If you are reading this, you are probably one of the many Kiwis concerned with plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and are searching for a way to be part of the solution. If you are not, read on anyway – you may learn something.

First, a question for you:

How much plastic packaging does the average Kiwi consume per year?

The answer is an astounding 31kg. That’s equal to 86 mask and snorkel sets!

For a household of 4 that adds up to an equivalent of 344 mask and snorkel sets (or 124kg). Per year. Of packaging.

And of this, only 1/6th of it gets recycled (i.e only 57 mask and snorkel sets out of the 344!)

It’s little wonder that a household with 287 mask and snorkel sets might get a bit overwhelmed by the issue of waste.

So, what’s a person to do?

By now you will have heard about Plastic Free July. If not – where have you been hiding? It’s been cited as the reason behind Air New Zealand ditching single use -plastic water bottles, and it’s inspired the creation of a whale made from 3,000 disposable water bottles in Taranaki.

But if you are only just waking up to Plastic Free July there is still plenty of time to join in the challenge and choose to refuse single use plastic for the month of July and beyond.

But why do I need Plastic Free July to reduce my waste?

We know – you’re an independent bunch who thinks you can reduce your waste without jumping on the Plastic Free July bandwagon. But anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking, eat more healthily or train for a half marathon knows that it is much easier if you have a buddy alongside you.

Having the month of July as your plastic free target gives you the impetus to begin NOW, rather than putting it off for another time that may keep being postponed. And as with a marathon, there are also lots of people taking the challenge at the same time, which provides motivation and even a bit of competition! And while we won’t be handing out cold drinks and bananas on the sideline there are plenty of Kiwi resources to keep you inspired and on-track.

But what’s the point?

Those with a pessemistic outlook may be thinking “But even if I reduce my household’s single use plastic, what is the point when we are a minority?”. When Plastic Free July began in Western Australia in 2011, a mere 40 people signed up to the challenge. Instead of thinking their efforts were futile, these forward-thinking individuals instigated a worldwide movement that now has millions of participants in over 170 countries, including Aotearoa.  

What should I aim for?

People just starting out on their waste-free journey might begin with tackling the Big Four – bags, cups, straws and water bottles. Swap those disposable coffee cups with a reusable cup; take a refillable water bottle with you wherever you go; refuse a straw when offered a drink or carry your own in your handbag, and find alternatives for those single use produce bags in supermarkets.

At the other extreme you could go hard out for a month and eliminate all new plastic coming into your home. This is what Amanda of zero waste blog Waste Free Land did.  Or you may find it more manageable to pick a room in your house to focus on and then once that is nailed move onto another room. For most of us plastic food packaging is a major issue so the kitchen is a great place to start. Try making your own biscuits and crackers or buy items such as rice and flour packaging-free from bulk stores.  In the bathroom making your own toothpaste  is surprisingly quick and easy to do or, for an option that contains fluoride, buy some toothpaste tabs (easily found on the internet). You could also switch to a shampoo bar or use dental floss made from silk thread.

Kirihou kore – kawea ake! Take up the plastic free challenge!

The ban on single use plastic shopping bags came into effect on 1 July but we urge you to go further by signing up for the Plastic Free July challenge and choosing to refuse all plastic bags for the month of July. In doing so you will become an important part of the solution to our plastic pollution. 

Sign up here