They’re sold from her workplace but local librarian Merren Tait’s not used a blue Waikato District Council rubbish bag for a whole year now – and isn’t about to start. With the amount of landfill she’s produced in that time, there’s simply no need.
She stopped buying and using plastic last July, and not just for that particular plastic-free month which was promoted the world over but for 12 months as can be seen by the blogspot 1yearnoplastic she’s so proud of.
The challenge has been “incredible”, Merren told the Chronicle at the weekend ahead of talking this week to a Chamber of Commerce breakfast networking meeting at The Shack and showing off her minimal paper bag of waste as an example of what can be achieved.
“I feel like my year has created positive change and made people more aware about their plastic consumption,” she says.
Merren’s had people carrying plastic apologising in the street like she’s a “plastic Nazi”, she quips. But that just shows they’re aware, she explains of what’s becoming known internationally as the plastic catastrophe.
Plastic is a convenient consumer product used widely only since the late 1970s, she points out, but “unfortunately it’s also a huge pollutant … because it never fully degrades”.
So her blog – which has been looked at from many parts of the world, but mostly by Kiwis and Americans – suggests people go ask their nana for tips on alternatives to plastic like reusing jars and tins as containers, newspaper for lining rubbish bins, egg cartons for seed raising and rags or old stockings for stake ties in the garden.
Merren says she’s found her own dedication to the cause quite easy, except when she’s been given gifts in plastic or not had convenient snacks like cheese and crackers on hand for visitors. “I don’t like baking,” she admits, so avocado and relish toast – from paper-bagged bread like the Mackenzie High Country brand and Ruapuke sourdough loaves – have sufficed.
Now Merren’s pushing Raglan for a second Plastic Free July because “great stuff happened” around town last time in what she believes was the first Kiwi community to embrace the challenge and refuse single-use or throwaway plastic – like food packaging and water bottles – for a day, a week or a month.
There was a good turnout to the inaugural Plastics Anonymous meeting, the Whaingaroa Environment Centre set up a stall at the Old School’s creative market, Raglan Kindergarten made “huge” changes from 2.1 metres of non-recyclable waste one week down to .25 metres the next and the local supermarket sold reusable and paper grocery bags at cost for the month of July.
The initiative – inspired by Merren and supported by Whaingaroa Environment Centre because it was felt Raglan would be receptive to the idea – was noticed internationally in newsletters and also led to a few phone and email interviews with European media, says the plastic-free advocate.
Merren was initially moved to action by the ‘Midway’ trailer which documents the tragic effect of plastic consumption on a colony of albatross whose home is near the “great Pacific rubbish patch”, where plastics pool between powerful ocean currents.
See Merren’s blog at www.1yearnoplastic.blogspot.co.nz and pick up lots of tips for Plastic Free July at her 7pm workshop at Valentes, Thursday July 3.