Children’s Christmas Party

This weekend I took the kids to the company children’s party. It was held at a local YMCA and was a big hit with the little guests.  But through my conscious consumer glasses, I could see many missed opportunities for being kind to the planet.  Plastic plates, cups, and straws.  A sushi platter…where the platter itself was plastic.  And horror! Bottled water!  Then of course there was Santa handing out plastic treasures in plastic packaging.  When I went to put some of the cardboard boxes that was also part of the packaging after carefully removing quantities of sellotape that was holding it all together, I found the there was a plastic coating covering the outside it, making it shiny I suppose.  I gloomily put it in the rubbish instead.

The kids had a ball.  They are thrilled with their new toy treasures (mermaid and seahorse, little pony and accessories;  motorbike and little plane).  All plastic except the plane, which seems to be mostly metal.

I feel like the Christmas Grinch.

Meat without plastic

The Problem

One of my biggest stumbling blocks has been how to buy meat without plastic.  Sausages, chops, name it, it comes wrapped the same way in every supermarket in the country.

Meat in plastic

In today’s world plastic is obligatory when you buy meat .

Whole chickens only come in plastic bags.  Fresh fish over the counter?  At New Word they offer a one-size fits all paper/plastic/foil laminate bag which is wholly non-recyclable and for most purchases more packaging that is needed. Independent butchers somewhat better in that If you buy something over the counter you at least avoid the polystyrene tray, but they still put the item in a plastic bag.  Of course they do, what other option do they have?

It is quite a price to pay every time I tuck into spaghetti bolognaise,  roast chicken or bbq steak.

PET meat tray

New World’s new recyclable PET meat tray will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

New World have improved the situation recently by being the first supermarket in the world to develop a recyclable PET meat tray.  It does feel a lot better being able to recycle the tray and only put the wrap in the rubbish, and this solution must already being having a positive effect on landfill volumes.  But, and there is a but, none of this thinking reduces the demand for plastic. It doesn’t challenge the need for plastic or encourage people seek alternatives. So I am trying to avoid all plastic meat packaging, recyclable or not.


The Alternative

I did some research and finally stumbled upon an alternative:  bring your own containers.  Why had I never thought of this before? Bring them to the supermarket, to the butcher.  Have them tare it on the scales, pop the item in.  Boom.  Just like that.  Now all you have to do is take that container home and pop it directly into the freezer.  Brilliant!

Much encouraged by this idea, I took myself off to Briscoes and invested in two Anchor-Hocking glass containers with airtight lids which, wonderfully, can be put in the freezer.

I have had success at New World in New Lynn where, after some discussions with this manager and that manager, I was allowed to purchase fish and have it placed directly into the container.  I was so happy about this, what a win!  However the meat they offer over the counter tends to be their expensive, top-of-the-range stuff rather than the mince, drumsticks and sausages that make up our standard shop.  So sadly on this occasion I was obliged to accept the standard packing options for the rest of the meat shopping.

Salmon is a rare treat!

Fish bought from New World, the chicken breasts from Clark’s Organic Butchery.

This has made me look further afield and to venture into butchers in the area.  So far I have been to The Aussie Butcher in New Lynn, Clark’s Organic Butchery in Glen Eden and even further away, Westmere Butchery in, well in Westmere.  I think there is likely to be a Mad Butcher out this way that I have not yet discovered.

I’m happy to report that all three accepted my glass containers.

Clark’s have a wonderful range, though I’m still smarting at the higher prices you pay for organic meat.  Moving to organic is something I’m considering, pending further research.  I have to say I do balk a little at the prices but I can’t deny their product is of the highest quality and no doubt is better for us and the planet.  I figure perhaps it would be better for our family if we ate a little less meat of better quality or had one or two vegetarian dinners each week so we better afford it, and I have to say I don’t have the family’s full support in this ‘reducing meat’ proposal so I’m not sure we’ll be making the shift just yet.   Clark’s also make their own bacon and while they vacuum package most of it they offered to let me know when they make it so I can go it and buy some plastic-free.

