Plastic Retreat

In his opening address to the Te Tai Tokerau Climate Change Action conference, Minister James Shaw commented that as people engage with small changes toward saving the environment, they begin initiating their own further changes. I’m experiencing this step-by-step retreat from plastic in my own life.

James Shaw landscape

James Shaw addressing the Tai Tokerau Climate Change Conference

I grew up in New York. As a kid, we got our groceries in heavy paper bags. They were just about the right size and weight to make covers for our school books. They were also used for rubbish bags. It wasn’t unusual to hear Dad swearing under his breath when the bottom fell out of the bag while  taking the rubbish out to the bin.

As time went by, cashiers would ask “Paper or plastic?” each time we paid for our groceries. After awhile, the paper disappeared.

As an adult, I thought I was doing my bit by using the plastic bags from the supermarket to line my kitchen rubbish bin. I would tie up the bag each day and throw it in the outdoor bin which was also lined with a plastic bag purchased for that purpose. Couldn’t have been more neat and tidy. It finally dawned on me that 365 plastic bags a year (yikes!) was a bit extreme for rubbish for two people. So, we cut down to one bag a week. This was smelly at times as the rubbish leaked into the kitchen bag which we kept using until the end of the week. Not long ago I saw someone who had lined their kitchen bin with newspaper. We still get a Sunday paper delivered. We talked it over and I gave it a try. So far, it’s working well.

About three years ago, I took a composting class at Eco Solutions in Whangarei and my partner and I bought a composter. We’ve been composting ever since. We use a covered casserole dish on the bench, empty and rinse that daily. That was an easy change for us to make.

Like a lot of people, in the last year, I started taking my own reusable bags to the supermarket. I began with the large burlap bags the supermarket gave out but weight was a problem. We have a large number of steps to climb to get our kitchen and the bags were very heavy. It seems packers have been instructed to put all the cold items together (a good idea if you’re going to be out for awhile, which we weren’t) but it meant we needed Hercules to carry those bags up all those steps.

Each time I check out I ask to have the weight distributed and please use all the bags. I’ve been met with some nasty glares and varying success in getting that to happen. I also bring spare plastic bags with me and try to get the packers to use them rather than gifting us a heap more bags. I realize this is a transition for them as well. I wonder whether supermarket management is preparing front-line staff for this change.

I’d be interested to hear how you are making changes in this or related areas.

One thought on “Plastic Retreat

  1. Hi Rita. We’ve stopped using glad wrap and also are thinking about packaging before buying something. We do most of our shopping at Whangarei Organic Food Co-op where we bring containers to take food home in.


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