South of Auckland on my daughter’s old touring bike, I’m heading for the annual Para Kore Hui being held this year at Maketu Marae, Kawhia. Para Kore (Te Reo for ‘Waste Zero’)Its an awesome not-for-profit organisation filled with creative, far-sighted individuals, whose vision is for every marae in Aotearoa to be on the ‘Para Kore’ journey by 2020, so I feel honoured to once again be gathering with fellow Kiwis from every walk of life to share understanding and experiences in this kaupapa.
As I pedal, its impossible not to notice the bottles and cans randomly ‘decorating’ the verge. Out of interest, I note an average of 4 drinks containers every 100m, which doesn’t seem so bad until I calculate that on today’s 53km ride to Waingaro Hot Springs, I will, when the opposite side of the road is factored in, pass 4160 drinks containers. From experience of similar numbers back home in the Bay of Islands, I start multiplying up what this means for the quantity number of drinks containers scattered along all the roadsides of New Zealand, until my mental arithmetic skills finally let me down. Sensitive to our finite world I grieve at this wastage, feel anxious about the effect of this rubbish on the natural world, and am frustrated my own need for harmony and connection with the beauty of the countryside is sorely interrupted.
Now, as I push my bike up the longer hills, more aware than ever of the scope of this problem, the words of Marshall Rosenberg, the creator of the ‘non-violent communication’ approach (which has so radically changed my own worldview) come to mind:
‘Getting people to stop doing something is a loser’s game’/’Everything that a person does is in order to meet a need’/ ‘People will change when they find a way to meet these same needs at a lower cost to themselves and others.’
So, I ponder, “When they toss a drink container out of a car, what needs might this person be meeting? ” and come up with 4 possible scenarios:
- They have a need for a tidy car (men in particular, I’ve been told, see their car as an extension of themselves)
- and know of no other place as simple to access for this end-of-life packaging
- and/or in their thinking, they are throwing it ‘away’ without thinking through that there is no ‘away’ : packaging remains where it lands or is washed to sea
- They need to hide their spending/drinking/consumption from someone
- They need space in their car for new items/extra people they will be giving a lift to
- They need to watch costs and are anxious about the cost to add to their roadside rubbish/recycling collection
Whatever their need, Marshall Rosenberg explains positive change happens when people find a way to meet their need at a lesser cost. In many countries, advanced deposits on drinks containers have created the focus for people to meet these same needs at less cost to their own self-respect, to taxpayers and to the environment. (South Australia has had bottle refunds for years, and by mid-2018 the same system will be up and running in every state in Australia, while in Canada and Germany successful schemes have run for years – Germany has an almost 100% recycling rate for drinks containers). However, although since 2008 here in NZ our ‘Waste Minimisation Act’ has allowed for the introduction of an advanced deposit scheme, in the face of lobbying from the packaging and drinks companies, our previous government lacked the will to bring this about.
So now is our chance! And it’s a no-brainer, it has been shown it will create 2400 more jobs in the regions, greatly reduce costs to ratepayers, while adding only add 0.5c to the cost of a product which will be paid for by those using the product, the consumers. 90% of NZ Councils have requested it and 86% of Kiwi citizens surveyed by TVNZ last year stated their wish to see a refund scheme in place. I’ve come across the same positive support myself in the Bay of Islands, when I’ve asked locals to provide signatures for the ‘Kiwi Bottle Drive’ petition, with older Kiwis harking back to childhood fund-raising and overseas visitors/younger Kiwis sharing their appreciation of money-back systems experienced overseas. Even Matt King, prior to being elected our new local National Party MP, ignored his government’s stance on the issue and signed his name in support. Indeed nobody I have approached has refused to sign, so I’m confident this is the way to go, we just need to create momentum for change, strong enough to overcome the corporate lobby.
So dear reader, I won’t tell you how or what to do. I am confident you will add to this momentum in your own way. I’m collecting signatures for the Kiwi Bottle Drive but maybe you are a letter-to-the-editor writer, someone who takes time to explain to friends what is needed and why, someone in touch with their local MP or Councillor, or perhaps one who tweets or comments on a drink’s company Facebook page? I just know we are each part of the solution, when we the people of New Zealand combine voices in supporting our new Government to regulate for advanced deposits on bottles and cans, recycling rates will double and these roadside verges will empty. #togetherwecandoit