Aaagh! ‘How is (absent loved one)?’

The first time, indeed the only time I have dyed my hair blue, I was a 39 year-old mother of 3 with an ailing husband.  Two months previously, Warwick’s diagnosis with an aggressive form of leukaemia had come as a shock: without treatment he has a month to live.  The seismic shift that understanding wrought in our plans, our business and our family life seems prescient today given how many families reel under similar shocks within this current Covid19 crisis.

blue hair dye colors 282453 Pin by shop gurl on art in 2019

Back in April 1997, it takes just 4 days to re-organise our lives.  Warwick and I are only days away from travelling with our 3 girls to the UK to spend time with my mother but after the diagnosis, travel goes on hold.  In fact most things go on hold; priorities shift overnight and within days we live in Auckland, the girls are attending new schools, while I accompany Warwick to seemingly endless hospital treatments and blood transfusions.

Now, 2 months on, I am exhausted. Here we are crammed into an elderly  2-bedroom flat in Auckland.  In between tending to sheet changes for my weakening husband’s night sweats, checking on our business and attempting to keep family life together for our daughters aged 8,9 and 10, I catnap on cushions on the lounge floor. It is a lonely time, buoyed up by the love of my sister-in-law and 2 close friends, but we are far from home and I’m not clear what the future holds.

What turned my hair blue was a frequent query on the phone and from casual acquaintances, “Hi Jane, how is Warwick?”  Only in hindsight does the reasoning behind my bright blue hair become clear; at the time I surprise even myself!  Four weeks later I feel hugely relieved how the blue colour is all but washed out, lest I be deemed frivolous.  Back as a family in Paihia I walk with others to the stone church for Warwick’s funeral.


That well-intentioned question, “How is ….(absent loved one)?” seems to me just as inappropriate in today’s challenging lockdown absences as it was then.  I’m want  to share how I reacted back then before I suggest what I would have found more helpful.

The ‘How’s Warwick?’ query hits my exhausted nervous system like a red hot arrow. My mind races through a series of possible responses. ‘Am I expected to assuage their fears (I have enough of my own) or is the enquirer checking whether I am conversant enough with what is happening to my husband to make good decisions?  Are they assessing whether they need to help him or curious about treatment for leukaemia? Do they expect me to explain hospital processes?  Or perhaps the enquirer is hopeful Warwick was now fine, in which case will I disappoint them if I am honest about how desperately sick he is?   Whatever it was they are looking for, I feel my capacity even further drained in attempting to respond with care.

I didn’t know then what I know now. In my exhausted state from multitasking school, business and caregiver commitments, my instinctive move was to change my hair colour  to a striking shade of blue!  “Can’t you see me?” I wanted to say.  “Please don’t ask me to return me to that place where I feel so fearful, powerless over what happens to my husband, and scared for my family’s future. Isn’t it enough that I spend so much time with that pain in the sleepless early hours, in the hospital waiting room and while while our kids play?” Back then I didn’t know how to set my boundaries, to explain to others, “Please don’t probe that sore unless invited!”

If it wasn’t helpful to answer that question, what did I long for?  It’s simple really: I wanted someone to ask how I was.  To ask, “How are you, Jane, given that Warwick has been sick for so long?“ That would have worked for me: I’d have felt loved and cared for and been able to respond about things that I could control.   I was managing as best I could to meet the family’s needs, what wasn’t going so well was meeting my own. What I needed was recognition, to know others had faith in me, I didn’t want to be a powerless victim looking for rescuing, I just wanted to know I had allies who I could level with, who trusted me and understood how I was finding things.    Covid-19-Comms-MAR2020-unite-against-banner

 In this new Covid19 era, with my daughters far away, I recognise the same sense of powerless over caring for their health and wellbeing. Yet this time around, when someone asks me, “How’s (absent loved one)?” which has happened several times already, I feel better equipped to deflect the arrow.  To care for myself and honour their intention too, I simply request that they reframe their question:  “It works better for me if you ask me how it is for me with ….(loved one ) sick and far away.  Would you ask me that instead?”

So far it seems to be working!  I’m able to stay out of a black hole of powerlessness and rampaging fear; instead as the person listens with understanding and love about how it is for me and how I feel, it allows me to order my thoughts.   Once I can acknowledge how it is for me, I discover ways to care for myself and to reach out to others for what I need, while the caring connection of real friendship deepens between us.  ‘He waka eke noa’ /we are all in this together can be felt in the space between us, virtual though it may be. Indeed, this sense of allies who understand how it is for me is currently so affirming, I don’t think I’ll even dye my hair blue.

Single-use Packaging : An email story.

