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!





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


Email Monday 20th March to  Hon John Carter QSO, Mayor Far North District Council

Dear John

The Cycle Way is awesome!  I loved riding it on Saturday, as did the friend I roped in who hadn’t been on a bike for years!  I’m now looking forward to my daughters, son-in-law and visitors from overseas riding that part in the near future!  Its so good to see this project come to fruition – all credit to the Green Party for initiating the concept around NZ,  all those individuals who have pushed it along, and for your Council following up on it.  I love the idea of new parts of Northland being opened up to such a gentle way of seeing our region.


However, I am concerned that we keep the Trail ‘clean and green’. As you will see from pic, on Saturday I already picked up a considerable amount of waste ( and had to leave more behind as I couldn’t carry it)!   I believe we need to create a culture right from the start which proactively educates NZ and overseas riders – and locals – in a ‘ Zero Waste Kaitiakitanga’  :

  • Lets make it easy for riders to make good choices which protect our land and sea environment and lets create fun signage about why using primary school kids art works
  • Lets ensure local people , trustees, Iwi and business people build a culture of stewardship of our Northland Environment right from the start.
  • Lets keep plastic from affecting fish stocks, shellfish and other marine life.  It needs to be recognised that the waste that gets dropped will be washed by rainstorms into drains and hence into the sea ( see pic of plastic yoghurt carton almost there –  on side of marsh raised walkway) – the trail is highly vulnerable, given sections by rivers, by streams, and by the coast
  • Sophisticated European tourists don’t want to see the amount of rubbish that I for example picked up along the trail on Saturday ( see pic of my ‘hoard’ at the finish showing as much as I could carry: 3 cans, 6 PET soft drink bottles, 5 crisp packets, 1 pie bag, 2 flavoured milk bottles, 1 yoghurt carton but had to leave many other items I was unable to carry) ) . Lets aim for rave reviews about our environmental policy on the Trail.
  • Lets showcase that ‘Northlanders care’ about generations yet to come and about our natural world

Why not

  • Set a goal say for July 2018 whereby the Twin Coast Trail will be a fully  Zero Waste Trail
  • Raise awareness of the issues amongst trustees by sharing this short video : http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5d2fqg_it-s-time-to-ditch-the-disposable-plastics_news
  • Define Zero Waste = No rubbish whatsoever that goes to landfill =  anything that’s discarded becomes a resource for something else. This means switching to reusable, compostable and recyclable food and drink packaging
  • What makes a ‘ Zero Waste Trail’ would best be brainstormed by those involved but here are 10 ideas for starters:
    1. All businesses along the Trail must be Ecostar rated by July 2018 in order to be promoted on maps, website etc
    2. Signage created by schoolkids (after all , it is their future that is at stake) describing why the Trail is Zero Waste and why its important ( Opua School kids already do great art work around the issues of waste/marine plastic for example) at intervals along trail – request sponsorship from Waste levy funding perhaps to pay for signs?
    3. In promotional material, strongly discourage riders from carrying any disposable plastic items such as single use water bottles, food packaging etc by explaining the Zero Waste policy and reasons why
    4. ‘Leave only footprints’ ( or ‘Leave only cycle tracks’)  message to be promoted and/or http://www.take3.org/
    5. Ban businesses from using disposable cups/glasses (Interestingly the café we stopped at above the stream half way along was saying how they were really aware that they didn’t want to use the disposable cups they were supplying and felt bad that they were doing so but weren’t organised enough – it is my belief this is true of many, they want to make more eco-friendly choices but need leadership to do so)
    6. Set up a few water bottle refilling stations (like Opua School’s gift to  Paihia ( set up on Horotutu  by the Info Centre)
    7. Sell stylish customised Trail branded re-usable cups at start and finish of trail sections and at each cafe along the way eg   http://www.cuppacoffeecup.com/nz/customise/
    8. Sell customised re-usable metal water bottles  eg http://www.ipromote.co.nz/promotional-products/drink-bottles
    9. Encourage sale of items with compostable packaging such as  Trade Aid chocolate bars / various coffee roasters bags
    10. Make it a trend to have cafes and maraes using funky mismatched op shop cups or mugs / glasses and no disposable ones


  • Ensure ALL  further FNDC events such as that held at Horeke on Saturday are Zero Waste ie all items used can be and are recycled or composted. ( Many Councils around NZ now hold only Zero Waste Events cf http://www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/Our-District/on-to-it/sustainable-communities/zero-waste-events/ so no glad wrap over food, no food in soft plastic wrapping eg crisps, biscuits etc ( until soft plastic recycling is brought in in Far North ), no disposable cups, plastic bottles of water – replace with filling station and remind people to bring their own bottles –  etc. (Once FNDC is Ecostar-rated itself of course this will become second nature…😊)

Not only will this focus on Zero Waste for the Trail be useful in itself, it will also give Far North citizens (and FNDC) an aspirational target to achieve for other ventures.  #togetherwecandoit

What do you think?