A visit to Visy: my recycling reccie

I was a child of the 80’s…an era when the prevailing environmental message was “recycle! recycle! recycle!”.  I have fond memories of going on a school trip to the Coca Cola factory where they taught us about the many interesting ways that one could repurpose a plastic Coke bottle.  We even got to take home the (*cough* propaganda) handy reuse booklet.  Bird feeder, anyone?  

So…they taught us about repurposing and about how important it was to recycle.

What they didn’t teach us was the fact that when a Coke bottle is recycled, it doesn’t turn into another Coke bottle.  Downcycled-Plastic-Bottles-The-Story-of-Bottled-Water

And it was only a couple of years ago that I learned the truth – that each time you recycle plastic, it is made into a product that is more inferior in quality and you can only do this 7-9 times before the integrity of the product degrades to the point where it will be sent to landfill.

Recycling, however, is still regarded as an important piece of the waste solution puzzle…and it does have its place.  So, I thought I’d better learn more about the business of recycling and when the team at EcoMatters got in touch with me to ask if I’d like to come along on their tour to the Visy Recycling Centre in Onehunga, I jumped at the chance.

After a brief journey through the streets of Auckland, we rolled up in our bus and disembarked with the faint sweet stench of garbage in the air and seagulls circling overhead.

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Visy is NZ’s largest recycling centre (otherwise known as a Material Recovery Facility or MRF) running 24/7 with 200 deliveries every day.  They receive all of Auckland’s recycling (a hefty 230,000 tonnes each year), which they then sort, bale and forward to processing facilities, most of which are overseas.

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Recycling trucks collect the contents of our curbside bins and make their way to Visy, where the loads are emptied onto a huge heap at the back of the building.  The items are then picked up by a digger and dumped onto a conveyor belt that snakes its way into the facility.

A team of people do the pre-sorting, pulling non-recyclable items off the conveyer belt.  It’s challenging work, made even more difficult by the need to handle some seriously unpleasant items (dirty nappies!)…so, think of those brave souls when you’re chucking things in the recycling bin and make sure that items are clean and actually able to be recycled.

The recyclables then go through a series of rotating cylinders with different sized holes to filter out different types of materials.  Metals are collected by magnets and plastics are sorted by infrared cameras.

The recycling machine gets stopped at least once a day due to wraparound issues (non-recyclable materials jamming the machinery) and any untangling has to be done by hand (and can take up to an hour!).

After a short time in the education room, talking to Caroline, Visy’s educational advisor…we all donned high vis vests, safety glasses and shocking pink hard hats for our tour around the perimeter of the facility.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to see the factory floor.  It would have been awesome to watch the machines at work, but, unfortunately, that area is highly restricted (for some reason), and no peeking is permitted.

As we watched the trucks driving in and emptying their contents and the digger hard at work, Caroline talked about some of the more unusual things that found their way to Visy.  “You would not believe some of the things that people put into their recycling bins.  Once we found an entire single mattress that had been squashed into a bin.  We get a lot of hazardous waste – car batteries, paint tins, needles.  All of the guys have to have Hepititus injections before working the machines.  One time, a truck came in and, unbenownst to the driver, his load was on fire – a car battery had ignited.  We had to wave him down and put out the fire.  We’ve also had a rifle turn up.  We had to shut the place down and call the police.  And one time, someone even decided to try and recycle a dead cat.”

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champagneIn the same way that you can tell a lot about someone from the contents of their shopping trolley, Visy staff get an insight into Aucklanders’ lives based on our recycling habits and there are trends at particular times of the year.  For example, in December and January, Visy receives tonnes of glass as a result of Christmas & New Years celebrations.  In November/December, they get loads of cardboard and paper from Christmas gift-buying.  And, in June/July, they collect mountains of milk bottles (cold weather equals lots of hot drinks, it seems).

