buying books online, as bought books usually come in plastic packaging.

Compiled with assistance from Anne Thomson of the Fairlie Resource Centre, Sustainable South Canterbury Trust trustee Rhys Taylor, of Geraldine, and The Rubbish Trip’s Regional Shopping Guide (see www.therubbishtrip.co.nz for a specific list of South and Mid Canterbury zero-waste suppliers and ideas).