Barbecue season can be a nightmare for waste creation, and as our awareness about our environmental footprint grows, so too does the desire to do something about it.
Plastic food wrap, plastic straws, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic cutlery and plastic rubbish bags, chip packets and soft drink bottles are all too often piled into the rubbish after a day of entertaining.
But there are plenty of ways to start cutting down how much of your outdoor party goes straight to landfill, and you can even aim for zero waste if you take a bit of extra time and care with what you purchase.
Zero Waste Network chair Marty Hoffart said the best starting point was to tell everyone invited that you were trying to make the event or barbecue zero waste.
"They're likely to jump on board and might have some good ideas to share. Have a think about what filled up your rubbish bin after your last barbecue or party, and tackle the biggest waste stream first," he said.
Hoffart said food waste made up 30 to 40 per cent of household rubbish, so that was a good place to start.
"If you're having a pot luck barbecue, suggest what each person might bring to avoid double-ups. Encourage everyone to take their leftovers home to eat the next day, or pop leftover salads and meat into separate containers which your family can eat for lunch or dinner," he said.
Hoffart said zero waste could cost a bit more initially but in the long run would save money.
"It just takes a little bit of time to change our habits, but avoiding plastic and food waste makes a really big difference to the environment and the climate," he said.
For those drinking alcohol, avoiding plastic altogether saved energy and materials from being used in the first place so even though glass and PET plastic were recyclable, a better alternative would be kegs of refillable glass riggers, Hoffart said.
He advised sourcing cutlery and crockery from second-hand stores, getting friends to bring extra over, using camping gear instead of buying disposables, and renting boxes of glasses from liquor stores.
A lot of packaging was associated with the snack foods eaten at the start of a barbecue, Hoffart said.
He said chip packets were tricky so it was a good idea to replace these with nuts or salty snacks from bulk bins, or make pre-barbecue snacks at home.
"If it is a pot luck, you could ask one or two people to bring a plate of zero waste snack foods such as crackers from the bulk food bin, tinned treats such as stuffed vine leaves, olives and sundried tomatoes, as well as cut up veggies, fruit or deli foods in your own container," he said.
Hoffart said the Zero Waste Network encouraged people to plan for zero waste rather than simply replacing one disposable item with another. "It is much less wasteful to use normal cutlery than wooden disposable cutlery. It takes energy and resources to make any product and most will end up in the landfill," he said.
Oh Natural owner Kate Bevin said people were waking up to the impact their actions were having on the planet and being more conscious about what they used.
She said going plastic free could have more of an initial cost in terms of buying everything.
"But in the long term, it costs less because you don't have to go out and buy products again and again if you buy reusable items. Plastic free really is the way to go, it's better for the planet and for your wallet," she said.
Bevin said reusable utensils and plates were the best way to reduce waste.
"But if life gets too hard and you don't want to worry about the cleaning up, look at using bamboo or unbleached paper alternatives like bamboo cutlery and unbleached paper plates which can be composted," she said.
She advised avoiding food wrapped in plastic and instead buying deli food or meat from the butcher in reusable containers.
"When you are buying products, think about whether what you're buying is reusable and long-lasting or whether the packaging can be composted. Bear in mind that not all packaging that has a recycling symbol on it can actually be recycled in New Zealand. Sad but true," she said.
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