From left, Liam Prince and Hannah Blumhardt brought their message about reducing waste to Orewa this month.
A Wellington couple, who have been producing as close to zero waste as possible for the past five years, shared their experiences and ideas in Orewa this month.
The Rubbish Trip talk, held at Estuary Arts Centre on March 17, was attended by around 25 people – including many already working in this area, such as Betsy Kettle of Hibiscus Coast Zero Waste, Kate Hall of Takeaway Throwaway and Sara Kulins of Puhoi who is known locally for a big cleanup of Orewa Beach and for her I Speak for the Sea blog.
A big show of hands regarding who already composts their waste, showed that Liam and Hannah were mainly preaching to the converted.
The couple has been on the road talking to communities about household waste reduction since 2016, and took it nationwide at the beginning of 2017.
Although they intended to finish The Rubbish Trip in July 2018, interest in low-waste living was such that they are continuing to offer talks on request.
This was their first talk on the Hibiscus Coast.
Liam told the group that they found it surprisingly easy to reduce their waste footprint and as well as environmental benefits, they are saving money, eating a healthier diet and have become more resourceful and creative.
Some of the things people are not as aware of, when it comes to our waste is that tyres shed microfibres that wash off the road and into the stormwater system and the same happens when garments made of fabrics such as polyester are washed.
Hannah said although many know about the problem of plastics in the ocean, there are actually higher concentrations of microplastics on land.
The talk made it clear that the zero waste approach is about packaging.
“If you look at a supermarket shelf, you often can’t see any actual food,” Liam said. “It is a sea of packaging.”
In the face of all that packaging, the scheme that has worked for Hannah and Liam is considering a pyramid called ‘The 6 Rs’, before they purchase anything. ‘Refuse’ (don’t buy it unless you really need it) is right at the top. Then, in descending order, are replace (with a less wasteful alternative), reduce, reuse (buy secondhand rather than new), recycle, and rot (compost).
Hannah said they also avoid all single use compostable/biodegradable packaging, as often it cannot be home composted, and therefore ends up in landfill anyway.
Among the signs they say are hopeful are the powers already contained, but rarely used, in Government’s Waste Minimisation Act, 2008 – the one used to ban single use plastic bags. Government is also considering the introduction of a container return scheme and options to make businesses more responsible for the waste they produce.
The lifestyle changes that Hannah and Liam have implemented may sound like a lot of effort, but they say it is a step by step process, one small change at a time, that anyone can do. It will be different for everyone, depending on their priorities and lifestyle.
Hannah told the group that although their way of life has changed, things they love, such as wine, are still factored in.
“Living like this has absolutely not been about sacrifice,” Hannah said. “We have had so much fun – we’ve learned a lot, such as how to make toothpaste and turn a square of fabric into a reusable bag.”
“It has changed our perspective,” Liam said. “There is so much packaging made that will end up in landfill, we think people have become blind to it. Everyone can play a part in turning that around. The ultimate goal is a circular economy, inspired by nature, where nothing is wasted.”