Comments 10

  1. Thanks Anna Dawson for a direct and very appealing message on ‘slimming’ plastic waste by eating more healthily. As I will be leading the New Zealand delegation to a conference in Bali in September that will gather almost all of the countries in the Asia-Pacific Rim, including the Philippines, I would be interested in keeping you in the loop. I will also be touring California from 7-19 July talking with maritime NGOs (including eg 5 Gyres and Algalita) and civic regulators about what works there and how we might team up. See my own presentation immediately before yours. Stephen Harris

    1. Hi Stephen, thanks also for your presentation and pragmatic approach to solving the problem. I would love to be kept in the loop on your travels – Please let me know if you meet anyone who would be interesting to work with in the Philippines, especially those that might influence policy. I am also a 5gyres ambassador so please say hi to the team up there for me. Keep up all your good work on solving the issue!

  2. Hi Stephen, Thanks for a really engaging presentation, it’s fantastic to have someone from the ministry from foreign affairs and trade presenting at the conference. I particularly enjoyed the thought that had gone into the whiteboard diagram of the plastic chain and its visual use in the video presentation, and I think that kaitiakitanga can be a really useful way of addressing ecological issues within and beyond New Zealand.

    I do worry about the prominence that is given to consumers and consumer action in much of the discourse around plastics though. You say at around 2:30 in the presentation that taking effective collective action around plastics ‘starts with us, the household consumers, of course,’ but I’d suggest that when we talk about effective action, we need to start with legislation that targets design, production and industry rather than household consumption, especially when (as you quite rightly point out) the vast majority of plastic waste comes from industrial rather than domestic usage.

    You come back to talking about the power of consumers and consumer choices at about 8:45 when you discuss single use single use plastic bags, but the examples you outline as effective forms of action – the levy in the UK and the ban in Bangladesh – are both instances where national legislation, rather than consumer action has led to that change.

    I’m not suggesting that consumers are totally irrelevant, or that consumer-led action cannot lead to wider social and cultural change through pressuring democratically elected representatives to take legislative action. I am, however, concerned that such a prominent focus on ethical consumerism frequently becomes a way of avoiding taking effective collective political actions, while offloading the responsibility for doing so onto individuals who lack the capacity to meaningfully enact change at these scales.

    In NZ, where we have (so far) decided not to follow the effective legislative actions taken elsewhere on single use plastic bags for example, this seems particularly problematic.

  3. Hi Stephen, Thanks for a very positive presentation, it had the right balance of terrible photos of plastics and news of positive changes by organisations. My company, The Rubbish Whisperer, supplies products that make it easy for people to reduce their plastic – we make reusable produce bags here in New Zealand, and supply paper and stainless steel straws to eateries in NZ and the South Pacific. In 6 months we have replaced nearly 200,000 plastic straws.
    You asked if people want the plastic waste that our everyday lives create; I have discovered through my business that most people do not, but don’t know where to find alternatives.
    I was interested in the disposable bag for takeaway coffee that you mentioned – I couldn’t see it in the video. Please can you explain what this is for? Millions of disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year, so I’m not sure what advantages this plastic bag has?

  4. Hi Anna, Thanks for a very interesting presentation. The stats on food wrappers and straws found during beach cleanups are fascinating.
    We, at The Rubbish Whisperer, have been approached by a local Weightwatchers group interested in our reusable produce bags as a way of encouraging healthy eating; and also a Hamilton Enviroschool that wants to use the bags to encourage families to purchase food from their school garden. So I think you are right that we can work with healthy eating groups to reduce plastic waste. I would love to speak with you more – I’m sure we can collaborate. Please do get in touch!

    1. Hi Helen, love all your products, it looks like a great site. We have a BYO Bag sewing group on Waiheke making some produce bags and trying to get them into supermarkets although the sewing ladies tell me they’re not as fun to make as the larger reusable bags. Would be interested to hear more about yours. Also worked with a few hotels in the Philippines to replace straws with stainless steel and bamboo which is a good alternative up there as it’s locally sourced. Drop me an email on and lets have a chat on the phone about what you are up to as I am very into solving the problem in New Zealand as well.