Packaging Peters of Kensington Jan 2020

From: Peter’s of Kensington 
Sent: Tuesday, 21 January 2020 5:41 pm
To: me
Subject: A reminder to review your products from 

A quick reminder for you, Jane Banfield. Thanks again for buying these products from We would like to remind you that writing a review of these products will help us improve our customer satisfaction.  Cristel – Mutine Removable Saucepan w/Glass Lid 18cm/2.1L

23 January 2020
Dear Peters team
I feel very angry.  You have sent the 2 saucepans I ordered with such a quantity of plastic packaging that it insults and dishonours the needs of our family, future generations of New Zealanders and our dearly-loved natural world.   I have advised others not to buy from you again until you change your processes.
This packaging is totally unnecessary. The saucepans come from France in cardboard cartons and in an individual plastic bag (which you should ask your suppliers to leave out).  You could have put a bit of string around the two cartons and sent them like that. But no, each went into a separate oversized carton, which you then filled with quantities of plastic bubble wrap, sealed with plastic tape and then wrapped with plastic parcel strapping.  You then sent each giant carton separately so they arrived with different couriers on different days.
I don’t know whether this is the way you want to treat our NZ environment? If not, would you be willing to confirm that you are changing to eco-friendly ways of distributing your goods.  I am sure you agree we all need to work together as good stewards to regenerate our environment, not create unnecessary amounts of plastic packaging that cannot be recycled here in NZ,  wasteful quantities of cardboard, recycled or not, and excessive carbon miles? Or does your company believe they are exempt from a responsibility to care for those who come after us?
I await your response.  Sincerely ….

From: Enquiries – Peter’s of Kensington 
Sent: Friday, 24 January 2020
Hi Jane, Thank you for your email.    At Peter’s of Kensington, we are fully committed to reducing our environmental impact. As such, we utilise a mixture of biodegradable and recyclable air pillows, and all of our cardboard boxes are made from recycled material. We also try and make sure that the item you have purchased has a safe delivery to your location – however we understand you disappointment in regards to this and have forwarded your feedback to our manager.
Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.  
Regards,  Jacqueline  

Friday 24 January 2020
Dear Jacqueline
I value the rapidity of your reply.  I know you will be following systems, and respect it is not your personal voice, but such a response comes across as patronising, fatuous and completely unacceptable from a company such as yours.

Are you saying you have no plans to change from ridiculous amounts of plastic packaging/ use of cartons that are far too big?   To state that your company is ‘committed to reducing your environmental impact’ is extroadinary!  I view this packaging behaviour as unreasonable, uncaring and showing a total lack of commitment to any such thing.  At this stage of the earth’s history, our natural world here in NZ , not to mention your own in Australia, is too precious to have companies such as yours decimate it by not taking care.

Yes, your state your cartons are made from ‘recycled material’ but they are still oversize,  still not only a huge waste of tree resources but also engendering unnecessary carbon miles from taking up so much space on trucks/ and air or sea freight and couriers to my home.  Your plastic air pillows are neither recyclable where I live, nor biodegradable.   They are made from non-renewable resources of oil.  Soft plastic exported by you to our part of the world, simply ends up in a hole in the ground polluting our land, if it doesn’t blow out from the rubbish truck or landfill and end up in the environment.

There are many alternatives to plastic bubble wrap, just check with local suppliers in Australia for such things as  or just use your office shredded paper.
I would value talking with whoever manages your shipping department. Would you be willing to ask them to call me?

(A call was a lot to hope for. They didn’t).

“Now what?” I ask myself.  After filling out the Trade Me feedback box in a similar vein, I choose  to refocus my energy elsewhere.  I will trust that other people will see my feedback and feel moved to point out their own anger or sadness about destructive and excessive packaging they receive.  I’m the ‘100th monkey’ who knows that it is the solidarity of others doing the same that will change hearts and minds of those at ‘Peters of Kensington’ and beyond! Screenshot (49)


“Zero Waste is such a special doorway”, I explained to anyone who engaged me in conversation about my lifestyle last year.  In mid-2016 when I chose to quit single-use plastic, motivated by the destruction I knew was happening in the oceans, I felt very scared. I worried that I’d miss out, make a fool of myself, become an outcast.  I couldn’t know that leaping out from the safe norm to that very different ‘zero waste’ lifestyle would 3 years later seem one of the most fulfilling choices I have ever made.  I have found zero waste to be a portal to new discoveries about my world, about other people and about myself, and as I discovered in Masters research interviews last year, other ‘zero wasters’  too discover this same doorway to greater choice and fulfilment.

More and more people I meet seem to be considering whether to go ‘plastic-free’, their first step in seriously reducing a personal ‘waste footprint’.   However, others express fear or sadness that reducing their own ‘waste footprint’ is irrelevant for they have seen levels of waste in S-E Asia, or realise manufacturers are not shouldering their share of responsibility, or understand that much of recycling is a ‘have’.  I’m aware of these issues too.  “We take along with us those who are ready for the journey,” says an African proverb.   Over this year I plan to document how I show up in the world as a ‘zero waste granny’ and why I continue to walk the talk.  For ‘those ready’, I want to share low impact practices and wider understandings that work for me today, as well as others I am yet to fully embrace. Meantime dear reader, do these new year’s resolutions for 2020 by Australian permaculture artist, Brenna Quinlan, challenge you into further practical behaviour shifts? They do me!  New Years resolutions

Continue reading “SHOWING UP AS A ZERO WASTE GRANNY IN 2020”

A BIKE RIDE FOR WASTEAID (with Grandpa Bear)

I’m a Zero Waste Granny so combining catching up with my grandsons, a cycling adventure and  Zero Waste seems obvious!  After time with my family in Vietnam, I’ll be cycling from Hanoi over the mountains to Luang Prabang in Laos, a distance of 750km, to catch up with more family members.

