In August, Associate Minister Eugenie Sage announced a proposal that moves to phase out and ban a wide range of single use plastics. Unfortunately for the environment, this announcement coincided with the return to lockdown in many parts of Aotearoa New Zealand, and so the mainstream media reach of the message was somewhat lost…BUT, it’s important. And we can and should play our part in determining how this plays out.
The current proposal is now open for submissions.
We have been given an opportunity to express our opinions and use our voices, for ourselves and those who may be in a vulnerable position, this includes our environment. Packaging companies will be loud in defence of their industry. If we feel change needs to occur in the face of our struggling waste management systems and our unhealthy addiction to throwaway culture, now is our time to speak up. Democracy is nothing if we don’t use it.
So first who are UYO? I explored this in my previous blog here!
What are the immediately obvious points of contention for the waste conscious and socially conscious consumer, like you and I?
Firstly, takeaway coffee cups containing plastic and bioplastic linings have been left off the list deeming that accessible alternatives do not exist. This may be a declaration that you have an opinion on, after all, you would have to have your eyes and ears closed for years to not notice the rise in use of personal reusables, keep cup? A quick look into the hospitality industry shows the clear emergence of mug libraries, loan systems and even the arrival of the mighty jam jar as a way of avoiding throwaway coffee cups.
The UYO café guide lists over 40 cafes that are completely single use cup free, and thriving, with many adding surcharges for disposables or refusing to serve them for dine in coffees. The shift in our perception of single use coffee cups is real. News channels report on the difficulties of dealing with them. Social media is bursting with bright and cheery alternatives. And if we are asked what litter is most prevalent on the street, in greenbelt areas, parks, play grounds, throwaway coffee cups, with or without their lids, are always high up on the list of usual suspects.
If this resonates with you, if you believe we will adjust to life without the throwaway coffee cup with much the same ease as we did with plastic and bioplastic shopping bags, take this opportunity to let your Government know.
Asking different groups within our communities to test reusable cups is something UYO are currently involved in. A large part of their work is encouraging and investigating reuse systems that can address accessibility issues, such as cost and the functionality of the cups themselves. Many cups are not suitable for everyone. A universal design developed in collaboration with the disabled community, with mothers, with baristas, that works for these 3 groups especially, will almost certainly work for the vast majority of us.
Hard to get lids off, burn your fingers off when hot liquid is inside, not easy to drink out of or hold and price point (no one wants to pay $80 for a flippin cup people).
The proposal does include plastic straws, with talk of an exemption for those with disabilities, but this is a complex issue. Should the word ‘ban’ be used in conjunction with a product that many people actually need to survive, and this need is a reality. At the moment, a position-able straw that is gentle enough not to cause harm, that is firm enough to last the duration of drink, is only possible with plastic.
The current consultation process must include in depth conversations with the disabled community. To be an inclusive society, we must consider the barriers that could be faced and the stigma involved with specifically having to request a plastic straw in cafes, restaurants, or even pharmacies, and having to ‘prove’ a disability before being issued with a straw. By letting our Government know that their attention to these vital issues is important to us, we can impact more than just waste stream strategies – we can use our voices to support the needs of others.
After speaking with disability advocate Phoebe I found out much more about how much awareness needs to happen around that sector. We don’t have anywhere near enough consultation with people who are most vulnerable, we tend to career on forward thinking “she’ll be right” when we need to be inclusive and communicative.
Grass roots action is important right now. We know how much pressure huge corporates need from ‘the people’ to change. Until that pressure builds enough to threaten their profits they just, well, DON’T change. So we can influence packaging companies by refusing to accept their products, and influence hospitality by bringing reusables, or dining in, rendering the huge amount of money they currently spend on single use packaging unnecessary. But we need to change to happen faster, and legislation can bring that about.
So how to get started? You can review the proposals, make a submission using the online submission tool. This is the preferred way to receive submissions. The deadline for submissions is 4 December 2020 at 5pm. Jump straight in, or if you’d like some help, the UYO team and their sister campaign, Takeaway Throwaways have created a step by step guide to make the process clear and easy, even sharing short and long versions of their responses that you are welcome to take as your own, or adjust to suit your views.
Why is this so important? We all know what David Attenborough has to say about waste, about sustainability, about single use and plastic pollution.
We are becoming aware that there is no healthy future in single use. We absolutely CAN move away from a throwaway culture and all we need to do is reframe our principles: rethink, refuse, replace, reduce, reuse and only when those options have been worked hard do we move to recycle and disposal.
Dealing with the items laid out for discussion in the current Government proposal means we can legitimise this new way of living, quickly. If we change the way we consume, we can avoid throwing tax payers money at that broken and out dated ambulance at the bottom of the cliff which is recycle and disposal.
Our future, our voices, our time to shine. We mustn’t waste it. Waste is not good.
UYO exists to connect conscious consumers with cafes and eateries who want to use their businesses to normalise reuse and reduce waste. Any hospitality outlet can join the guide, and receive access to advice, support and promotion – their only stipulation is that you won’t promote the use of Single use on your channels and will welcome customers who choose to reuse.
UYO and Takeaway Throwaways is encouraging everyone to get involved and add your whakaaro/ thoughts about the current submission. Head to the Takeaway Throwaways website to begin the process, and reach out to either team with questions or to request a human to talk to your workplace, school group or community.
UYO are changing the world. One cafe at a time.
I love UYO and I thought you would too, that’s why I’m working with them and supporting them.
All images kindly supplied by Unsplash. com