Plastic Free July

Matthew and I are doing Plastic Free July, an international movement that’s picking up pace in NZ too. I decided to do it spontaneously three days before it started. I was the guest speaker at an event that the Waikato Environment Centre put on for people that had challenged themselves to do Plastic Free July. I was speaking about our rubbish free year back in 2008, and felt that in many ways the audience was more dedicated than I was. So I publicly committed before I could really think it through and came home and told Matthew. He reminded me that he was there before me because he has been suggesting for a while that we try plastic free. But really! Plastic free makes rubbish free look like a walk in the park.

What we mean by “plastic free’ needs some defining as I’m of course typing this on a plastic keyboard. While some plastic is used for long lasting hard-wearing purposes, other plastic is designed for single use. Its this single use plastic that we are attempting to live without through July. We all know it makes no sense to make something that needs to last for a few days or months into a toxic problem that could last a few thousand years. But it’s normal and convenient. And in my experience ‘normal and convenient’ are two underestimated but pretty powerful forces.

And that’s where Plastic Free July kicks in. I find myself in the “UNcomfort” zone of inconvenient and abnormal again and I do love a good challenge. Day 12 so far. Today’s crisis was being hungry at the petrol station and not being able to buy one single thing, even their pies were wrapped in a foil plastic packet. Then we went mountain biking and ended up with a single use plastic entry band taped around our little rubbish free wrists.

Plastic free is a much tighter category than rubbish free, because plastic recycling is out. This knocks out margarine, milk and yoghurt. Most households in NZ don’t recycle their soft plastics (bread bags, cheese wrappers etc) because they are not usually accepted at kerbside, but we had found a company that will take clean soft plastic so prior to July I’d been able to enjoy Vogels and Colby cheese and Matthew could have his Weetbix. It’s a shock to the system but not impossible to find alternatives. Dad has been baking a fresh loaf of bread for us each week which has been appreciated.

So far the true stumbling blocks haven’t had much to do with food. We are continuing to use toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant and Panadol, (those of you that have to deal with us daily will be pleased about us being clean smelling without headaches!) We are still feeding the dog bulk dry dog food, which comes in a massive plastic bag. And although I’m trying to use a pencil I keep finding plastic disposable pens in my hand, I don’t even know where they come from. But that’s it so far, we have mostly surprised ourselves with what we already had in place. We are so used to living rubbish free that I had stopped appreciating things like GreenCane toilet paper (with no plastic wrapping); razors with replaceable blades; wooden biodegradable dish scrubber; bulk refills in the garage for detergent and laundry liquid.

So at the one third mark still feeling chipper!



  1. Amanda, July 27, 2015:

    Great, I have been trying to find a toilet paper that is plastic free! Where do you take your soft plastics? I was pleased to find recently that Weetbix is available at Bin Inn straight from the bulk bins!
    I am happy to see the blog is back- you guys were a real inspiration for me when I was a teenager, thank you :)

  2. Matthew & Waveney, August 6, 2015:

    Hi Amanda, thanks for your comment and support. We’ll have to check out Bin Inn weetbix (I don’t eat it and its often me that does the Bin Inn shop so maybe I’ve been missing it all these years?!).

    Soft plastics are often recycled through commercial services to businesses. So if you happen to know anyone with a commercial skip check to see if it takes soft plastics and if they would mind you slipping in your domestic items. Companies pay for their rubbish and recycling services so pick your person well ☺. If you live in Auckland, and ever have occasion to go New Lynn you can do what we do. We save our soft plastics up and once every three to four months we take it to EcoMatters Environment Trust. The friendly people there provide a recycling / safe disposal service for soft plastics, polystyrene, batteries, lightbulbs, ewaste and curtains. They ask for a small amount of money to cover costs. Find out more here.

    There is also a cool visitors centre there to make the most of your trip.