Ever worried about piles of waste in poorer communities around the world?   While volunteering in the Pacific and Central Africa,  I feel sad and powerless at the scale of the issue:  around 1 in 3 people globally don’t yet have decent waste management yet systems.

WasteAid’s work to change this, community by community, inspires me. I’ve made a choice to offset my air miles through a donation to  WasteAid and I’m hoping my cycling journey will raise awareness and funds to support this UK non-profit organisation.

  • From my research, I know that waste minimisation practices can be relatively simple to implement, improve the environment, create jobs and protect public health.  WasteAid has been helping people recycle their way out of poverty since 2015, sharing waste reduction know-how and skills with deprived communities that seek advice and support.
  • Plastic pollution in the marine environment scares me. WasteAid works with upstream and coastal communities to set up small recycling centres to keep plastic out of rivers and the oceans. 
  • I respect how WasteAid keeps things simple and relevant, maximising value to local communities, and ensuring local markets for any products made from recycled materials.
  • For me reusing organic waste is key. WasteAid shares skills in how to manage organic waste with local trainers so knowledge gets passed on from community to community.
  • I also respect the way WasteAid is focusing on low cost equipment.  In the viability of a recycling start-up in a deprived community, $10 makes a big difference. Simple plastics recycling kits can support people to clean up their environment and make some cash in the process.
  • I’ve chosen to help fund this inspiring work.  Pethaps this ride inspires friends and family to make a donation and spread news of WasteAid’s work? I hope so.

Already I’m hearing people I know now connecting with the work of WasteAid. It  w

warms the heart of this cycling Zero Waste Granny!




Cigarettes were part of my family’s history. My great-grandfather began a small cigarette company in England. My parents smoked. My husband smoked. I smoked.  I remember the awkwardness of cigarette butts. What to do with them?  Back then I didn’t know there was plastic in them, and that if dropped, birds and other marine life would eat them and get sick.

I know now. As a Zero Waste Granny, I spend hours each month as I walk along, picking up butts along with other roadside litter.  I know that each butt I pick up may save it being eaten by a seabird. Last week, the rain came and stormwater flooded down the side of the road, sweeping the roadsides clean and gifting every cigarette butt and piece of plastic litter into the world of marine creatures, those very ones that make the Bay so special for each one of us.

As a smoker, a friend gave me a special gift.  It was a small screw top tin that she had hand painted in my favourite colours. This little tin meant a lot to me, it made me feel valued and cared for, honoured my dignity and my choice to be a smoker, yet allowed me to value and care for the environment wherever I stood.  I kept it in my bag, in my car, used it at home.   Today, caring for our environment is more urgent than ever.  Like my friend all those years ago, I can find ways to support others using alternatives to just the quick drop to the ground of a butt, or two.   It may be public ashtrays, a painted tin,  or just a caring dialogue with a smoker about how together we can care for our Bay.  It’s our common future, eh?  #FarNorth.Us.Flourishing.



We’ve fallen into reliance on ‘them’, government and business, but as my previous blog outlined, we householders have significant power to create real change.  We seem to hang back, challenged by the loneliness of embarking on a journey such as  zero waste by ourselves.

So, why not make it ‘easy as’ and a whole lot more fun by doing stuff together with others?  This blog explores how getting together with others seems central to household adoption of zero wastefulness.  

‘Nelson Mandela had this genuine belief – and he often argued with me about the provability of it – that human beings are essentially ‘good-doing beings, beings who do good’… He argued that, “If you follow human beings from the moment they get up in the morning until they retire at night, you would find that most of them do the proper things most of the time, and that erring is an aberration” ‘[1] 

I guess you recognise, as I do,  Mandela’s viewpoint in your own understanding, perhaps partially buried under layers of social conditioning to the contrary.   It’s not surprising, given that recent research finds humankind the most empathetic and altruistic of all living species; we have evolved to naturally form small groups to work together for the common good.

It was clear in the interviews last year as part of my Masters research that shifting to zero waste lifestyles improved physical, mental and spiritual well-being.  Localising food production and introducing sharing schemes also led to a greater sense of community.  It got me thinking , ‘Could we join together with others whose company we value, our friends, our neighbours, or our colleagues, to make the journey to zero wastefulness a fun way to flourish both individually and as communities?

For me, the journey to zero wastefulness has given me a core sense of my unique purpose which was reason enough for me to change my habits.  I believe Mandela is right, we’re caring beings, but of course we each prioritise our caring into different areas and I’m aware that not everyone finds reducing waste an enjoyable and challenging adventure!   Reflecting on our district, there’s certainly no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to waste reduction.

 Drifting, anchoring, voyaging or treasuring?

drifters, anchors etc Figure 1. Four levels of householder behaviour towards waste

Just as the varied species create the beauty of our New Zealand bush, so too, much of the charm of the Far North District comes from the diversity of our householders. With so many unique individuals, it’s hardly surprising we have such varying attitudes towards zero waste goals.  The model in Fig. 1 above describes 4 types of  householder behaviour  I notice here in the Far North.  Of course, responses to waste shift between levels depending on circumstances, my own included, but perhaps you recognise yourself or others in the descriptions below?

