In New Zealand, we discard 15.5 million tonnes of waste each year, an absurd amount for a small, agrarian, country at the bottom of the earth. Partly, the problem lies in our recycling systems – only a meager 28 percent of it is recycled. But, new radical solutions are being developed, we’ve already transformed water bottles into asphalt, plastic bags into clothes, and roofing into pavements. Plus, a company in the states, Joachim’s firm, plans to build a 53-story tower made with the waste, a vision for tall buildings and skyscrapers that could be made of plastic.
According to an article in The Guardian, by the findings of one government report, approximately 60 million tonnes of food produce, estimated at $160bn, is wasted by retailer and consumers every year – one-third of all foodstuffs. Further, half of all US food produce is thrown away, eroding hunger and poverty, and contributing terribly to the environment.
Aside from serving people in need with delicious, chef-cooked meals, and bringing people from different walks of life together, Everybody Eats also combats food waste by intercepting tonnes of food that otherwise would’ve gone to landfill.
It collects from food rescue charity Kiwi Harvest and straight from a neighbouring supermarket, then turns the wasted dairy, meat, vegetables, and other wasted foods, into delicious meals for those in need, or for whoever would like to contribute to the cause.
Its founder, Nick Loosley, says Everybody Eats almost exclusively uses perfectly good surplus food, that’s rescued before it is wasted, to provide the community with freshly prepared, three-course meals.
“By doing so we not only reduce the amount of food going to landfill, but we raise awareness to this huge global issue.”
Since June 2017, the charity has run pop-ups each Monday night from 6-8pm at Gemmayze street in St Kevins Arcade, on Auckland’s Karangahape Road, then ran temporarily in Avondale on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. It’s also done a pop-up in Christchurch, each place showcasing strong community support.
Asked how other businesses and organisations in the food sector can better mitigate and reduce waste, Loosley says, waste in the food industry is often dictated by the current expectation of consumer that everything is abundant and always in season.
“Businesses in the food sector could help to mitigate waste by educating their customers on what is available and what is in season.
“They can also give customers the option to purchase foods that are not as attractive as what we have come to expect. A massive amount of decent food never leaves the farm, because apparently consumers don’t want it, but we have never actually really been given the choice.”
It’s been a seamless transition for the consumer: the phasing out of plastic bags, and the new horizons of reusable bags. However, what these reusable bags look like is critical to its environment impact. Mostly, it seems, people have turned to the canvas tote bag – a moderately trendy alternative to the disposable plastic bag.
While this shift has been met with widespread love, in a study conducted by the UK Environment Agency (UKEA), it found that tote bags are, in fact, terrible for the environment. This is because they expend far more resources to produce and distribute, compared to the plastic bag, causing severe imprints on global warming.
Alas, the search for an alternative is here. Since 2009, Zerobag has repurposed waste materials into quality, functionable re-usable bag products.
Originally, the materials for Zerobags were sourced from commercial skydive centres, then upcycled and manufactured in Christchurch. However, its new ploy uses recycled (rPET) textile that repurposes waste plastic water and soda bottles.
It’s founder, Aaron Jones, says Zerobag 2.0 is made from approximately three x 1.5 litre recycled plastic bottles per bag.
“The bag has been designed by us to achieve extremely high yields to minimise waste during mass production.
“Being constructed to a very high-quality, Zerobags are long-lasting and strong (Load tested to 50kg). Thus not providing cheap, crappy alternatives to plastic bags that can be waste issues in themselves.”
It then doubles down on that by using recycled materials, Jones says, and then triples down on that by donating a portion of every sale to Sustainable coastlines and Sea cleaners NZ.
Asked what other businesses can do to mitigate waste – Jones offers some useful tips: “Give your staff Zerobags to use and keep cups for takeaway coffees. Recycle the easy stuff – glass, paper, cardboard, plastic milk containers. Use recycled paper, Use enviro-friendly cleaning products, If your local council has green bin organic waste collection then place food scraps, teabags/coffee grinds in that bin Carbon neutral commute (walk, bike or use e-vehicles).
“Ideally, it’s just little things, more people doing small things will help reduce the issue of waste to landfill in this country. Re-usable products and closed-loop / circular production will also greatly assist.”
Ethique is a Christchurch-based plastic-free and sustainable beauty company that produces handcrafted solid shampoos, conditioners, face and body and solid beauty bars with zero-waste packaging, ridding the beauty industry of plastic bottles one product at a time.
Its founder and CEO Brianne West said her goal was to challenge the conventions of the international beauty and cosmetics industry when it came to product packaging. Ethique products are made from 100 percent biodegradable and sustainably-sourced ingredients, plus the packaging is compostable, so they won’t leave a trace on this earth.
By producing solid ‘bars’, not liquid formulations that require plastic bottles, the company has already prevented more than 4.3 million plastic bottles from being manufactured and disposed of, with a goal to reach 50 million by 2025.
It’s also recently signed an $8 million deal to stock its products in more than 420 Priceline stores throughout Australia. West says, she is determined to stick to her values, which ensures all Ethique products are vegan, animal cruelty-free, palm oil-free (which is still extremely rare) and contain little to no preservatives.
West hopes to re-imagine the beauty and cosmetics industry that will see consumers wash and condition their hair, and apply moisturiser, scrubs and deodorant using ‘solid’ products.
“This brand even goes beyond the fact that you no longer need plastic bottles. Ethique is educating people in a whole new behaviour. The past few generations have always washed their hair and used products in liquid form, so using an Ethique product involves a behavioural change. Not only are you swapping from plastic to an environmentally-friendly product, you need to learn how to use it.”
For anyone to change to plastic-free alternatives is a massive challenge to take on, but there aren’t many other options if we’re going to preserve the environment.
“It was great to see two big retail brands Holland & Barrett and the Body Shop recently announce that they’ll stop selling wet wipes – that’s amazing to hear,” she said.
“But when it comes to manufacturers, I very much believe that businesses need to lead the way and become responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products.
“Global plastics manufacturers are gearing up to produce 30 percent more plastic in the next five years. Brands need to step up and offer consumers a way to help save the environment – it’s that simple.”
Fashion remains a huge polluter in our world, one of the worst in all of the complicit industries. Yet, in the face of fast, dirty, fashion, sustainable brands have managed to capture an audience.
The Wellington-based fashion label, Kowtow, is a strong example, which uses certified ethical organic cotton every season as the core of its collection.
Now, it’s managed to make swimwear from Econyl, pre and post-consumer nylon waste material including fishing nets, discarded carpets, plastic components and fabrics scraps, subsequently recycling over 120kg of discarded nylon.
Waste can be a beautiful thing… if we learn to recycle it creatively.
This story originally appeared on Idealog.