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Posts Tagged ‘rubbish’

The Story of Bottled Water

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Do you really want to be buying your water in a bottle? Here’s what Annie Leonard found about the water bottling process.

Check out the Story of Stuff project for other stories - such as:

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Cap and Trade

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Go to the GREENGORILLA website to check out other episodes and activities

I Helped to Clean Up a River and I Got a Rash For My Troubles

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

By Torrey McDonnell

Source:Torrey McDonnell

Source: Torrey McDonnell

Recently I proudly added a large rash across my stomach to my growing collection of tropical ailments. Unlike the coral infections I have gained from surfing local reefs, this rash was contracted whilst walking in a polluted river. But much like the coral infections, this rash is a small price to pay to get out and enjoy Vanuatu’s waterways and learn more about local environmental management. My first thought upon visiting the river was that I would not swim in it if you paid me, let alone use it for drinking water. The first time I was taken for a walk along the banks by my workmate, we saw a dead dog floating amongst an island of rubbish at a culvert bridge. I was wondering how this could happen to such a beautiful river. Then recently I helped organize, and participated in, a river clean-up day that altered my perceptions of this river and environmental management in Vanuatu.

The river I am talking about is the Tagabe River.  Fed by Port Vila’s abundant rainfall, the Tagabe River Catchment is where Northern Port Vila’s water travels to the sea. The river is important to people in Port Vila for a variety of reasons. Water is extracted from the upper and middle catchment for town supply; adjacent land is used for agriculture, logging and farming; and settlers and squatters live along the banks of the middle and lower parts of the river. Tagabe and Blacksands are two squatter communities on this lower part of the river I have been involved with. The river is a vital part of daily life in these communities, a walk down the river will reveal people bathing, swimming, washing clothes, and collecting water. There are even fresh water prawns to be found.

On the day of the clean-up we started out from the river mouth at Blacksands. We met a Blacksands man having his morning bath in the river, I told him what we were doing and he enthusiastically joined us for the day. Most of the rubbish we were collecting was littered plastic — like washing powder packets thrown directly into the river or food packets washed in from around the catchment. Traditionally litter has not been an issue in Vanuatu as most of the waste has been biodegradable (such as coconut shells and banana peels). The problem is that nowadays much of the food comes wrapped in plastic. Traditional methods of disposal don’t work for plastic litter. Food packaging is just thrown on the ground or in the river after it is used. There is none of the awareness like that which is ingrained in most New Zealanders, to Keep New Zealand Beautiful’ or Be a Tidy Kiwi’. With the increase in consumption of western style packaged food, there seems to be a need for a similar awareness campaign.

Source: Don Hunter

Source: Don Hunter

We walked past women doing their washing and children playing in the river and collecting prawns. It was hard to believe that these activities still happen in such a heavily polluted river. Other than the litter, the main pollutants are from pigpens and toilets being too close to the river and local industry releasing pollutants into the water. They cause numerous health problems such as diahorrea, giardia and skin infections. I was soon to experience the latter — a firsthand demonstration of the dangers of a polluted river.

As we continued through the morning more people joined us. The clean up group soon swelled in numbers. Local residents were happy to join in, many of these were kids who were having a great time clearing out as much rubbish as they could. The slow pace of the clean up gave me time to start to see the river, in a different light from my initial trip there. Children playing, cool shaded groves of trees, meandering curves, sparkling pools showed me glimpses of how the river looked before plastic and industry arrived in Vanuatu. The number of people who joined in showed me how much the community cares for this river. I wondered if I would ever get so many people eagerly volunteering in a river clean-up day in New Zealand?

Since the clean-up day, we have been working to reduce the amount of rubbish in the Tagabe River. We have erected signs wherever people can be found washing or bathing, urging them not to discard rubbish in the river. We have also been continuously involved in performing environmental themed plays and conducting workshops around Port Vila. However, the process is somewhat demoralizing for all involved. No matter how much Tagabe and Blacksands residents mobilize themselves to keep the river clean, a constant stream of pollutants and rubbish still keep flowing down from the upper and middle catchments.

As I learnt on the clean-up day, once people learn more about the impact of litter and the importance of proper waste disposal they eager to help — but there needs to be more done. It is hoped the work that Wan Smolbag and other NGOs are doing will inspire the council, industry and the public to improve their environmental practices. Only then may the Tagabe River become cleaner and continue to be a resource for future generations.

Torrey McDonnell is a VSA UNIVOL volunteer currently working as a Youth Worker/Environmental Advisor with Wan Smolbag, a Non Government Organisation based in Port Vila Vanuatu. Torrey was assignment from March til December 2008.

