Covid-19 pushes environmentally-friendly habits aside

Laura James
Source: 1News

The environment's been forgotten by many in the past two years, as Covid-19's taken over and reusables like keep cups have been replaced with disposables.

Auckland Council's noticed a huge spike in waste volumes at popular picnic spots.

It says in places like Mission Bay, the usual summer peak was hit in October, when Aucklanders were given the green light for picnics.

"We've seen the volume double in terms of what we're collecting from litter bins and we've had to have guys here to pick up the bins 24/7," Waste Solutions General Manager Parul Sood told 1News.

She's expecting it'll keep getting worse across the holiday period.

"A lot of it is takeaways, people are wanting to get that food ... and eat it at the beach."

The bins are full of single use packaging, after environmentally-friendly habits like using keep cups have been lost by many.

"I think we got used to using keep cups but now because of Covid, cafes haven't been able to give people coffee in keep cups so you lose the habit.

"I think we're going back to our bad habits thanks to Covid."

Go Well Consulting's Nick Morrison says it's disappointing.

"It's just one of the impacts of Covid right, it's knocked a lot of people back.".

Supermarkets had no choice this year but to stop BYO container schemes due to health and safety requirements.

Countdown corporate affairs manager Kiri Hannifin says "because actually when people give us our containers we go away and wash them and it's just a lot of handling".

She says now the scheme's up and running again, people are out of habit.

"People have forgotten ... we sort of get into what we do, get into the store, do your groceries and get out, so we're doing a bit of work to remind people to bring their own produce bags, containers."

Sood said, "what we've got used to is online ordering as well and when you do online order and pickup it tends to be in a takeaway cup and you can't do much about it".

She's encouraging Kiwis to be "inconvenienced" by their waste this summer.

"When you're out and about my advice would be to take it back home ... put it in the right bin, recycling is best at home."

Morrison said people should think about what single use packaging and items they're taking from takeaway shops too.

"They think wrapping it up, giving you a bunch of napkins and plastic cutlery is what you want, it's good service, but if you say to them 'I dont need that' ... that is saving everyone."

Hannifin says Countdown has a range of waste reduction goals for 2022.

"We've taken about 17 tonnes of plastic off our own brand products in the last year, and that feels good," she says.

Morrison's encouraging businesses to commit to a strategy and then publicise it.

"And make it really easy for the customer," he says.

"It is really hard to shift from a linear model to one that's circular, but we are seeing more and more businesses start that journey."