10 June 2020
Restrictions on services during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the amount of household waste that we rely on being recycled. It demonstrated how ‘reducing’ and ‘reusing’ were more effective for diverting waste from landfills, and that recycling is just one of many ways to minimise waste.
Council’s sustainability and waste services team spoke with local sustainability star Kim McGrouther. Her passion for being environmentally friendly influences her lifestyle, and drives her to lessen her environmental footprint.
Kim is the Project Leader for Corporate Sustainability at Scion in Rotorua. She understands how disposing of refuse responsibly can have a positive impact for the environment. Kim shared some insight on how she makes small changes to her everyday habits to be more eco-friendly.
For Kim, minimising waste starts with the choices she makes at the time of purchase. She tries to avoid buying items that are difficult to recycle.
Kim also chose to stockpile all of Scion’s plastic and aluminium recyclables in her garage from the beginning of COVID-19 Level Alert 4, to make sure the items were recycled once operations resumed. You can read more about why many recycling services stopped during Level Alert 4 and 3, here.
What do you look out for when you are buying items? Can you give an example of the choices you make to reduce your waste output?
“When I’m shopping I buy items in packaging that has the highest recycle value. For example – with honey, I buy the containers that are made of clear plastic (PET number 2) and for pasta I buy the Barilla brand as the packaging is cardboard with only a very small window of plastic. Where possible I only buy items packaged in paper, cardboard, glass, steel tins or number 1 or 2 plastics.
Any of my vege or fruit scraps from home go to my worm farm or compost bin.”
Any tips for people to improve recycling practice or reducing recycling contamination?
- “Only put items that are made of a single material, for example – some drink bottles have a plastic sleeve that covers most of the bottle – this is a different plastic than the bottle itself – and should be removed before recycling.
- If your recycling bin smells it means that you’ve got too much food/milk contamination on your containers – you need to rinse or wipe better before putting it in your bin. For those who think that this is a waste of water, try washing/rinsing your recycling in the last of the water in the sink when you do a small wash."
How do you apply this eco-friendly mind-set outside of your home?
“At work I encourage people to go through appropriate recycling or recovery channels where possible, and have been known to dumpster dive to pull out items that should be disposed of more responsibly. We work to increase the recyclable value of materials as much as possible. For example, we keep our paper and cardboard separate from other recyclables to maintain the quality of the fibre we recycle.
“My garage at home is currently filled up with recyclable plastic, cans and glass bottles from Scion as I didn’t want people to make the effort of recycling at work, only to find that it had gone to landfill [during Levels 4 and 3.]
“The organic waste from the Scion tearooms and café go to our worm farm on-site. There are organic waste bins in each eating area, which are emptied each day by the cleaners. The cleaners empty the organics into buckets that we have in our main recycling collection area outside. Two 20L buckets are then taken once or twice a week, to the vermicompost bin in our nursery. The resulting vermicompost is given away to staff. The occasional time when we’ve had an overload in the worm bin, keen composters at Scion have volunteered to take buckets home until the worms had come back up to capacity.
“Coffee grounds from our coffee machines also go home with keen gardeners or composters. The silver bags are just the bags the coffee beans came in, turned inside out – then we added a nice label for people to take home. I have suggested that people could then use the bag as a planter bag for raising seedling trees/shrubs but I don’t know if anyone has done that."
Why do you take so much care with your recycling, Kim?
"The first reason is out of respect for those that handle my recycling after me. The second is knowing that providing a quality product to the recycling system means that the recycling can be easily accepted by companies who will turn it into another useful product."
What advice do you give to people who want to be more sustainable?
“Do what you can easily do to start with and then once that habit is embedded in your way of life, look for something else you can you do.
Here’s a quote from this blog (https://frugaling.org/we-rent-this-life/):
“Truthfully, we rent this life. It’s not solely ours to destroy, abuse, love, and cherish. We share this rental with everyone. Any rental necessitates respect. Destroy another’s property or object, and you’ll be on the hook to replace and/or fix it.”
Are you also a sustainability star? Council is looking for more passionate locals to share their knowledge and inspire others to be more eco-conscious. If this is you, contact email@example.com with some information about yourself, and the ways that you try to live more sustainably.
PET number 2
- Refers to the kind of plastic, which is indicated by the number inside the embossed triangle (often found on the bottom of the container).
- Nutrient-rich worm castings that can be used in gardening.
- Scraps of food, fruit and vegetables or plants and foliage.
- The ability for the item to be recycled into other materials.
How to start your own worm farm - https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/worm-farms-101-everything-you-need-to-know/
How to start your own compost - https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/composting-101/