Circular economy, recycling and DIY cleaning products

The second and third workshops in our climate action series looked at a circular economy, the great variety of products that can be recycled, and how to make your own environmentally friendly household cleaning products.

The circular economy

The second in the series of climate action workshops looked at the concept of the circular economy, and what local options we could identify in Pukerua Bay.

Kelly McClean took us through an explanation of what a circular economy is. It seems there is no agreed definition, but a common one says it is design that eliminates waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use and regenerates natural systems. A good starting place is the ‘cradle to cradle’ concept, which uses the principle that waste from one process is ‘food’ for another, whether that is in a biological economy or a technical economy. This is different to the linear ‘cradle to grave’ concept, which still has waste being something that has to be disposed of at the end of the production chain or a product’s life rather than being an input to another process. It is normally change at a system level and involves deliberate choices by designers and manufacturers to think beyond the end of what they do, and how it can support other processes.

Photo of a woman presenting a slide show to a group of people

It goes, particularly in a technological economy, far beyond recycling plastic, paper and glass in bulk, and thinks about how components of products can be extracted and reused in other products at the end of their life. And how can we reuse products when they are no longer any use to us? Does someone else have a use for it?

In a biological economy, outputs or waste can be food (literally) for the soil and other biological systems. Gardeners can compost organic waste. Organisations like the New Zealand Food Network collect quality surplus and donated bulk food from producers, growers and wholesalers around the country, and distribute it to food rescue organisations, iwi and charities across New Zealand.

The groups looked at options within Pukerua Bay. There may be fewer options at a community level, as a circular economy often operates at a larger system level, but there are ways we can reuse things when they aren’t of any use to us any more. Some suggestions included:

  • Zero waste
  • Sharing resources, skills and tools
  • Designing out waste
  • Composting
  • Growing your own veges
  • A repair shop
  • Sharing vehicles and car pooling, including to ‘click and collect’ neighbours’ groceries.

Going beyond basic recycling

Nikky Winchester, who runs — who is — Waste Free PKB, showed us the extraordinary variety of products she collects and can recycle. The council collections take some plastics, glass, aluminium cans and paper. But many more products than those can be recycled, and Waste Free PKB is recycling on steroids.

Nikky tipped a big bin of waste products onto the floor and got us to sort out what could and couldn’t be recycled. The range of recyclable products is incredible: the milk bottle tops the council won’t take, wine bottle caps, standard domestic batteries, bras, coffee capsules, Colgate oral health product containers, tetrapaks, many skincare and haircare colour and products’ packaging, and many others.

People sorting through waste products

Soft plastics can be left at many supermarkets. Unfortunately, many products can’t be recycled, and Nikky has a list of them on the Facebook page.

Waste Free PKB Facebook group

List of products Waste Free PKB can collect

Other products that can be recycled (not by Waste Free PKB)

Nikky runs a collection day at the Pukerua Bay RSA every three months. Notifications are on the Waste Free PKB Facebook group and on this website.

Make your own household cleaning products

Melissa Wharakura shared her journey from a user of commercially produced cleaning products, through investigating the harm they could cause, to making her own.

Melissa discussed the ‘why’ of making your own products:

  • Simple changes that aren’t onerous
  • Environmental impact – using products that are sustainable and don’t go into the wastewater system
  • Health impact – avoiding products that contain hormone disrupters
  • Cost
  • Chemical load
  • Packaging
  • Time

To show how easy it it, the groups made a simple cleaning paste.

Mixing ingredients for a household cleaner

Figgy cleaning paste

  • 4 parts baking soda (2 cups)
  • 1 part Figgy liquid cleaning soap or any good quality liquid castile soap (we used the Conscious brand) (1/2 a cup)
  • 20 drops of essential oil for fragrance
  • Mix in a container until it forms a smooth paste
  • It can also be diluted into a bench spray.

A list of resources is available here.

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