Recycling Week targets the root causes of waste in the Far North

Recycling enthusiasts get creative with diverting waste at Anō Anō Repair Cafe. Photo / Merrin Smith.

Awareness weeks are all the rage, offering tools and tips to support better habits in hopes of solving a social, health or planetary problem.

It may be called Recycling Week, but the change it aims to bring about goes far beyond simply putting our waste in the right bins.

Now in its ninth year, the awareness campaign focuses on minimizing waste.

In a nutshell, it encourages us to think carefully about our purchases, to reuse and reuse as much as possible, and to be careful when recycling items we need to dispose of.

This year, more than 100,000 participants have registered, including Kaitaia-based EcoSolutions, which aims to empower the community to eliminate waste throughout the year.

Jo Shanks, director of EcoSolutions, said he strongly supports his organizations kura (schools) and EcoStar to participate in recycling week.

“We are running spot checks and prizes for organizations with good systems during recycling week, and will also be distributing recycling guides throughout the week in the EcoCentre and Kaitaia Market.”

Through its EcoStar program, the organization helps organizations achieve their sustainability goals.

“Any organization can receive free assistance in reducing waste through our EcoStar network,” Shanks said.

She also said the organization is constantly learning from its members, thanks to whom it is acutely aware of the growing problem of textile waste.

“Members of our operating stores are getting a huge amount of textile waste; they can’t keep up,” she said.

“It is one of the biggest polluters and the fastest growing waste stream.

“Particularly in Northland, because we’re off the main street, most of our clothes that aren’t sold in operating stores go to landfill.

“In Kaitaia alone, 2 cubic meters of textiles are landfilled every week. And that’s a very conservative estimate.

On the positive side, Shanks said clothing waste is definitely something people are becoming more aware of – and taking action to fix.

“Our clothing repair cafes have grown from three people a week to over 20.”

“People learn to cherish what they have, and also realize that it’s quite fun and enjoyable to create something.

“Plus, it’s an opportunity to be social, join your community, and get involved.”

She said there were a growing number of repair cafes around Northland where people could learn how to reduce their waste in a comfortable space.

“We teach sewing, dyeing, everything, and I don’t know if we do more laughing or sewing.”

Repair Cafés are open in Kaitaia, Kaeo, Paihia, Kerikeri and Kaikohe.

Shanks said educating students about textile waste was also a priority.

“We’re trying to raise awareness that this fast fashion, this cheap fashion, has a hidden cost.”

“We encourage them to consider that it may not always be so smart to buy new.

“These garments are usually sewn in developing countries that don’t have labor rights or environmental protections in place. It’s not a well-functioning system.”

Shanks was also clear that choosing natural materials was not a free pass to continue consuming without guilt.

“There is a very strong tendency to go back to natural fibers, but we can’t get away with it.”

“Cotton is a thirsty little plant.

“Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s good for the environment.

“Bleached and dyed fabrics are horribly destructive to produce.”

She was clear that buying second-hand, and making our clothes last longer, were the only truly viable solutions.

To that end, refresher courses were a popular offering for tamariki.

“And the reason is that it’s so empowering to learn that you can mend your clothes.”

“For many of our tamariki, this is the first time they’ve held a needle.”

On Friday, November 4, EcoCentre’s Kaitaia repair cafe, Anō Anō, will host Trashion, a fashion show featuring upcycled clothing. At the RSA Grand Nord from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. $15 adults/$5 students. Tickets available at the EcoStore, 5 Bank St, Kaitaia.

To learn more about local repair cafes, find EcoCentre / Tiaki Taiao on Facebook.

Take it day by day in Recycling Week

Recycling Week targets schools, businesses and institutions nationwide and is run by Reclaim – New Zealand’s largest private processor of recyclable materials who also provide support and advisory services around waste minimization, landfill diversion, measuring and achieving sustainability.

Nathalia Gonzales, sustainability manager at Reclaim, said it was growing tremendously.

“It’s definitely the biggest turnout we’ve had so far,” Gonzales said.

She explained that the week was structured based on the waste minimization hierarchy, with each daily goal addressing a step in the hierarchy and encouraging people to think about waste and recycling in more sustainable terms.

The awareness campaign focused on the belief that New Zealand urgently needs to move from a linear take-do-throw model to a circular economy.

To access free Recycling Week tips, go to:

How to nail it

Supply Monday: Only buy items that are designed to be recycled, repurposed, or repurposed.

Litter-Free Tuesday: Eliminate all litter.

According to Reclaim, more than 12 million tonnes of waste ends up in New Zealand landfills each year, around 75% of which could have been recovered, reused or recycled.

Reusable Wednesday: Choose sustainable reusable alternatives instead to avoid single-use waste.

Rinse and Clean Thursday: Clean recyclable materials to avoid contaminating an entire load during processing.

Reflection Friday: Consciously engage in new practices to create positive habits.

Spring Cleaning Weekend: Take the time to identify anything that can be reused, repaired, salvaged or repurposed around the house.

Reclaim reminds us to make sure we donate items that are still in good condition, rather than passing the waste issue on to charities.