A Drifter meets their own strong need to belong by following market trends, doing whatever they believe their peers see as ‘on trend’. Drifters shift like flotsam and jetsam  flowing in and out with the tide.  Not everyone has the resources to deal with change, and Anchors stick with the way they’ve ‘always done things’.  Blocking out alternative options, even ways to minimise waste that might now better meet their needs, may be easier than opening up and grieving alone over awful environmental issues. Voyagers, on the other hand, need to connect with values they view as important, and so adventurously set out on a journey to reduce their own wastefulness amidst a sea of Drifters and Anchors.  It’s a lonely journey though, in a culture averse to conflict, but eased when they catch sight of Treasurers, beacons of light who can inspire and guide their journey. These Treasurers are the rare people at any age who choose to treasure what they have. These inspirational people find greater meaning in what they do and their connections with their brothers and sisters of all living species than in what they can purchase.

So, with all these different types, how will the message of zero wastefulness ever infiltrate the wider Far North community?  Anchors and drifters seem to hold back a flourishing Far North, don’t they? Well, I think not, they just need to get together with like-minded others, and here’s one way it could happen.

Spreading Positive Change – the Big Organising Model.


‘Big organising’, a new model for spreading positive change was used in the 2016 Bernie Sanders US election campaign.  With little money but such a transformational vision for change that it inspired people across party lines, in just 7 months, Sanders shifted from just 3% name recognition at the start to gaining 46% of the votes.  It is believed one further month would have tipped Clinton out of the nomination and the Trump campaign would have been defeated. Such are the hindsights of history,  but the important thing is how the campaign used volunteers to connect directly with 75 million Americans.

At public meetings, volunteers were asked to sign up to host a ‘house party’ inviting others around to their home to work together to spread the word.  After signing up, house party hosts came to the stage to tell others what would be unique and fun about their own house party.  It was a model that worked, with the confidence of others creating similar groups, with guidelines, support and by sharing ideas, they were able to decide for themselves how best to spread understanding of the Sanders vision.  The Big Organising model has now been used around the globe. Local leadership is not appointed, but arises out from the work the volunteers do, other people join in and the first wave of volunteers hands the baton on to others.

Would a public meeting with an invited panel of ‘Treasurers’ discussing a waste issue relevant to the community similarly inspire offers to be house party hosts?  I believe so, polls show that the majority of the NZ public is highly concerned about waste. My expectation is that some people will be moved by relevant speakers to want to gather a few friends, neighbours, or colleagues together and give some aspect of waste reduction a go. Hosts could be provided with guidelines, followed up with support from peer-to-peer text messaging, and results can fed back to monitor the movement.  The Big Organising model avoids a common problem of campaigns, burn-out of volunteers;  hosts can ‘hand on the baton’ to one or more of those attending to hold a further ‘house party’ with their own friends and so forth.

Zero waste priorities and constraints, as already mentioned, are very different for different people. However, as you will see from the following scenarios, appropriate house party gatherings could provide the peer support to engage not only Voyagers, but Anchors and Drifters too:

  •  a farmer inviting other farmers for a ‘zero waste bbq’ to discuss how they can reduce toxic plastic waste
  • a teenager gathering a group of friends to talk together about what would work for them to transform their school
  • a lunchroom get-together of colleagues to talk about what their organisation can do
  •  mothers with young babies bringing to the coffee table the plastic concern that bugs them most and discussing ways to get around it
  •  a couple of senior citizens hosting a machinery repair or clothing alteration session for young neighbours.

So, why  wait for ‘them’, be they government, council or business sector before change towards zero wastefulness and 100 % vitality happens?  Remember ‘Sihamba nabahambayo’ (‘We take along with us those who are ready for the journey‘)?  What if every Far North householder is ready? It’s just that like any journey, it’s a whole lot more fun with like-minded companions.

FND map



[1] Dare not Linger: the Presidential Years. Nelson Mandela & Mandla Langa (2017).p. 118-119 .


Its 2019 and time for new vision! Last year, though it felt odd being at university at the age of 60,  I chose to become a Masters research student.  I wanted to find out why mainstream waste minimisation strategies were not working and whether the national Māori zero waste organisation, Para Kore, had a more useful approach.  Studying has been ridiculously hard, immensely rewarding, has given me a vision for our region, the Far North.

What I’ve found while interviewing folk who were moving to zero waste lifestyles is an inspiring commonality.  New Zealand citizens of all ages and walks of life that adopt zero waste lifestyles demonstrate a spacious and contented sense of being who they want to be. ‘Zero wasters’ had formed greater connections with  neighbours and community,  felt good about themselves, and enjoyed improved household health and wellbeing. Costs were down too but it was their sense of respect for the natural ecosystems around them and a regained understanding of deep held principles that set these people apart.  You couldn’t help being drawn to their lifestyle and it started me thinking more widely. 