Some other interesting facts:

  • Visy is owned by the Pratts, the second wealthiest company in Australia.  The name “Visy” comes from Mr Pratt’s great-grandmother, whose nickname was Visy.
  • Visy was opened in 2008.  When they started operations, they were sending 30% of what they received to landfill.  Nowadays, they send around 11% of deliveries to landfill.
  • Aluminium is the highest paying commodity.
  • All glass stays in NZ to be recycled, however Kiwi companies are accepting less glass these days, as it’s cheaper to bring pre-manufactured glass in from overseas than it is to make it in New Zealand 😦 .
  • Pizza boxes are recyclable (as long as no food scraps remain – a smear of oil is fine).
  • Disposable coffee cups are not recycled due to inconsistent labelling.
  • Small bits of paper must be placed in a sealed envelope or box…otherwise they’ll get lost.
  • Cans of spray are recyclable…but they must be empty as they are a fire hazard! (although, apparently the guys don’t mind too much if it’s a can of potpourri or Lynx deoderant that explodes, as it makes their workplace a little less stinky!).

At the end of our tour, I asked Caroline if I could show her some items I’d brought along to clarify whether or not they were recyclable.  And, happily, she obliged.  I was pretty well convinced that most of the things in my “box of shame” were landfill-bound, but, it doesn’t hurt to double-check these things.

And the outcome?

Out of all these items….

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This pitiful trio of tinfoil, were the only items that are recyclable.  

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And the rest?  All headed for the dump.

Boo.

One area of confusion for me was jar labels.  Paper labels are obviously recyclable.  However, some labels are lined with plastic (the way you can tell is that they are usually shiny and can’t be torn).  I always wondered what happens to those plastic-lined labels attached to containers that go to the recycling centre.  It turns out, they are definitely not recyclable, and, once removed, they get sent to landfill.  Boo again.

So, from now on, I’ll be seeking out companies that don’t line their labels with plastic…and I’ll be contacting those that do to ask them to consider switching their labels to those that are plastic-free.

At the end of our visit to Visy, as our bus rolled away, the following thoughts remained:  Yes, recycling is important.  It’s certainly a better option than sending waste straight to landfill.  But, as we know, recycling is an energy-intensive and polluting process.  Much of our recycling is shipped overseas.  And plastic has a limited recycling life.  So, it’s certainly not a solution.

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There’s a reason why recycling is a fair way down the waste reduction hierarchy.  If we’re aiming to be zero waste, we should be recycling less not more, focusing our efforts on Refuse, Reduce and Reuse…and then, as a last resort, Recycle.  And no, dead cats are not recyclable.

A workshop and a screening

Well, I’m feeling positively giddy.  On the horizon, is my very first zero waste workshop, which I’ll be running as part of EcoMatters’ fabulous month-long EcoWest Festival.

If you’re in West Auckland and new to zero waste, book yourself a spot!  You’ll find more details here.

Trash Talk

The other exciting EcoWest Festival event that I’m organising is a screening of the new film, “A Plastic Ocean”.

Filmed in 20 locations over four years, in beautiful and chilling detail, this documentary shows us the global effects of plastic pollution – and introduces technology and solutions that can, if implemented in time, change things for the better.

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Join us up at Lopdell House on April 6 for an evening of education and inspiration.  It will be a great opportunity for our community to connect around this issue and talk solutions with our special guest speakers.  Be part of the wave of change.  More info here.

EcoWest Festival is chock-full of fabulous events and, if you’re Auckland-based, I highly recommend you take a look at their website to check out what’s on offer.

 

 

I don’t think this is going to fit in our Trash Jar

My darling sister and her partner recently travelled over from Melbourne for a short holiday.  As well as catching up with friends and family, one of the reasons for their visit was that they had signed up to do a sustainable Earthship building course, which involved them camping out at a building site on a lovely rural property in West Auckland.

It wasn’t very practical to travel trans-Tasman laden down with camping equipment, so we happily said they could borrow our tent and airbed while they were here.  They arrived in Auckland, came to collect the gear and off they went to pack tyres with earth, stuff straw into frames and plaster mud onto walls.

And then I received a text a few days later…with unfortunate news.

Through no fault of my sister or her partner, the seam of our second-hand, nearly-new (but apparently not great quality) Kathmandu airbed had not survived the camping trip.

So, my dilemma now is, what the heck do I do with a double airbed that is punctured beyond repair?

