If you're heading to Auckland Zoo this school holidays, take your own water bottle - because you won't find single-use ones to buy - and check out their new recyling efforts - all in time for Plastic Free July.

After eliminating single-use plastic bags and introducing compostable food packaging and utensils, it's now ditching single-use plastic water bottles from its retail outlets.

From mid-July visitors can go BYO or buy a reusable bottle. In a few months outdoor filling stations will be installed around the zoo.

The initiative is being introduced during Plastic Free July, a campaign challenging us to go without single-use plastic. It's designed to boost awareness of how much plastic we use and its impact on the environment.

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Once our rubbish is in the bin, it's out of sight, out of mind. But, according to National Geographic, more than 40 per cent of plastic is used just once. As of 2015, more than 7 billion tonnes of plastic waste had been generated. Only 9 per cent was recycled. Packaging already accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste generated globally and by 2050 virtually every seabird species on the planet will be eating plastic.

Plastic is pervasive. But it may not be as hard to go plastic-free as we think, with more alternatives available, and public venues like the zoo moving to sustainable waste disposal.

By making small changes, we can reduce our plastic consumption without it feeling that is too much effort.

REDUCE

We can easily reduce the amount of single-use plastic we consume by using our own eco-friendly coffee cups, reusable drink bottles, reusable metal straws, a container to buy sushi and salads and resusable shopping bags.

It might feel a bit weird taking your own container to the local sushi shop, however most food retailers seem okay about it and some may even offer a discount.

NAKED LUNCH

A plastic lunchbox has a high reuse factor and if it has compartments or can fit smaller containers, there's no need for plastic wrap and sandwich bags.

So many kids' lunchbox items are unnecessarily packaged and overpriced. The "nude food" revolution promotes bringing your lunch free of packaging, with the benefit of being healthier and easier on the budget.

COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING

This is made entirely from plant-based materials that compost down within a certified amount of time (12 weeks), and has no negative toxic impact on soil quality.

Dr Lydia Uddstrom shows the 106 pieces of plastic that were found in a Critically Endangered Hawksbill turtle Zo vets treated last year.
Dr Lydia Uddstrom shows the 106 pieces of plastic that were found in a Critically Endangered Hawksbill turtle Zo vets treated last year.

Ecoware make compostable packaging for convenience and takeaway food - everything from coffee cups and smoothie cups to deli bowls and pizza boxes. They have opened a collection point for compostable packaging at their Auckland base in Freemans Bay and plan to implement collection points in other regions.

RECYCLE

Knowing what plastics can and can't be recycled is a minefield. Auckland Council has a handy guide on their website called "How to get rid of plastic". Single-use plastic like coffee cup lids, straws and plastic cutlery cannot be recycled.

Love NZ soft plastic recycling bins are now available at supermarkets and other stores. They can be used for any soft plastic packaging that can be scrunched into a ball.

Envision NZ says bottle deposit schemes that have a financial incentive attached to recycling would increase recycling rates significantly over voluntary recycling schemes that rely on goodwill. According to owner Matthew Luxon, 98 per cent of councils in New Zealand support the scheme, however it requires the go-ahead from the Minister for the Environment - find out more at kiwibottledrive.nz

ASB WATERFRONT THEATRE

All takeaway containers and paper bags at the ASB Waterfront Theatre are compostable, including straws and cups. They recycle glass, plastic, paper with bins labelled to make things easy. Plastic glassware is multiple-use. Ushers collect all rubbish and glassware from the theatre using large plastic bins; they sort through the refuse and place into the correct bins. The theatre has also banned single-use plastic bags.

EVENTS FOR PLASTIC FREE JULY

Bea Johnson, the author of Zero Waste Home and TEDx speaker who reduced her family's annual waste disposal to one jar, is coming to New Zealand. Find out how to reduce your waste at home at "Zero Waste Living - An Evening with Bea Johnson" hosted by WasteMINZ.

The event is at Auckland Girls' Grammar on July 19. See eventbrite.co.nz for tickets.