The Aussie Butcher offers most of their produce pre-packaged in the usual way, and only a small selection over the counter.  So less options here.

Westmere Butchery is a good middle ground, offering a fantastic selection of meats over the counter and, being non-organic, at a more moderate price, the only shame is that they are the furthest away!  Notwithstanding that, it is a wonderful shop which is always packed with customers irrespective of the day of the week.


I still have some challenges even with this new BYO container approach:

– So far I have only have two containers and as was evident today, this is not enough when buying meat for the week.

– The glass is surprisingly heavy.  Glass is great in many ways as it goes straight in the freezer, then you can easily sit the container in hot water in the sink to defrost but carrying two to the butcher and getting them filled was almost enough!  This is an annoyance, but I’m prepared to work with it

I can't fit this in a glass container.

Meat products such as whole chickens or other roast cuts are still a challenge to buy without plastic.

– Glass containers are not the solution for all meat purchases: I don’t think I can get a container big enough to accommodate a whole chicken or a leg of pork or lamb.  I’d be happy for the meat to be wrapped in wax paper, then in plain paper as they used to once upon a time, but no-one does this these days.  So more work to do here.

So there you have it.  That is where I’m up to with buying meat without plastic.



Recycling soft plastics at the supermarket!

I discovered something very exciting this weekend: my local supermarket, New World) is now offering a service that enables customer to recycle their soft plastics.

What are soft plastics?  Essentially any plastic bag or plastic wrap, any plastic that you can scrunch up into a ball in your hand. Examples include:

  • Bread bags
  • Cereal bags and cereal box liners
  • Biscuit packets
  • Nappy packaing
  • Chip bags
  • Confectionery packets
  • Pasta and rice bags
  • Frozen food bags
  • Plastic shopping bags

Bags are being collected at Auckland New World, Countdown, Warehouse and Pak’n Save stores, and currently are being shipped to Australian company REDcycle who process it before it gets turned into outdoor furniture and signage.

landfill plastic

This is a boon for reducing non-compostable waste going to landfills, and also reduces soft plastics getting into waterways and oceans.  I  know this will reduce what I send to landfill, as there certainly are products that come in plastic packaging for which I have not found non-plastic alternatives as yet.  Think bacon.  Wasabi peas. Sigh.

While I’m all in support of this initiative for the reasons stated above, I’m cautious for two reasons:

1.  Its effectiveness may limited as it is not a kerbside collection

Although this recycling initiative has Government support, it is not being run by local councils.  Any recyclable scheme is likely to gain greater traction if it is a household kerbside collection.  This system relies upon people remembering  a) to collect their soft plastics and b) to take them to the supermarket.  While this may not appear onerous, many people report major difficulty in remembering to take reusable shopping bags to the supermarket, and this is just one more thing.  Some will make the effort, but many may not.   This scheme does not make recycling as easy as it needs to be to be the most effective.

2. It legitimises plastic use

My biggest concern for such a system is that it legitimises plastic use when the greater goal should be phasing out plastic altogether and replacing it with a sustainable (compostable, no-trace) alternative.

There is a feel-good factor knowing that the plastic packaging I use is not longer going to landfill, but it is still plastic and the fact that I’m now recycling it is not a good reason for me to stop reducing my plastic consumption.  In turn the companies that use the packaging to wrap their products are likely to also breath a sigh of relief:  now they can correctly say ‘But look how environmentally friendly we are, our packaging can be recycled!  We no longer have a need to seek alternatives.’  They can continue to use plastic with impunity as ‘recycling’ it usefully removes the waste problem they cause.  But let’s not forget that recycled plastic food wrap cannot be turned into more plastic food wrap: it has to be ‘downgraded’, it has to be turned into something more basic.  Here it is being turned into paving and outdoor fitness trails which themselves are unlikely to be recyclable (?). In this way the life of the plastic is being extended but the net result is plastic stays plastic and it is likely to end up in landfill at some point, albeit in a different form.

