Guest speakers at Sustainable Whanganui Trust's AGM, Collegiate School students Zac Wilson and Scott Bryant, had lots of interesting insights into reuse and recycling to share with those present. Their research suggests that, on average, each New Zealander generates about 3200kg of waste per year, comprising household rubbish, recycling and organic waste.
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Based on their kerbside project result, we estimate about 35 per cent of that waste is recyclable materials.
Adopting the idea that solutions only come about when individuals take action, Scott sold cloth bags to students and teachers, Zac set up up recycling in 18 classrooms. After two and a half years, this project is continuing as "everyone is on board". Then together they developed a secondhand hand school uniform business and culture, which also continues.
Using the funds generated by their secondhand school uniform business, they then tackled setting up and operating a fee-paying kerbside recycling project. With a little help from a younger brother, Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre staff and Collegiate School, plus advice from knowledgeable people, they have run a successful 10-week kerbside recycling project for 40 households in Springvale.
Using electronic technology each week, they reminded their clients of what and how to best present their recycling. It seems that some people who are keen to recycle and prepared to pay to do so, still need educating on how best to prepare their products for collection.
Body recovered from Whangaehu River in Mangamahu
To make this easier for us all, I believe packaging producers need to step up and take responsibility for redesigning and rethinking packaging that is easily reused, repurposed or recycled.
For a start they could redesign the recycling symbol and numbers much larger, so they are easy to read. Secondly they need to resist the temptation to combine different materials into a single package material, as this really makes reusing or recycling difficult.
Many who are keen to recycle realise how problematic packaging is when they discover no local outlet for items. A prime example is polystyrene, which can not be recycled in Whanganui. Surely cardboard, wool or compostable natural vegetable fibres could be used as packaging instead!
Of course reduction, reuse, repurposing all come before recycling, so let's put consumer pressure on manufacturers to break away from their "throwaway" designs and instead use sustainable quality materials that give us stronger and repairable products. Stewardships schemes are a good way to develop manufacturer's responsibility.
Eco warriors Scott and Zac have achieved their vision through good research, commitment, developing partnerships and good business sense. For this they were awarded Best Social Enterprise at the recent regional finals of the YES scheme.
It is great to know that here in Whanganui we have young people such as these guys, heading out into the world. They are the kind of people who can tackle setting up the system changes we need to develop for more sustainable living, within a circular economy.
Having listened to their presentation and recently watched the film 2040, we are more confident that our future will develop into being sustainable and more caring. In 2040 concern about his young daughter's future leads documentary maker Damon Gameau to travel the world in search of current approaches and solutions to global warming. His film shows that around the world there is already a groundswell of people, from campaigners to farmers and engineers, pushing forward against the political tide.
So, while we try to imagine our best 2040 scenario, there are actually other people already busy creating it for us. We just need to find and support these people.
•Graham and Lyn Pearson Graham and Lyn Pearson are Sustainable Whanganui Trustees, active in Castlecliff Coast Care and Green Party members.