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Well, I’ve done a bit of research and these are the solutions I’ve found so far…

  • cut it into small pieces to patch other inflatables
  • groundsheet for a tent
  • painting drop sheet
  • rug protector for under a child’s chair
  • car boot liner
  • whip out the sewing machine and use my non-existent sewing skills to make:
    • outdoor cushion covers
    • a beach bag
    • a painting smock or raincoat

Or….would someone take it off my hands if I listed it on a Buy Nothing page (with helpful suggestions for reuse)?

What about you?  What oversized objects have bitten the dust in your house?  And what clever concepts for reuse have prevented you from sending large items to the dreaded landfill?

 

 

 

A peek in our bin

Two of the most helpful steps I took when I started on the pathway to zero waste back in March, 2015 were:

  1. Making a list of every consumable we purchase (and then slowly working through that list in a bid to find zero waste alternatives).

  1. detective-magnifying-glassTaking a peek in my bin to see what our biggest waste items were (which, at the time, were tetra paks of soy milk and vege stock).

Pre zero waste, our household produced one 50 litre bag of trash every three or so weeks.  We’ve managed to shrink that down to around one 50 litre bag every five to six months – a fairly hefty drop in rubbish (fist pump!).  And the great thing is, despite the requirement for a large change in mindset, it hasn’t been all that difficult.

But, I figure, if I want to continue making progress reducing our household waste, I should probably take another peek in our bin.

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November’s waste – headed for landfill

So, what exactly are we looking at here?

This is the landfill waste my family (my husband, our 3 yr old daughter and myself) created last month (November, 2016).

We have…

  1. a bicycle repair kit
  2. nylon bristles from a dish brush (when I’m washing jar lids, the brush sometimes gets caught on the inside of them and then I have to wrench it out – drives me nuts.)
  3. fruit stickers – predominantly All Good Bananas (why must we choose between fairtrade and zero waste?)
  4. the broken end of my daughter’s scooter handle – rubber
  5. plastic fragments from the bottom of my disintegrating slippers (previously my mum’s slippers, rescued from the bin)
  6. nylon from a rope
  7. a broken twisty tie (removed from a potplant)
  8. a plastic media pass (from my husband’s work)
  9. empty antihistamine tablet packaging (for my husband’s hayfever)
  10. stickers (given to my daughter at her dance classes and by her friend)
  11. dental floss (purchased pre Zero Waste)
  12. a small foam sticker (from the bottom of a potplant)
  13. a balloon (given to my daughter)
  14. masking tape (from purchasing wooden stamps on TradeMe)

…and a couple of items pictured that, in hindsight, probably don’t have to go to landfill:

  • acrylic wool covered in glue (from my daughter’s crafting) – I’m going to try washing the glue off the acrylic wool and then reuse the wool
  • plastic wrap from a balsamic vinegar bottle lid – I forgot that this is actually recyclable through our city’s soft plastic recycling scheme

Now, aside from disowning my husband and daughter (who created the lion’s share of this rubbish), what am I going to do to avoid this type of waste in the future?

Three ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’revolution-fist-2
Actions for this Month!

  • contact the folks at the Vodafone NZ Music Awards to see whether they’d consider using a biodegradable material for next year’s media passes
  • give Savana’s dance teacher a set of wooden stamps and stamp pad as a Christmas gift with the hope she will replace stickers with stamps – DONE (I’ll give you an update when classes resume next year as to whether this was successful!)

And here’s a peek inside last month’s general recycling bin…

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general recycling for November
  1. two plastic yoghurt containers
  2. a balsamic vinegar bottle – glass
  3. five beer bottles – glass
  4. three cannellini beans tins
  5. a treacle tin (purchased pre Zero Waste)
  6. a vitamin C jar – glass
  7. three beer bottle caps

Two ‘Zero Waste to Recycling’revolution-fist-2
Actions for this Month!

  • try making my own soy yoghurt
  • have another go at soaking/cooking beans
    (I haven’t had much success with this in the past)

What about soft plastic recycling and paper?

Well, we’ve pretty much eliminated all our soft plastics.  The only bumps in the road are cheese packaging and the small plastic wrappers that cover some jar/bottle lids.

