Love U Waipu is a community project designed to create a plastic-free environment in a beautiful part of Northland.
Getting rid of plastic waste has been on our radar for years, but like everything good, it takes time.”
The concept began years ago when Mother and daughter team, Lindy and Carli Davis would walk along the sandy shores of Waipu, stopping to collect plastic rubbish along the way.
We are so lucky to have such a pristine coastline, but over the past few years it has become increasingly noticeable that more plastic debris has washed up on the beach.”
Initially they were carrying home a few plastic bottles, but over time it increased to picking up plastic fishing nylon, broken nets and buckets, 6-pack rings, plastic straws and polystyrene cups.
“It’s no secret that we hate plastic, but up until now we’ve had little alternative choice. The momentous shift away from single-use plastic has finally opened doors for business innovation,” Lindy says.
The duo has researched and found a number of excellent viable businesses that give retailers options to shift away from plastic and consider plant-plastic, paper, bamboo and cloth.
Aside from the obvious dangers with so much plastic choking our environment, like the negative impact on marine and wild life, there is also the simple fact that toxic chemicals (BPA’s/BPS/PVC’s) leach from various plastics and are associated with cancer, hormone disruption and infertility. This toxicity ultimately reaches our food chain.
Plastic accumulates over time and despite the 12-minute average life span of a simple plastic shopping bag, the ‘after-life’ cycle is extraordinarily long. In most instances a single bag can’t be recycled and will stay in a landfill for hundreds of years, finally breaking down into tiny particles that eventually find their way into our ocean.
“It’s hard to say when people fell out of love with plastic, but the images of birds tied up in plastic mesh and marine mammals with bellies full of plastic, is enough to put even the most disassociated people off,” Carli says.
The fact that China closed its doors to our plastic rubbish has forced the issue even more. We now have warehouses packed to the rafters with plastic refuse that we can’t recycle.
“It’s puts the onus back on individual countries to take responsibility. It’s a good lesson in the way we use resources at the moment – it just isn’t viable and we need to address our policy related to waste.” Lindy says.
The duo say a comprehensive plan is needed to design towns and cities to be less wasteful. Currently the majority of plastics (numbered 3-7) which are considered low value, have been exported for processing off-shore.
“It’s far better to avoid goods packaged in this kind of plastic. Single use plastics have created a damaging legacy. The sobering statistics that indicate by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea has everyone deeply concerned,” Carli says.
Love U Waipu believes the answer is to shift away from landfill dumping, towards a more circular economy. The focus should be directed towards up-cycling waste, optimising resources, harvesting rainwater and generating products that produce zero waste.
Various business in Waipu have already made a commitment to reducing and in many instances removing plastic altogether.
“The process takes time, especially in the retail industry where businesses have committed to stock quantities. But the general feeling is that most of the retailers are keen to join the momentum and help create Northland’s first single use plastic-free town,” Lindy says.
The duo believe the best changes happen in small communities where decisions can be made and implemented quickly with the support of local residents.
They have met with various enterprising New Zealand businesses who offer alternative forms of packaging that are either recyclable or compostable. Their products are plant-based, paper, bamboo or made from bees wax wrap.
Increasing innovation and creativity will see more entrepreneurial success stories that will reduce our dependence on plastic and subsequently reduce plastic pollution.
They also say that one of the crucial issues that requires addressing is the need for effective and efficient systems to get materials from the consumer to a recycling plant, or a commercial composting system.
Given that only a small percentage of our unwanted plastics are actually recyclable, we need to switch our thinking towards purchasing products made from plant material, glass or metal. Clothing should ideally be manufactured from natural fibres (wool, cotton, bamboo, silk) rather than synthetic fabrics that shed micro-plastic particles and end up polluting our water ways.
Storing our products in glass is ideal as most types of glass can be recycled indefinitely, effectively forming of a closed loop system.
As glad wrap, tin foil and wax paper are largely not recyclable due to the various chemicals involved in the manufacture, the Love U Waipu duo are big fans of using glass jars for pantry storage and bees wax wrap to preserve food.
“We first bought the wraps in Australia and have used them to cover our food for the past six years. Most have lasted a year or two before they’ve been relegated to the compost bin,” Lindy says.
Love U Waipu are planning a community event in September where they hope to join with other like-minded individuals to offer a comprehensive plan for becoming Northland’s first plastic-free town.
“We see the Love U Waipu project as a conduit between residents, the Business association and the Council. Positive things can happen when small groups of motivated people work together with local council to find best ways to recycle, compost and create awareness around alternative plastic-free packaging options,” Lindy says.