Viewpoint: Trash Talk Katie Monteith Board Member Published June 2018

I want to talk some trash right now. I’m talking about the kind of trash we used to export to China to be recycled.

On 1 January of this year, this

practice was banned due to the Chinese government addressing the country’s increasing pollution-related health issues. New Zealand used to send 15 million kgs of waste plastic alone to China every year. This waste is now stockpiling around the country, as councils try to figure out what to do with it.


A small amount of trash is going to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. However, instead of shipping our trash overseas to be recycled and become someone else’s problem, we need to deal with our own waste, and that starts by minimising how much we create.


Let’s All Do Our Bit

We can all do our bit. I’m no tree hugger. Well, I kind of am, but I’m also a member of this disposable culture. I got a single use plastic bag at the supermarket today. I had taken a backpack, but I bought too many things. When I got home, I used that bag to line my kitchen bin, but for a day’s worth of use (at the most!) that bag will take 100+ years to break down. A paper bag takes 1–2 months to break down in soil.


I support a ban on single-use plastic bags. I will just have to adjust. I’m nearly there when it comes to plastic bags, but we need to do a lot more than that.

Former US Vice-President Al Gore, who has campaigned for environmental issues since the 1980s, says if you care about the environment, you go between hope and despair. I am a 70/30 split on that, but we have to get this environmental party started. It’s 2018 and we know the facts: There is no Planet B.


We need to drastically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions or we face catastrophic and irreversible climate change. We need responsive and bold policy from our governments, councils and the private sector. On a personal level, we have to change some of our daily habits.


It can be overwhelming; it can feel like there is nothing we can do that makes any difference, but we can all play our part. Living more sustainably can actually save us money. It can take a bit more time and effort, but it feels so damn satisfying.

My top five tips for living more sustainably:

  1. Give a flying ferret about climate
  2. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Think about the lifes­pan of anything you purchase.
  3. Use public transport, car share, cycle, walk, buy fuel-efficient vehicles.
  4. Grow your own produce, or buy local and seasonal. Compost if you can.
  5. Freeze your vege scraps and meat bones to make stock.


Bonus tip. Hand soap instead of plastic dispensers that have plastic refills. Often, taking an old-school approach helps to avoid plastic and other disposable items. One last thing: Carry reusable bags with you at all times.

There are some awesome organisations working on these issues in your community and around Aotearoa.


To name a few such organisations, check out:

Common Unity Project Aotearoa (https://www.

Sustainable Coastlines (http://sustainablecoastlines. org/)

Generation Zero (

Boomerang Bags (

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