I’m convinced (and excited) that for us local householders, a flourishing Far North region is ‘ours for the taking’!  Far North Flourishing is a vision of every Far North home celebrating life, health and vitality.  Of neighbourhoods not just safe but are flourishing.  Loneliness a thing of the past, children thriving, and ecosystems regenerating.   Birdsong returning to the bush, people enjoying the support of their neighbours, and the coastal waters beginning to burst afresh with marine life.

Would you be willing to shelve for a moment your ‘Yes, but….’ thinking (not an easy thing to do, for reasons that will become clear later)  and read on,  open to this possibility of a flourishing Far North region?  To share the 3 reasons which lead me to this conviction,  I’ve mapped my thinking across three blogs: i. Where it Starts ii. There is no ‘Them’ iii. Let the Journey Begin.   Like all maps there are a few twists and turns so it requires a bit of focus. I’m trusting you, dear reader, find inspiration for a celebratory year ahead. 

 Part One

Where it Starts: Householders are powerful influencers 


 “You will never solve problems using the same thinking that created them”, Einstein advised. Yet, that’s what we householders seem to be doing now, expecting businesses and the government to resolve the issues they have created?  Flogging a dead horse. Householders angrily railing against the business sector or the state at not sorting problems that have arisen: river pollution, or mental health, or obesity or the issues of waste.  It’s not surprising citizens see themselves as powerless, given recent political history.

pic of neoliberal economy
Outdated 20th-century  view of an Economy

For decades politicians have relegated us householders to a role as ‘consumers’. We’ve been told we need an economy something like that in the picture above where the business sector becomes the driver of an ever-growing economy, benefits ‘trickle down’ to all, and the government is on hand to sort out any issues. It was a political idea called ‘neoliberalism’. But while this system was meant to work out for everyone, it’s increasingly clear to every ‘man in the street’ that it is failing. The whole system seems broken. Well, perhaps it is! More and more economists and global political thinkers believe this political idea is well past its use-by-date if it ever had one, and I agree! 

This neoliberal economic model was never about reality, merely how a few reasonably brainy economists wildly over-simplified economic thinking down to a basic model so people could ‘get it’.  And they did! Because of the model’s simplicity and the needs of the time, this neoliberal model of ‘free market economies’ and ‘decoupling environmental issues from economic growth’ swept across the world.  Embraced first by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s, New Zealand followed soon after.   This same over-simplified idea that ‘a growing economy will make everybody thrive’ underpins practices of the Far North District Council today.  

Neoliberal politics saw the Far North District Council’s role shift from coordinating services on behalf of householders to becoming an economic driver in the region.  When problems developed from business sector activities which couldn’t be resolved by the Council, that same ‘Yes, but..” response came to the fore with justification or blame in place of local people working together to develop solutions.  Far North Holdings became a commercial business arm no longer open to control by the public, accountability  for decisions taken and outcomes achieved by FNDC narrowed to financial measures while  accountability for social, cultural and environmental wellbeing was pushed aside. 

In the depths of our being, we sense the issues all around us, threatening our wellbeing and that of our beloved natural environment.   The gap between wealthy and poor is growing, pollution of our environment is more and more obvious, mental and physical health is patchier, and loneliness is at an all time high.  We feel the system is doomed and unable to create the wellbeing we need so we householders have increasingly disconnected from both local and national politics.  We are left with that useless but understandable pastime of railing angrily at ‘them’ out of frustration. And while many sense that blaming ‘them’  is having  little effect,  just flogging a dead horse, what else can be done? 

Well, hey, remember neoliberalism was just one story that a few guys dreamed up to help us get a handle on the complexity of the workings of national economies. As political journalist, George Monbiot [3] puts it, “Neoliberalism is dead: we need a new story”.  Lets get real: those people and organisations to whom we address our ‘they should do something’ rants are themselves powerless within a broken system.  Surely, we must look into alternatives? 

The good news is that a new political model is now visibly emerging around the world.  It’s emerging here in the Far North too, you just may not be aware of it yet. Often termed the “Politics of Belonging”[3], it’s based around a newer wiser model of the economy[4] (see diagram) that progressive economists these days realise better depicts the real world. 

pic of Monbiot economy
The 4 drivers of  a 21st-century Economy. 

Now a way to resolve the challenges we face in the 21st century becomes clear.  Look carefully, can you see how we householders are now not merely portrayed as ‘consumers’ but understood as playing a vital role in driving our economy? Householders have power, just as the State and Business sectors do.  Indeed, more so, for we are also the ones that look after and create the vitality of the commons, those shared resources that belong to us all that are so vital to our national economy. 

when the people lead the leaders will follow Gandhi

This is what is so exciting, so empowering, knowing that what we householders do makes an essential difference to the way the nation runs.  So, if we aren’t as powerless as we’ve led ourselves to believe in recent years, can what we Far North householders do make enough difference to allow our region to flourish?  I believe so.  

There’s an African phrase, ‘Sihamba nabahambayo‘ which means, ‘We take along with us those who are ready for the journey’[1].  My next blog, ‘From Rubbish to Flourish Part Two: There is no ‘them’’ is subtitled, ‘It’s too lonely by ourselves but ‘easy as’ when we do stuff together with others’. In this blog,  you will also discover if you are a ‘Drifter’, an ‘Anchor’, a ‘Voyager’ or a ‘Treasure’!  You may find it’s just the journey you’ve been waiting for. 
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[1] Dare not Linger: the Presidential Years. Nelson Mandela & Mandla Langa (2017).p. 31.