Unlike plastic, paper is a biodegradable material that the earth can absorb so it hasn’t been high on the zero waste priority list, thus far.  Let’s just say paper recycling in our house is a mountain I’m yet to traverse, despite the mostly-effective “No Junk Mail” sign on our letterbox.

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wont-somebody-think-of-the-children

Occasionally, I do have to remind myself, “it’s a journey” and to just keep chipping away at it, a little at a time.

What about you?  What are you sending off to landfill?
Go take a peek in your bin…and share your rubbish shame!  :).

(New to zero waste?  Feel free to check out the room-by-room guide I put together.)

Buy Nothing Christmas

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“It’s too soon!” I hear some of you shouting.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but Christmas is ten weeks away and, as some people like to get their festive season organised sooner rather than later, I thought that now would be a good time to start this conversation.  As for me?  Thankfully, I don’t have much to organise because Christmas is generally pretty relaxed around our house.

A few years ago, before I’d heard of zero waste, I watched a documentary called “Manufactured Landscapes”, a stunning meditation on the damage wreaked by industrialisation that follows Canadian photographer, Edward Burtynsky as he shoots landscapes that have been changed by large-scale human activity.  It was a sobering watch.

The opening shot of that film really stuck with me.  It was a tracking shot, through a super-sized Chinese factory (one kilometre in length) in which 23,000 employees make most of the world’s irons…and this shot went on f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

Well, only five and a half minutes really.  But it felt like a looong time (kudos if you manage to watch it till the end).  And it got me thinking about the stuff that I buy…and all the other people on the earth buying stuff (side note…have you ever seen a real-time world population clock?…rather frightening).

Shortly after watching that documentary, Christmas season rolled around and I had a conversation with my dad about an idea I’d had.  “Hey dad…I don’t know about you guys, but we have enough stuff…we don’t need any more stuff…and if we did need more stuff, we’d go out and buy it ourselves.  So, how would you feel…if, this Christmas, instead of buying each other stuff…we bought each other “experience gifts”…you know like massage vouchers or dinner out at a restaurant or something like that?”  My dad thought for a moment or two and then replied…”or we could just…buy nothing at all”.  Silence, while I processed this novel concept…and then jubilation.  “Yes!!”  Brilliant!

So, after getting the okay from the rest of the family, that year we had our first Buy Nothing Christmas.

And it was so. freakin. AWESOME!

socksNo scrambling to figure out what to buy my brother who generally made it pretty obvious that he wasn’t that stoked with gifts I gave him.  No more working out what the hell to give my dad, an uber practical guy who, in reality, was happy to receive a pair of socks and a box of scorched almonds (I really didn’t want to go through anotherscorched-almonds Christmas giving socks and scorched almonds).  No more finding homes for gifts that I would receive but had no use for.  No more wasting money on giving family members things that they didn’t actually need and that would just add to the clutter in their lives.  No more stress.

It was a revelation.

Instead…we ate delicious food, we spent time with each other, we played games, we listened to music, we went for a walk and played tennis, we relaxed.  And we agreed that the idea of buying nothing at Christmas time was pure genius.

Now, one thing to note is that we do have kids in our family.  And we didn’t want a tiny riot on our hands.  So we decided we would still do gifts for the kiddiewinkles.  But instead of buying new trinkets, we opt for homemade, second-hand or experience-based gifts.  We’ve given indoor rock-climbing vouchers, homemade stilts, trampoline park vouchers, second-hand board games, homemade building blocks and personalised memory card games.  The coolest gift was the one we gave our then-four year old nephew, Cooper, the first year we did Buy Nothing Christmas.  We scoured our neighbourhood for used cardboard boxes and then, my husband and I, spent the morning constructing a giant rocket in my parents’ backyard.

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Granted, Cooper only played with it for a matter of minutes…but building that thing was so much fun!  And weirdly, just recently (years later), out of the blue, Cooper said to me “Aunty Kristy…do you remember that giant rocket that you and Uncle Davian made for me that time for Christmas?”  Amazed he remembered, I replied “yeah?”….and Coop says “I should have played with that more.  That was really cool”.

