Community initiative to get rid of unsustainable packaging
Wednesday 09 May 2012
Saffron Thomson, 9 years old, with a polystyrene tray Alexander Street residents want banned.
Polystyrene trays used for packaging meat and other products could be on their way out if a group of Kāpiti residents have their way.
Neighbours from Alexander Road, Raumati Beach, who are participating in the Kāpiti Coast’s Greenest Street Competition 2011/12, are encouraging local supermarkets to get rid of the trays, which they say are clogging up landfills.
Resident Racquel Thomson says the trays are being used more and more to package not only meat but croissants, cakes and even fruits and vegetables such as grapes and zucchini.
“While polystyrene trays do have a recycling code on them, they can’t be recycled in Kapiti because their porous nature allows them to be contaminated by food, including blood from meat. The recycler can’t tell which are contaminated so all are sent to the landfill, where they take a very long time to break down.”
Racquel says the issue came up when the group did a ‘waste audit’ to find out what they were throwing out. They discovered the process of making polystyrene trays is hazardous to the environment and that styrene, a key ingredient in their manufacture, has been linked to cancer.
“With all this in mind we decided to try and persuade our supermarkets to replace polystyrene trays with a more sustainable option that consumers would be happy with. Other options do exist which are compostable/recyclable (at home or in the landfill) and much less toxic in their production. Some also use waste products as their core ingredient, such as potato starch.”
In a bid to show local supermarkets that there is public support for change the Alexander Road residents surveyed attendees at the recent Sustainable Home and Garden Show and collected 230 positive responses. They have since launched an online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/XNYSXY8 and hope to collect as many online responses as possible by late May. They will also be canvassing shoppers at Coastland’s on Saturday 12 May from 10am to 4pm.
Meanwhile the Foodstuffs group of supermarkets (including Pak n’Save, New World and Four Square) are working with an independent environmental advisory company to look at ways of reducing their environmental impact. Polystyrene trays are one of the issues being looked at.
Racquel says her group will be presenting its data to Foodstuffs.
The initiative has the backing of the Kāpiti Coast District Council which supports and sponsors initiatives to reduce waste.