Is it time to consider how we, the citizens of New Zealand have ended up with a 4000 tonne mountain of unwanted paper and plastic recycling near Thames highlighted on the News this week? [1]As an increasing number of us realise, this build-up of recycling  is just one visible tip of a much larger waste eruption that faces us, but where did it all go so wrong?  *

The inevitability of waste is a myth! It’s very recent.  Just a short time ago, we, the people of NZ,  handed over our responsibility for deciding what to do with things we no longer needed.  Are you aware for example that a number of Pacific languages such as I-Kiribati traditionally contained no word for ‘waste’? (Biodegradable plant material was simply placed on vacant land or recycled within taro pits for compost, while  human and other waste was disposed of into the reef for final removal by the incoming tide).  It was just part of  daily life. Pacific middens containing long-extinct horned turtle bones in Efate, Vanuatu, date back 2900 years: as individuals and as local communities we took care of our own discards on our own land.

The same cultural practices that had worked for taking responsibility of our own discarded items accompanied the early migrations to Aotearoa NZ.  As early as the 14th century at Wairau Bay, carbon dating of moa egg shell and bones shows how locals took responsibility for their discards within their own whenua.  In pre-colonial times,  Maori communities maintained their well-being through a complex system of sustainable processes with different products such as shellfish waste, human waste and shavings from wood carving each dealt with separately.  At the industrial Pa sites of Heretaunga and Castle Point evidence of early separation of discarded products for ‘recycling’ has been found; stone, shell and bone flakes were set aside and stored for conservation and re-use. Captain James Cook praised the practices of communities in Poverty Bay, noting that “Every house, or every little cluster of three or four houses, was furnished with a privy, so that the ground was everywhere clean. The offals of their food, and other litter, were also piled up in regular dunghills, which probably they made use of at a proper time for manure”.

Even in early colonial NZ, while populations remained small, unwanted materials were disposed of on people’s own land or within the community. After the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the excavation of Edward Hiorn’s property, an early settler who arrived in 1862, uncovered a number of rubbish pits. One pit contained tin and iron while 1037 artifacts including ceramics, glass bottles, clay pipes, shoes and clothing were found in a further large pit at the back of the property.

The pivotal moment came at the end of the 19th century when we started to congregate in towns and cities.  Once the idea caught hold that ‘miasma’, a gas emanating from putrefying matter, was causing disease outbreaks, public health anxieties became so strong that the state took over the municipal collection and disposal of rubbish.   What would have happened if  in the 1880s in Wellington for example, we’d looked into how to avoid discarding items and materials rather than scavenger carts collecting household and business refuse and dumping it in piles to be burnt at the City Council Yards?

Once we as producers, individual citizens and local communities washed our hands of responsibility and put discarded material into the hands of municipal and government bodies, it was ‘out of sight and out of mind’.  It has since been so very easy to view ‘waste’ as an unfortunate by-product of society for  which we need take no personal responsibility.

The era of ‘waste management’ was born. Rather than reflecting on the relative benefit to our brothers and sisters of all living species of eradicating the concept of ‘waste’, we allowed the focus to shift to centralised policy and technological solutions.

For manufacturers too, this acceptance by citizens that the State should take full responsibility for discarded products and packaging removed any requirement for businesses to take the living world and its future wellbeing into account.   With this problem streamlined, the call after World War II to rebuild national economies led to the creation of the ‘consumer society’ and the advent of the ‘chemical age’.  The mountains of waste we left others to manage ramped up.  The advertising industry used ever more creative product packaging to promote mass production and disposable products, while at the same time the composition of discarded products changed as wonderful new plastics emerged from the petro-chemical industry.  Almost imperceptibly at first, a new level of complexity in managing materials discarded as end-of-life waste began.  By celebrating the benefits of convenience over durability, we normalised disposable plastic products and single-use packaging.

Today the impact of this can be seen in the production of composite materials, of which Tetrapaks are a well-known example (see pic).  We view these as highly efficient ‘cheap’ and ‘disposable’ products because we, along with fellow citizens and business directors, close our minds to block out uncomfortable environmental and social externalities. (In NZ those Tetrapak containers that are recycled are processed at the Materials Recovery Facility in Onehunga and shipped in bales to Korea, India and Australia. They are then soaked in water to separate the paper from the plastic and/or aluminium layers. Its a hugely complex and inefficient process, but we gain a feel-good factor: extracted wood fibre content can be turned into products like cardboard boxes and toilet paper.  For Pacific island countries, the economics of such a process render it infeasible.) The number and complexity of such products is growing, creating complex waste streams which are too difficult or too costly to sort and process: often the entire waste stream gets sent to landfill.