And, just in case you’re wondering, where does Santa fit in to all this?  Well, before our daughter was born, my husband and I had a conversation about whether we wanted to teach her about Santa and we both concluded that, while we wanted her to experience the magic of Christmas, the idea of telling her that this guy flies around the world giving presents to everyone didn’t really fit in with our feelings about consumerism (or honesty).  So, we explain that Santa is a “pretendy story” that people like to tell at Christmas.  And instead of focusing on Santa, I discovered an alternative.

The Kindness Elves

Every year, on the first day of December, two little people (Christmas Pixies, as we like to call them) arrive on our doorstep with a note explaining who they are and what they’ll be doing for the coming weeks.  Every day, up until Christmas, they appear somewhere in the house with a new note suggesting a fun activity that promotes generosity and kindness.

“Let’s bake some cookies for the neighbours”.

“Let’s collect some of your toys and give them away to the local children’s hospital”.

“Let’s donate cat/dog treats to the animal shelter”.

And our daughter LOVES it.

  • Christmas magic – tick!
  • Teaching my little girl how to be an awesome human – tick!
  • And zero waste – tick!

The other thing we’ve changed in the last couple of years, is our approach to Christmas food and this is one area where we’ve seriously simplified.  The tradition in years gone by was that we would have Christmas at my folks’ place and, every year, my mum would take on the role of head Christmas chef (as mums often tend to do).  She always claimed to enjoy it and every year churned out an obscene amount of delicious food for Christmas Day.  But, the reality was, it exhausted her.

russian-feast
(Okay, so my mum didn’t actually cook this much food.  Also, meat didn’t feature that heavily at our Christmas celebrations…and the person pictured is not my mother, although she does look suitably fed up.)

So, for the last few years, we’ve taken our Christmas show on the road, choosing a scenic spot away from the city to park up my parents’ campervan and spending Christmas Day enjoying the great outdoors.  Taking my mum away from her kitchen, her “nuclear-war ready” pantry and her myriad of kitchen gadgets has made us simplify significantly.  Now, instead of mum cooking absolutely everything, everyone brings a plate to contribute to the Christmas feast.  And last year was the best.

We were all in the campervan, staying at beautiful Kawhia.  I was preparing some food, everybody was pitching in and we were nearly ready to eat.  And, just as I was adding the finishing touches to the meal, I turned to mum and asked her “so what did you make?”  She paused for a moment and then…dawning realisation.  “Nothing!”

“Good work!” I replied, in all sincerity, and gave her a high five.

Because I don’t think Christmas should be about stress.  It shouldn’t be about expectations, it shouldn’t be about maxing out your credit card, it shouldn’t be about waste.  It should be fun.  And it should be about relaxing and spending time with people that you love.  Which is what I plan to do this Christmas and all the ones after it.

beach-feet

The Garbage of Eden

I live in a suburb called Glen Eden.  Generally speaking, it’s a lovely place to call home.  Surrounded by trees, with the gorgeous Waitakere Ranges just to the west, nice local parks and plenty of native birdlife.

glen eden walkway

However, sadly, it wasn’t exuding particularly eden-like qualities today.

Three days a week, I bike (or sometimes walk) with my three-year old daughter to kindy.  It’s a neat little trip with a handy shortcut and not much time spent on the roads.  We ride down the hill, throw “peanut butter sandwiches” to the “trolls” as we cross the little bridge with stream meandering underneath and make our way up past the local park to the stream-side pathway that leads to Savana’s kindergarten.

And every time we make the trip, we see rubbish.

Drink cans, pie packets, cigarette cartons can litterand ice cream wrappers…all just casually discarded by seemingly thoughtless individuals.  It’s a habit I find infuriating and baffling.  I am genuinely mystified as to what goes through the brain of someone who decides that the best thing to do with their chip packet when they’ve finished scoffing the contents is to chuck it on the ground.  I’m certain they must be aware of the existence of bins, they can probably see that the rubbish clogs up the drains after rainfall and, even if they’re not familiar with the “Do the Right Thing” jingle that was on the telly in the early 90’s, surely they must agree that rubbish strewn about the place isn’t a great look?

