In the Cook Islands, we are reliant on the importation of many items and most of these are individually pre-packaged. Everything from food items, water bottles to beauty and cleaning products are all packaged in containers and bottles designed to be used once and then discarded.
As most of us are aware, located around Rarotonga are refill water stations for locals to access clean drinking water. But what if we took the water refill station idea and applied it to other liquid products? Local resident Catherine Ben, co-founder of The Pak Man Store has hopped on board the waste reduction train and has set up an Ecostore liquid refill station. This has made a range of cleaning and personal care products available on the market from laundry detergents to shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap and body wash. This not only encourages customers to go ecofriendly but is a cheaper alternative too. Why not save yourself a couple of dollars by refilling instead of purchasing a new product? Catherine says she wants to “encourage people to bring back any Ecostore empties they may have lying around so we can forward them on to customers, leading them on a cheaper, more sustainable pathway”. Catherine adds “it’s just another way of keeping the bottles out of the landfill”. Check out their Facebook page @ThePakManStore
Lucy McDonald, owner of local online business Paradise Supplies, sells a range of cleaning and personal care products that are both friendly to the Earth and which can be purchased in bulk sizes. This is convenient for home, business and accommodation use, allowing people to refill their own smaller containers as required. A large number of the products are sold in concentrates which can be diluted considerably, both saving money and significantly reducing plastic waste! Lucy points out that when diluted at a standard strength, her multi-purpose environmental cleaner can cost as little as 70 cents per 750ml bottle and when diluted further as a window and glass cleaner, is only 21 cents per bottle! “That is cheaper than vinegar and smells much nicer too!” says Lucy. Many of their products are phosphate free, bleach free and septic tank safe which is so important for the health of the lagoon. You can contact Lucy and her team at www.paradisesupplies.net
But why stop there? The emergence of bulk buy bins and BYO containers in supermarkets elsewhere in the world is a direct response to our waste issue. Food packaging accounts for approximately 2/3 of total packaging waste by volume worldwide by some recent estimates. Much of this is thin plastics that can’t be easily recycled. We need to look at how we buy and sell other fast moving consumer goods such as cooking oil, vinegar, soy sauce, condiments and dry food items as well. Consumers could bring in their reusable or repurposed containers and purchase those good from dispensers without the need for single-use packaging. Something for our retailers to take a closer look at, sooner rather than later!
Recycling is a very limited solution to the waste problem in our country. It is important that we consider other measures in addition to recycling in an attempt to provide a cohesive strategy to reduce our total national wastage. Being careful about what your purchase item is packed in is a good place to start!
- Te Ipukarea Society