What is the alternative?

An alternative approach from the government would be to place a levy on plastic shopping bags or to ban them altogether.  Such measures have been implemented in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, California, with England recently introducing a plastic bag levy, Porto Rico due to ban all bags from mid-2016.  Rwanda is exemplary, having banned plastic bags back in 2008.   These real-life examples show us how effective even a levy can be, reducing plastic bag usage by 70-80%.  The key is that these measures are changing that thing which is the hardest of all to change: people’s behaviour.  People are suddenly going out of their way to avoid the extra charge: they are persuaded into finding alternatives.  This is the change that is really needed: thinking differently, acting differently.  Not creating the demand for the plastic in the first place, so stopping plastic bags from becoming a problem by stopping them from being.  It’s the more grass-roots approach.

The good thing about the recycling option that New Zealand have chosen is that it includes plastic packaging that would not be impacted by a plastic bag ban:  potato chip packets, rice and past packets, cereal box liners, biscuit wrappers and so on.  The bad thing is that it encourages us to be accepting of plastic packaging, it doesn’t force us to change our behavior to seek alternatives.

I think it is a first step.




Homemade pasta

Today’s packaging-saving effort was making my own pasta.

As a family, we eat our fair share of pasta.  Dried pasta is quick, easy and relatively affordable.  Of course, it inevitably comes in plastic packaging, and that is the issue. I would be very happy to buy dried pasta in bulk if I was able to, but as yet I have not found a bulk-bin shop that offers it.  So the only alternative is to make it at home.  Which is all well and good, but this renders it into a much more time-consuming task.

Today this was possible as I had more time on my hands than usual, being stuck at home unwell.  So off I went.

I am the proud owner of a pasta-maker that has not been used around 5 years at a guess.  That’s how long the kids have been around.  So out of retirement it came for my pasta making effort.

I used this recipe that came with the machine, but I made a 3/4 recipe using 3 eggs and 375g flour.


  • 500g flour
  • 4 eggs


Place flour in a bowl.  Make a well in the centre and break the eggs in.

Mix with a fork until combined.  If too dry, add water.  If too wet, add flour.

Knead on a floured bench with your palms until completely homogeneous.   A good dough will not stick to your fingers.

And that’s it, that’s all it takes to make the dough.  I kneaded it for about 10 minutes to achieve a smooth consistency.  After that, you slice approximately 1-2cm slices and, starting on the fattest setting, start to roll out your pasta.  I was making lasagna, so all I needed was flat pasta sheets.  It turned out I had a wee of dough left over, so I make that into fettucine.  I had the meat sauce cooking while I made the pasta.  Here’s some pics of the process:

Cut dough in 1cm thick slices.

Roll it on increasingly thinner settings until the desired thickness is reached. For me, this was the thinnest setting but one.

Roll it on increasingly thinner settings until the desired thickness is reached. For me, this was the thinnest setting but one.

The final rolling.

The final rolling.

Cutting a rolled past sheet into fettucine.

Cutting a rolled past sheet into fettucine.

Homemade pasta. Slower, but less waste. not to mention cheaper.

The finished product.

I made my lasagna a couple of hours later, it was delicious!  The fettuccine I left to dry for 5 minutes then floured and wound into four little nests, popped them in a plastic bag (yes plastic, but at least re-use!) and then into the refrigerator for use the next day.  I’m also experimenting with freezing a couple of the nests, so I’ll see how well that works.

I’d love to say that I’ll make my own pasta from now on in, but I’m not sure how practical this will be for me as a working mum.  I work three days a week, and pasta is a great standby if I have meatballs already made.  I would have to make it in advance, and freeze it ( if this works).  Another option might be to made the dough on the weekend and pop it in the fridge: making the dough is the time-consuming part.  Then all I’d have to do is to roll it and cut it on the day.

Alternatively if anyone knows of a place I can buy bulk pasta, I’d be keen to know about it. 🙂