But still, some folks, as they travel from A to B, somehow justify leaving behind a visible wake of waste.  If anyone can explain the psychology behind this decision-making, I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

Up until now, I didn’t make a habit of picking up other people’s litter.  Occasionally, yes, if a bin was nearby or if I saw someone drop something, I would return it to them with a cheeky “I think you dropped this”, but my general feeling was ‘Why pick up that lolly wrapper?  People will just think that someone will clean up after them’.  It all felt a bit like ‘ambulance-at-the-bottom-of-the-cliff’ pointlessness.  But then, a few days ago, I saw an article that asks, “The question is, can you fix stupid?”

The article quotes former director of the U.S. National Park Service, Bill Mott saying that, contrary to public opinion, you can fix stupid.

“When I was director of the National Park Service, I sent out a memo to every park employee in the country that they pick up at least one piece of litter every day,” Bill said. “At the entrance stations, I told greeters to mention it to every person entering the park, to ask that each person pick up at least one piece of trash every day, too.

People would see rangers and visitors picking up even the smallest piece of litter, and it became contagious. Next thing you know, the littering, was greatly reduced. The next few years were the cleanest our parks have ever been.”

It’s known as the Broken Windows theory.  Essentially, when a broken window is left unrepaired, it sends a message to the community that nobody cares for that area.  This often leads to more broken windows, grafitti and other petty crime.  And, of course, the reverse applies.  If people see that an area is well cared for, they’re more likely to show respect for that environment.

broken-windows

So, I decided that the next time my daughter and I went for a walk, I would go armed with a rubber glove and bag.

I told Savana to put on her ‘rubbish goggles’.  And while she zoomed along the sidewalk on her scooter, I dawdled behind her on my anti-litter mission.  It’s 700 metres (about 8 minutes) to our nearest major park.  By the time we got to the playground, my bag was overflowing with trash.

After a few fun rounds of playground tag and some scooter practise, we headed back to the homestead.  My first words to my husband when walking through the door?  “I’m going to need a bigger bag”.

I then proceeded to empty out the trash all over our sunroom floor to make some further investigations.

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DSCF4073Sorting through the contents, I felt like a suburban anthropologist.  The collection revealed an interesting snapshot of our local community.  There were the usual chip packets, ice cream wrappers, straws, lollipop sticks and McDonalds detritus…but I also discovered a condom wrapper, a pregnancy test (a great match, I thought), an unused fart bomb, a flyer from a local Christian school and, ironically enough, an unopened cleaning tissue.

One thing that was very noticeable was that the majority of food/drink packaging was for unhealthy food.  That, combined with the number of cigarettes found, makes me think that, perhaps, the level of respect that you show your body is reflected in how you treat your environment.

The upside of my litter-collecting mission was the feeling of satisfaction of leaving my neighbourhood looking a little more respectable (oh, and finding $5!).  The downside was the punishment handed out to my knees with the near-constant squatting down to pick up items (I might have to borrow my dad’s nifty claw picker-upper gadget for next time).

All up, we rescued 156 pieces of rubbish on our 700 metre walk.  Of those 156 items, 97 (62%) were recyclable (65 soft plastic, 26 paper/cardboard, 5 aluminium and 1 hard plastic).

And I think it was Savana who had the most insightful thoughts of the day as we went about our litter collecting duties…

Me:  Why do you think people leave their rubbish here?

Savana:  I’m thinking it’s because they’ve finished with it.

Me:  Why do you think they don’t put it in the bin?

Savana:  …(pauses)…I’m thinking it’s because they’re silly.

 

Despite the silly actions of a few litterbugs, rubbish collecting is now my new habit when I go out for a walk.  I’m determined to bring the eden back to Glen Eden.

stream

 

Mmmm…banana peels

mudpie3

Remember when you were a kid and you’d throw a bunch of random, possibly inedible things into a bowl, mix it all up and pretend you were Alison Holst?  “And now you stir it like this”.  Ah, those were the days.  Well…that’s a little how it feels to make Banana Peel Cake.