Back in the 1980’s, the time my own adulthood began to bloom, it was already evident that problems arising from poor waste disposal were not just land-based dumpsite issues but affecting the marine environment across the Pacific. As far back as 1991 the NZ researcher Gregory emphasised the need to educate the public about the environmental problems in the oceans arising from the ‘indiscriminate disposal of plastics and other persistent synthetic compounds’. Even at that stage Gregory was predicting the seriousness of the marine plastics issue, ‘It is unlikely that these problems can ever be solved by regulation,’ he stated, and pinned his own hopes on ‘technological advances’.   Along with the rest of us, embedded in ‘solid waste managment’ thinking, he too failed to question the responsibility of citizens and businesses for preventing materials that need to be discarded to arise in the first place. Twenty-five years on,  it seems the narrative is unchanged.  Yet does the answer really lie in technological solutions?  And is waste really inevitable? What if we went back to having to discard items in our own backyards – would we still allow that packaging into our homes?

*This Zero Waste Granny is currently undertaking research within a Masters in International Development.  My research topic –  how the inspirational Maori Zero Waste organisation, Para Kore, may provide a different way of approaching our current waste crisis. Above is the first of six myths I am discovering about modern solid waste management approaches which prevent us finding deep solutions to living in harmony and restoring the natural world in NZ.





I love the way that here in NZ we have true local area representation in parliament. Hence I am approaching our local MP who last year signed his name to petitioning the government for refundable bottle deposits.  Now it seems hard to contact him….  Latest email sent 10 February 2018 (correspondence as from 1st January below):   Dear Matt      I and many who share the zero waste kaupapa here in the Far North are waiting to hear how you can represent our voice in Parliament.     Would you be willing to let me know what you will do for us so that  I can pass it on to all those others in our Social Media groups?

Sincerely   Jane B

Ps pic attached shows the 43 bottles and cans – amongst other stuff – that I collected on a walk yesterday morning in the 500m stretch up the hill and down the other side from Paihia Beach to Te Haumi Beach.  I believe it speaks for itself…

Email sent  1 Febrary 2018    Hi Matt

I’m not an expert, just a passionate Far North Citizen, concerned about getting ‘all our ducks in a row’ so together we  look after the mana of the whenua and moana of  our region.  I see the importance of these deposits not just for their own sake but  o restore and regenerate our mana for the sake of us, the people of the Far North,  currently using these items, our ancestors and our children. We aren’t, in my opinion, doing  well right now either at generating environmental mana nor our own.  Bottle deposits become a lead in to our regaining a greater felt connection with the natural world as what we do each day shows us that we are looking after it rather than defacing it.  That increase in our own mana spills over into enhancing connection with one another.  It’s a bigger picture than it may look at first…..

My understanding is that the main work on this has been done by Envision  – check out the 2015 report, The InCENTive to Recycle, looked at the effectiveness of bringing back bottle refunds (cash for containers) to lift recycling rates in New Zealand.   Also an Auckland Council commissioned, independent cost benefit analysis of the Envision model released in December 2017

The people who form the NZ Product Stewardship Council  are also knowledgeable about this area. and I am sure would be keen to provide you with what ever further information you need.

As you may be aware Scotland has recently joined the countries using the scheme – and Coca Cola is on board with the idea. , Britain is looking into it seriously

and as I pointed out before , Australia looks like this :

Quite honestly – what is there not to like?



Email received 1 February 2018    Hi Jane

Do you have info from overseas jurisdictions that we could model any proposed changes in NZ on.
Email sent 1 February 2018   Dear Matt

I imagine you may be now back at work and I believe you will be interested to read of what is happening in New South Wales:

“More than 50 million drink containers have been returned through the Return and Earn recycling program since it began in December 2017. NSW Environment Protection Authority Acting Chair and CEO Mark Gifford said daily returns are averaging 1.5 million drink containers. Weekends tend to be the busiest times for returns, with last Sunday peaking at over 1.8 million returns.”  (

As you are now well known amongst Far North citizens anxious to see refundable deposits on drinks containers from your pre-election commitment to this in Russell last year, would you now be willing to clarify what you will do to ensure advanced deposits are in place on all bottles and cans by the end of this year for the benefit of us all, the citizens of New Zealand and the other living creatures with whom we share this common world?

Jane B

Email received 17 January 2018    Hi Jane

I’m still on holiday will get back to you later.

Regards Matt King Northland MP


Email sent 17 January 2018    Good morning Matt

As I walked up Seaview Road this morning, in the first 250 metres I picked up – amongst other discards – these bottles and cans – see pic attached. It reminded me that I haven’t yet heard back from you regarding what you are going to do for us your constituents and the wellbeing of the Far North environment regarding ensuring a bottle deposit scheme is in place for all bottles and cans in NZ by the end of 2018.

As you are now well known amongst Far North citizens keen to see this go from your pre-election commitment to this in Russell last year, would you now be willing to clarify what you will do to ensure advanced deposits are in place on all bottles and cans by the end of this year?

Jane b

Email sent 5 January 2018   Hi Matt

While you are discussing the bottle deposit scheme with your colleagues, this will I think be really helpful – a short video that explains the whole system and how it works – wish I’d seen it earlier!

I will wait to hear what you think.