  5. Hi Anna

    Great to see you back in Aotearoa and continuing to passionately and actively doing good work in this area here. Thank you for emphasising the connection between healthy eating and food packaging. This was a point my colleagues and I also raised in a publication which described the solid waste management landscape in the Pacific Islands States and Territories (PICTs). Here we noted the following: “In addition to the growing unaffordability of basic foods in the Pacific and increasing vulnerability to global markets (UNICEF, 2011), a growing reliance on imported foodstuffs is leading to a decline in population health , leading to, for example, obesity and what the World Health Organisation has referred to as a diabetes epidemic” (Friel et al., 2013; Legge et al., 2013;
    Snowdon et al., 2011; SPC, 2013; Thow and Snowdon, 2010; Thow et al., 2011; WHO, 2010). For this reason and many more, the problem of waste in developing countries is tightly linked to the SDGs. However, as you point out, the relationship between food packaging and health is not just a developing country issue.

    However, high housing costs in NZ necessitate longer working hours. This means making food from scratch is harder to do than ever before. I would love to continue to make my own bread, crackers, cheese, toothpaste, etc as I did in a one-year experiment but I just can’t realistically maintain it now especially with extra dependents – and nor, would I argue can the average NZder. Does this mean that the emphasis should be on packaging regulation but that we should continue to do what we can to make food from scratch (and in the meantime sending a message to producers that we don’t want unnecessary and unhealthy food packaging)?

    I shall eat outside more too – great idea. Keep up the great work Anna!

  6. Hi Katarina

    Lovely to see you again – though in quite a different mode this time! Thank you for sharing the work have done with KraalD. This is a truly unique way of inviting people to think (and act) differently about plastic waste through participatory approaches and practical engagement. I would love to use some of these ideas in my teaching and community work.

    1. Thank you Trisia.
      ‘I’ felt it would be a good opportunity to share ‘Plasticized’ following the ‘joyful’ side of the research’s packaging narrative via poetic yogurt bottles and angry plastic bags.
      Scenario: Every-day plastic things are treated ‘sui generis,’ thus on the individual level ‘I’ am accepting the factuality that they are part of the natural environment. As Bataille stated “Life occupies all the available space.” So does the discarded plastic, merging plastic life with the oceanic life. Design workshop experimentation (educational activism) offers the “transposedness” on human’s part in relation to the nature, animal world and the ‘plastic things’. As you state, it is a unique way of looking (gazing at/languaging in) this 21 st century “super wicked problem.”
      Looking beyond critical negativity, solely technological solutions, encouraging engagement with things and allocating emotions while engaged in social activity of making and conversing is the subtle way for this research constructions of knowledge.
      Above all, these ideas and approaches are meant to be shared in a ‘Ubuntu’ way, which is a South African word for togetherness encouraging compassion on a community level. Therefore, I feel humble to share workshop approach and details with you or any other interested parties in future/s.
      Respect to all

  7. Hi Trisia,

    Thanks so much for your support as well as organising this wonderful conference. I should have included your research in this presentation. I love the work you have done on this in the pacific, there are so many pieces to the plastic pollution puzzle that makes it such an interesting one to solve. I totally agree. To make things from scratch takes time that not everyone has. Perhaps this is something that we need to solve at a community level not at an individual. some members of the community, not those with young kids, may have more time than others to make from scratch and sell. For example we can buy bread at our weekend market, it would be great to buy crackers and pasta and toothpaste too and send money back into the community. Yes keeping things fresh is a problem but so too is it for fruit and veg and if a market ran a couple of times a week this could still be viable. Returning to locally made seems to solve other environmental issues as well. I hadn’t thought too much about the aspect of health but I’ve just noticed a byproduct of reducing plastic in our house has Increased our fruit and veg intake. I’m all for taking the fast routes to get to the same place like packaging regulation and policy – we need that for fast and immediate change before we do more harm. But let’s also solve the broader environmental and health issues in the longer term via education and awareness. I think the plastic free supermarkets popping up are really exciting as they can cater for busy people who care about the issue. Food for thought 🙂

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