Our District

Trash free lunch break - an experiment

By Nina King, Ōtaki

Working in a shop at the mall can be very convenient when it comes to lunchtime. Plenty of choice, everything is ready within minutes, so you’re fed and back at work in no time. Much more tempting than getting up earlier to pack myself a decent lunchbox (anyone else not that organised in the morning?). After living this life of lunch luxury for a while though, it started dawning on me that I produced a huge amount of rubbish - wrapping, plastic trays and boxes, serviettes, sachets, holders, disposable cutlery and cups - EVERY DAY! Surely there had to be a better way?  

My first mission was to get myself and my boss reusable takeaway cups for our systematic coffees. I made sure they would be fine for all sorts of coffee machines (it says on the packing) and found some funky ones, made in NZ from recycled materials. Choice! Our coffee shop guy didn’t even flinch when we asked him to pour the drinks into those from now on: The hot chocolate in the sugar skull cup and the coffee in the caravan cup. We ask him to put sugar straight in the cup as well, as that saves a couple of little sachets. We store and wash the cups in the shop - no problem at all. Trash free coffee breaks were an instant success.

More interesting were the meals: I had bought a nice spacious container and was going to get my lunches in there. No problem with meals from bakeries and cafes like pies, sandwiches, wraps, paninis etc. Also very easy was Sushi. Once started, I got more ideas: I could avoid the soy sauce mini bottle if I drizzled the sauce on straight at the counter, I would even get as much as I want. So, no problems with anything charged for per piece – but what about stuff where the price is defined by the size of the shop’s plate, like smorgasbord? I must admit, dealing with that obstacle has stopped me from even trying so far. But I think maybe if asked the person serving me to fill my lunchbox for me, it could work. So that will be the next stage of the experiment. Has anyone else tried it? If more people did it would be easier, that’s for sure!

I get regular smiles when I bring my box forward, never a bad reaction. Sometimes I feel like saying something casual like: ‘save the planet and all’ to explain. Of course this way I am on dishes, too. But hey, I avoid a whole A2 size tray full of plastic and paper rubbish every day. And that’s worth something. It certainly makes me enjoy my meals even more!


Plastic Free July: Will you join the experiment and accept the challenge?

Plastic Free July started as a local initiative in Perth, Western Australia and has grown into a global initiative. It’s quite simple: attempt to consume no single-use plastic during July. Single-use plastic is anything that is intended to be used once then thrown away. If all single-use plastic sounds a bit daunting, just try the “big four”: plastic bags, plastic cups, plastic straws and plastic containers.

You can register for the challenge and share your experiences, ideas and tips at www.plasticfreejuly.org

For some inspiration to get you started, check out rubbishfree.co.nz for all things reusable, from fresh produce pouches to compostable toothbrushes, or get crafty and sew your own reusable bag!

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