Sincerely  Jane B

Email sent 2 January    Hi Matt

My understanding is that it doesn’t affect retailers at all apart from a very minor increase in the price of drinks.  The drinks companies add the 10c per drink bottle for example and pay this into a fund managed by Stakeholders. Community recycling depots refund the 10c to the person who brings in the bottle and are reimbursed from the managed fund.  (You will see the full costs and benefits to all Stakeholders including local and central government and the drinks industry set out in the Envision Report (see below).

As the money is invested in the meantime these funds and the interest earned  add to those obtained from the sale of the product by the centres to recycling businesses and just about cover the whole cost of the system.  What I like is that these centres bring jobs to the regions too – as well as taking the costs away from Councils and onto those directly involved, producers and consumers – to me this looks like a win-win for us the people of the Far North.  And the great thing is that the legislation is already in place in the 2008 Waste Minimisation Act – it just needs the will to put the scheme in place.  I know so well from my personal discussions that the Kiwi public are absolutely behind it; they see it as a no-brainer.

(For your information, drinks companies are coming on board across the globe. See for example this article ‘Coca-Cola backs Scottish bottle deposit scheme calls’ )

In response to your first request for back up information, I have now located the 2015 Envision Report that I was seeking  (you will find the full report at this link  and I believe it will provide the clarity you need to discuss the issue further with your colleagues  )

Here are a few salient points from the report:

KEY FEATURES OF THE Container Deposit Scheme  proposed in this report are:

  • Government declares beverage containers a priority product requiring a mandatory product stewardship scheme to be put in place and sets a system target rate of 85%
  • A minimum refundable 10-cent deposit applies to all beverage containers
  • A Managing Agency is set up by the beverage industry and other stakeholders

to coordinate and manage the flow of materials and funds through the system

  • The Business and Social Enterprises sets up a collection system of convenient drop-

off points where the public can receive refunds for their containers.


The predicted benefits of the model include:

  • At least double the quantities of all beverage containers recovered (with a

target of 85%)

  • At least 45,865 additional tonnes of containers diverted from landfill (an

increase of 43%)

  • At least 700 million additional containers diverted from landfill (an increase of 74%)
  • Potential savings to NZ ratepayers of between $26million and $40million per

annum from refuse collection savings (based on bag rates of between $2 and $3

per bag)

  • Reduced litter and litter control costs
  • Reduced costs to councils and ratepayersthrough higher kerbside recycling revenues
  • Increased business opportunities for recyclers as a result of the increased

volumes of clean recycled materials

  • Up to 2,400 new, entry-level to managerial- level jobs spread throughout the country
  • New business opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up collection depots
  • New income streams for social service groups who can collect containers

for refunds and also to set up social enterprises to operate collection depots


Please get back to me with your thoughts. I’m here to assist.

Jane B

Email received 2 January 2018    from Matt King

I went on the website and watched the short video question I have is this would be a huge burden to retailers and who would pay.

Regards Matt King Northland MP

Email sent 2 January 2018    Hi Matt, I appreciate your positive response.

Just checking with those that know more than me what would be the best information to send you.  Here’s one recent article about whats happening in the UK for you in the meantime…

I will be back to you soon.  Jane B

Email received 1 January 2018 Hi Jane

Happy to look into this.  Send me the information I need it helps when similar countries have such a scheme  that  makes it easier to sell to the law makers.

Regards Matt King Northland MP

Email sent 1st January 2018    Hi Matt

I hear more and more concern – from people in the Far North both in person and online, anxious about the amount of rubbish on the roadsides and in the streams and on beaches. A lot of this is plastic bottles, glass bottles and drink cans.

You told me at the Russell Birdman Festival that you are in favour of these advanced deposits.    By the end of this year every State in Australia will have introduced a deposit system – will you as our local Far North MP  push New Zealand to do this too for the sake of our whenua and moana here in the Far North. It needs your help. We the people of the Far North need your help.

The facts are indisputable – have a look at  if you would like more information. The campaign was started and is still being driven by a resident of the Far North, Warren Snow from Kaitaia. I have copied him into this email. I am sure he would be keen to provide you with more information if required. The FNDC is all in favour . It looks like deposit refunds will be introduced in Scotland and the UK before long ….

Matt, will you please put your weight behind  advanced deposits – young Nats may be keen to take this up too if they haven’t already  – lets get this in action for the sake of us all here in the Far North and our children and grandchildren’s future.

Meanwhile, I and 2 others are working to put a water drinking and bottle refilling fountain into the Paihia waterfront – we are doing what we can, can you please do your bit too.

Hei konā mai i roto i ngā mihi /Goodbye for now & thank you



February 14th 2018

“Dear John
I have a need to know that I am looking after the wellbeing of my brothers and sisters of all species. I also have a need for respect.
It is hard for me to meet these needs from your continued lack of response to the letter and gifts that I sent in a spirit of goodwill and friendship during the first week of the New Year. I feel sad and concerned.

I wrote requesting your leadership in an area which I genuinely I believe is of importance to all of us citizens of the Far North and I have many fellow Far North residents following the outcome with interest as they too await your response.

Let us work together on behalf of Papatuanuku/Mother Earth and for the good of the people alive now, our ancestors and the people that will follow.

I look forward to hearing that FNDC will embrace the Ecostar certification department by department, completing this throughout by Easter 2018.


Jane B ”