To be honest, as an adult, there’s something pretty unnatural about putting banana skins into a food processor with a view to cooking and eating them.

And why, I hear you ask, did I want to eat banana skin?  For curiosity’s sake…and for a cause.

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love food hate waste logoLast week, I was very happy to be invited to the launch of Love Food Hate Waste, a collaboration between 59 councils across NZ and WasteMINZ who have joined together for a 3-year campaign.  Their aim?  To raise awareness of food waste.

Now you’re probably already aware that people throw away food.  We’re all guilty of it.  The occasional moldy bit of bread…a rotten apple.  But when you look at the statistics, the scale of the problem is actually quite horrifying.

Worldwide, one third of food that is produced is wasted.  I’m sorry…can you repeat that?  ONE THIRD.

In NZ, our land of plenty, families are chucking away $563 worth of food every year, or a combined effort of $872 million.  That’s over 122,500 tonnes.  If you’re having trouble visualising that, try picturing 213 jumbo jets.  That’s how much NZ families are chucking out every 365 days.

food waste stats

That’s a lot of waste.  And, personally, it’s not so much the wasted money that bothers me…although all that cash in the trash is rather silly.  My biggest concern is the massive impact all of this food waste is having on our environment.

Worldwide, consider the 1.4 billion hectares of land required to grow all that uneaten food, the 300 million barrels of oil required to produce and transport it and the fact that one quarter of fresh water consumed each year is used to produce food that we throw away.

All that is bad enough.  And then we have the other end of the problem happening in the piles of garbage, we lovingly refer to as ‘landfill’.  40% of the content in our rubbish bags is food waste (which is appalling in itself…why are we not composting the lot?).  Food that breaks down in landfill does so in suffocating circumstances.  With no access to oxygen, the rotting food creates methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.

If food waste were a country, it would have the third largest carbon footprint, behind China and the USA.

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Back at the Love Food Hate Waste (LFHW) launch, we discovered that food destined for the rubbish can, in fact, taste spectacular.  As we nibbled on canapes care of Scarecrow chef Ben Barton who had taken dumpster-dived ingredients and transformed them into delicious culinary creations, we listened as LFHW project manager, Jenny Marshall explained the hidden issue of waste.  “The problem with food waste is that it’s the invisible environmental crime.  We all notice the car with the smoky exhaust but when one banana goes brown and gets thrown in the bin, no one really thinks twice.  It’s only now we know that this adds up to 18 million bananas going to landfill each year.

combi bananas

All of this…and we have people starving around the world?  It’s absurd.  Something needs to change.  We need to change.

But, Jenny continues, the good news is that “food waste is a problem with solutions, solutions that are already working in places like Denmark where they have cut their food waste by 25% in 5 years.”

In France, it is now illegal for supermarkets to throw away edible food.

So what can we do in New Zealand?  What can you do in your own household?

  • Plan your meals
    • Once a week, I sit down with a pile of recipe books from the library and find a week’s worth of dinner recipes.  Then, when we go to the markets to get our fruit and veges, we know exactly what to get.  It saves time, money and sanity.  You don’t find yourself wondering “what am I going to make for dinner?” And you know that you will have all the ingredients you need.
  • Make a shopping list…and stick to it
    • Keep a list in the kitchen and add to it as you run out of items.
  • Eat your leftovers
    • We always make enough food so we’re covered for lunch the next day.  So much easier!
  • Prolong the life of your foodOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
    • Refrigerate, freeze, preserve.
  • Think twice before you throw away those scraps
    • Transform stale bread into bread and butter pudding, use up leftover veges in a soup or frittata.
  • Compost!  It’s easy, cost-effective and a win for the environment.  If you’re in Auckland, check out one of the free composting workshops run by the Compost Collective.

And if you want to be a food waste superhero and take it to the next level, engage with your community and spread the word.

The message is simple…Love Food…Hate Waste!

#lovefoodhatewaste

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Oh…and the cake?…it was delicious!

 

Recipe here…Banana Peel Cake (I used organic bananas)

Statistics gathered from:  Love Food Hate Waste and Food is for Eating

LFHW campaign launch photos by Tate Dooner