Felix, our events co-ordinator and former co-runner of the Waste Watchers stall at the University of Auckland, spent the first part of his Two Weeks Without Challenge in the East Cape and Whakatane. He wrote a journal of his experiences going plastic-free in a small town.
Mon 23rd Nov:
Starting Two Weeks Without Plastic today. This coincides with leaving to go and explore the East Cape with Dad for a few days. Dad's become an old fart and has invested in a camper van that he wants to test. Planning to go up Mt. Hikurangi and soak up some sun on those beautiful remote beaches.
Stopped in Gisborne to stock up on food before heading up to Tolaga Bay for the night. Went into the local Countdown and EVERYTHING is just covered with plastic. All I came out with was some fruit and veg and a milk carton. :-( Going to be eating lots of salad the next few days. Was hoping that the milk carton was all cardboard, but now reckon that was wishful thinking. Probably has a plastic lining on the inside... Will give it the old rip test when I've finished it so I know for the future. Would be a bit naughty going around ripping up milk cartons before buying them.
When I get back home to Whakatane I know a farmer that sells the best creamiest milk, straight out the vat. No plastic required, just bring a glass bottle and he'll fill it up for you! I think it would definitely be harder to live long-term without plastic in NZ if you didn't live in a larger centre like Auckland or Wellington. There seems to be very little awareness of how crap plastic is in smaller communities and less support of the anti-plastic movement. As with my experience with the milk, I think you generally have to work a lot harder or know the right people to purchase products without plastic, whereas in the larger centres you can probably find stores that will sell most of what you're looking for without plastic.
Wed 25th Nov:
Finished our walk up Mt. Hikurangi and drove back to the campground at Tokumaru Bay. We needed to stock up on food supplies before driving back to Omaura Bay. Like lots of isolated NZ communities Toku Bay has one Four Square that basically acts as a condensed version of a Warehouse, Pak'N'Save, Liquor King and Mitre 10 combined.
I think everything except for the fruit and veg, newspaper and magazines came in some form of packaging. I was planning to make a salad with boiled potatoes and cheese for dinner, but cheese was definitely off the menu. Luckily we still had some butter that I could use to make potato mash. Ended up getting enough fruit and veggies for a yum salad. Luckily we still have some of Mum's delicious salad dressing left over.
Although it has been beautiful to relax and enjoy the beautiful places that the East Cape has to offer over the last 3 days, it has also been sad to see the loss of traditional Maori culture. I get the impression that a long cycle of poverty, isolation and poor education has meant many of the local Ngati Porou people have lost touch with that core Maori value of sustainability. You could often see or smell plastic being burnt in a backyard and people fishing on the most amazing beach just chucking their cigarette butts in the sand. I wonder if an education programme on the impacts of littering and showing the connection to the whenua and moana would be effective, or if that just isn't a priority for most people here...?