After canvassing the fallacies of recycling as a be-all-and-end all effort to reduce our shocking waste statistics last week, perhaps it is time to look at some more solutions.
On average we throw out 72kg of packaging waste alone per person per year - a large percentage of the waste stream that can easily be improved on.
When the team I work with at Sustainable Coastlines educate people about consumption of waste and litter there are various tactics that work for different people. In general, females will respond to the shocking image of a dead albatross that has feasted on litter and may change their behaviour based on that one image.
Boys however, tend to engage in competitions. I guess this is no wonder after witnessing the strange behaviour grown men exhibit when playing or watching sport. In fact competitions are popular across the board. I don't own a TV, but have heard (with dismay) that current programming is predominantly reality shows and most of these involve a bunch of everyday people pitching against others in cooking, house renovations or survival.
So when it comes to making an attempt to reduce the 216,000+ tonnes of plastic we import into New Zealand (59% of which is packaging) I was pleased to see the popular community group - Wanaka Wastebusters use a competition for a good cause.
The Unpackit Awards which received $150,000 funding from the Ministry for the Environments' Waste Minimisation Fund this year, gives punters the opportunity to expose the worst types of packaging waste and celebrate the best.
Currently leading the charge for the worst packaging is the highly unpopular new Anchor milk bottle, which based on the huge backlash seems to be a failed marketing ploy.
In fact it seems that our milk packaging is getting worse across the board.
I visited several schools in Northland last year where free milk was being trialled in TetraPak cartons, each with a single-use straw, wrapped in a single-use plastic covering (which was all over the playground) and wonder why this is yet to be nominated as well.
So we have moved from re-usable glass bottles that could be swapped (an excellent idea for conserving resources) to thousands of tonnes of plastic that is also either difficult or impossible to recycle.
What is particularly good about these awards is the definitive change that they help to spark in purchasing behaviour, industry practice and innovation.
After the senseless stupidity of polystyrene trays used for vegetables was exposed last year, Foodstuffs asked store owners to stop the practice and now, a collaboration between Earthpac and Griffins will see compostable packaging trays (with $2.1 million of Ministry for the Enviornment Funding) developed to replace the nasty ones we use currently.
With over 300 nominations already this year, we are set to see an even bigger engagement through the Unpackit Awards which have grown massively since inception.
So I take my hat off to Wanaka Wastebusters for their efforts and encourage anyone out there to nominate good or bad packaging that they are aware of.