For more information check out:

XMAS - Treasure or trash?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

By Elisabeth Perham

baubleChristmas should be a time for celebration, a time for sharing, being with family, celebrating all that is good. While this may be the case, the unfortunate truth, like the Climate Change movie says the inconvenient truth, is that the annual Christmas craze is one which is seriously damaging the health of the Earth.

Funny how Christmas now starts in October. The mall decorations go up, ads encourage you to start your shopping and catalogues arrive in the mail. Nearly three months away and already we can’t escape it. Not that I’m a scrooge, far from it! In fact, I love the holiday season. Yet I find myself becoming more and more concerned about the festival of consumerism that modern-day Christmas is.

rubbishAnd not just consumerism at Christmas, but throughout the whole year. Landfills swell, temperatures rise, neighbourhoods flood and hurricanes devastate cities. You already know all this, we all do, but do you care enough to do anything about it? In the most recent statistics available (ie. 1997: so archaic that it’s shameful) New Zealanders disposed of 3.4 million tonnes of waste into landfills. That’s almost a tonne each! What’s worse is that this is so much more than we used to dispose of. In the Auckland region, this was an increase of 73% per person of rubbish from 1983. Imagine what the figure is now — and what it will be like in ten years’ time.

It may seem rather macabre to be bringing this up when this season should be festive, but it is in fact the perfect time. At Christmas our already ludicrous consumption goes up a further 25%, and as about 80% of goods made for consumption are thrown away within six months of production, this means a whole lot more waste.

Fact: in the UK alone, at least 1 billion Christmas cards will find their way to the bin by the endwheelie bin of this holiday season. Although similar figures are not available here in New Zealand, if we sent cards at the same voracious rate as our British counterparts (which is unfortunately quite likely), this would mean we send a whopping 66.5 million a year. With one tree required for the production of 3000 cards, we could unwittingly be sending 22000 trees through our postal system.

But the news isn’t all bad. If we all make just a little bit of effort, the bad we are doing CAN be reversed. Ladies and gentlemen, the Earth can be saved! For every tonne of paper we manage to recycle, 13 trees, 31780 litres of water and 2.5 barrels of oil are conserved. For every one tonne of aluminium recycled: 13,300 kWh of electricity is saved, 95% less air pollution is produced and 4 tonnes of chemical product are conserved.

So this Christmas, do give thanks: give thanks for the Earth being the one planet in the entire universe that can sustain your life. Give thanks for the generations that will follow you. Make it a Merry Pollution-Free Christmas for all your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.


Zero Waste
Waste Online


It’s easy to make Christmas less wasteful, and just a little effort from all of us will make a big difference. You’ll be helping save the Earth and, who knows, you could even save some money! It’s a simple matter thinking about the three R’s:

Top ways to Reduce Christmas waste…

  • Think carefully about the gifts you buy.
  • Buy Fair Trade if possible and look for environmentally-responsible producers.
  • If you’re not sure what to buy, give money or vouchers. That way the gift is less likely to be thrown out.Be imaginative with presents.
  • Buy a couple of chickens for a family living in poverty on your mate’s behalf (Oxfam:Unwrapped )
  • Make vouchers with promises to cook tea one night or do the vacuuming for a month. A spot of baking never goes amiss either, and it can be really fun!!!
    xmas treeChristmas Trees:

  • Use an artificial tree, much more environmentally friendly than a real one.
  • Better still, decorate a living tree in a pot and let it live! Both these options can be reused every year without the need to chop down yet another tree…

    Christmas Cards

  • Send e-greetings instead of cards. Try for a range of awesome cards (cheaper too).


  • Buy food in recyclable packaging… and recycle it!!! (Especially don’t buy things in Styrofoam packaging. It never decomposes… ever!!!)
  • Things you can Re-use…


  • Use string, not tape. That way it’s easier for others to recycle it too.
  • Remove your Christmas wrap carefully and tuck it away to wrap next year’s presents.Make tags/cards
  • If you’re into saving money and like to be creative, use the pictures off the front of received cards to handcraft your own highly personalised cards and gift tags.
  • Re-Gifting - If you are given a gift you don’t like, don’t throw it out!!! Donate anything in good condition to a charity shop or pass it on to someone else. Or jump on Trade Me: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure after all. Or give it as a gift next year — just be careful you don’t return it to the same person.
  • crushed cansAnd don’t forget to Recycle…

  • Put all those bottles, cans, cards and packets in the recycling bin. Most cities now have street collection, but if this isn’t available, it’s only one trip to the recycling depot. It’s really not that difficult. To find out what the deal is in your area check out this link.

A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.