Wellington City Council has postponed recycling collections during the COVID-19 lockdown and will only be offering rubbish collections.** For people living in Wellington City (and other areas where recycling collections are temporarily on pause), who still want to reduce waste to landfill during this time, this post offers you some tips and tricks for reducing your recycling, as well as your rubbish, while in lockdown. Everything we suggest are all measures we will personally be taking ourselves! Note that there are still unknowns about how things will pan out so please bear with us as we provide this advice – we may need to be updating things.
**Please note that not all Councils across NZ have paused recycling collections. For example, Palmerston North City Council and Auckland Council, have confirmed recycling collections will continue. The best thing to do is check your local council website to find out how you will be affected.
A big part of successful waste reduction is routine and habits – all of which have just gone out the window! Some of you will be feeling stressed and anxious, others distressed. You may not have the bandwidth to think about reducing your waste, let alone your recycling, right now. That is OK. Just do what you need to do right now to look after yourself. Nobody is judging you. The most important thing is that you comply with the strict self-isolation requirements.
For other people though, being able to reduce our personal waste and recycling (or simply to maintain zero waste practices we’ve already established) is one way of maintaining a semblance of control amidst the unravelling going on around us. For others, having a go at cutting back waste and recycling right now could even be a welcome (and fun) distraction.
So, we have produced this list of tips on reducing recyclables (in addition to standard rubbish) to help people who want this info right now. To reiterate, we’re not putting this info out to make anyone feel guilty or more stressed. We must all be kind to each other <3
With all that said, if you’re up for it, read on!
We and anyone else who already implements waste reducing practices will find it harder to do so now as many businesses that offer low-waste solutions to common purchases are temporarily closing. Those that are still open may not be accepting BYO bags/containers for now. So we ALL have to adapt, even if we were already doing well at waste reduction.
Zero waste is all about following the zero waste hierarchy. From a zero waste perspective, recycling is a last resort. The zero waste lifestyle can help you to reduce the recycling (as well as the waste) you produce. We have been living by zero waste principles for over 5 years. In that time, along with producing only 7.6kg of waste between the two of us, we restricted our recycling to 7 crates of glass and 2 wheelie bins of paper and cardboard (with about 10 cans included in those). We know that it is possible to reduce recycling as well as waste.
This may feel all very overwhelming, but it’s also an amazing opportunity to be creative and try new things you’ve always wanted to try. One thing we hear so often on The Rubbish Trip is that people would love to reduce their waste but they feel they don’t have time to do so, or to learn the new things required to make waste reduction easy. This is the moment! You’ll save money and you’ll learn stuff that can carry over into the post-lockdown world. If you have any specific questions or concerns, remember that our virtual door is always open. Send us a message. We’re here for you 🙂 <3
If you have space at home, consider stockpiling what recycling you have that you cannot reduce. Recycling systems will reopen after lockdown. Wellington City Council has actually asked that residents do what they can to hold on to recyclables because putting them in the rubbish could overwhelm rubbish collection services. If you succeed in cutting back your recycling, you may find you don’t have much to stockpile at all.
Be a space-saving ninja with some savvy problem-solving: Minimise the space taken up by your glorious recycling stockpile with some smart purchasing decisions. For example, can you replace items in packaging that is bulkier to stockpile with items in packaging that takes up less room—like choosing drinks in aluminium cans rather than bottles. However, rather than crushing your cans (flat cans are difficult for recyclers to sort), have a can stacking Me Party to pass the time while optimising your elaborate stockpiling Tetris. How high can you stack the cans?
Think of this a little bit like camping or tramping: When you go camping or tramping and it’s pack-in, pack-out, think about the things you do to reduce the waste and recycling that you have to carry out with you. Some of these things may be useful in this time, except now it’s not about what you have to carry out of a national park with you and more about what you have to live with in your lounge, corridor or garage for at least 4 weeks.
Wellington City has two packaging-free grocery stores where you can get essentials without all the packaging—Hopper and GoodFor. The latest news is that Hopper has closed for the lockdown period, but will be back with a vengeance once lockdown is lifted! GoodFor is still open and they can also do home delivery in brown paper bags. There are other zero waste stores further afield that will be running delivery in brown paper bags too (such as Be Free Grocer and Honest Wholefood Co). We would recommend supporting your local options first. If local options get overwhelmed, look further afield. Be Kind. Please don’t panic buy!
Lots of other businesses offer zero waste grocery options across Wellington. You can find them all on our Regional Zero Waste Shopping Guide. HOWEVER, note that many/most of these businesses will be closed over the lockdown. Others that are open might have bulk bins or refill BYO bag/container systems in normal circumstances, but we don’t have info on if and how they’ll manage these systems during lockdown—they may be temporarily suspended. Just play things by ear, remembering that you will have to be flexible.
Please, call ahead to check what a particular business’ approach is to their bulk and refill systems—don’t even think about visiting places in-person to do a reccie. You need to keep in isolation. Use the power of your phone and Google 🙂
Beverage containers are one of the main items in kerbside recycling streams. Here are some things you can do to reduce how many you amass:
We’re giving milk its own sub-category here because it’s one heaps of families go through. Stockpiling plastic milk bottles is probably not a reality for most people and is liable to get smelly fast. Here are some options:
Tinned food is the typical apocalypse go-to item, but no one was prepared for the recycling system to stop. Whoopsies! If you can stockpile your empty cans for recycling after lockdown, that’s awesome – just make sure you wash them thoroughly so your house doesn’t become stinkytown.
If you can’t stockpile, here are some things you can do to reduce how many cans you go through:
For those of you who have been to one of our talks, you’ll know that in ordinary circumstances we avoid paper and cardboard as much as possible. When we go to zero waste shops, we avoid brown paper bags and use our own reusable bags and containers as it’s more in line with zero waste principles. However, in these circumstances you just have to go with the flow because many zero waste stores will be switching to paper bags only, temporarily. Or you may be in the supermarket having to choose between something packaged in paper and something in plastic. In those situations, we’ll be choosing paper.
HOWEVER, if you do wind up with some paper and cardboard, do whatever is in your power to avoid putting any of this in the rubbish. Paper and cardboard produces a lot of methane in landfill’s anaerobic conditions (i.e. no oxygen) so we want to keep it out of landfill as much as possible. Aside from stockpiling the paper and cardboard, here are some things we recommend:
We’re talking plastic containers for things like hummus and dips, spreads, margarine, yoghurt etc. etc.
But remember, drop us a line if you have any questions, suggestions, or even just want to chat. We’re here 🙂