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A kilometre of plastic saved from landfill

Ōpōtiki Library assistant Jan FIsher. Photo: Supplied.

Small changes can add up to larger, collective action and Ōpōtiki Library has been considering its own plastic footprint over recent years.

This Plastic Free July has been a good opportunity to do some analysis and put facts and figures to the small changes it has been making.

Library Manager, Jo Hunt, says that Plastic Free July was a chance to people to be more conscious of how much plastic was part of our everyday lives and make changes that start to remove it from our habits and processes. Plastic pollution has become one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues with plastic waste now found in every corner of our planet.

“It was during Plastic Free July in 2018, that Ōpōtiki Library decided to stop covering fiction paperbacks as a way we could reduce our own plastic use,” says Jo. “So this year, three years later, we wanted to take the opportunity to crunch some numbers and see just how much difference this step has made.”

Jo explains that many of the books being covered previously were fiction “trade paperbacks”, standard size books that require approximately 50cm x 33cm of self-adhesive plastic covering.
Since 2018, the library has bought approximately 2000 new books that previously would have been covered in plastic.

This represents a kilometre of plastic that is no longer being sent to landfill – both the plastic backing which is non-recyclable, and the actual plastic film attached to the book covers which would be unrecyclable at the end of the book’s life.

“Trade paperbacks are not an asset with a long-term life span so we didn’t want to cover these books with a waste product that would exist in the environment well past the life of the book,” says Jo. “And to date, we haven’t thrown away any of those 2000 books because of a tatty cover! Plastic covers still have a place – we selectively cover some books for longer life or extra care.

“A couple of side benefits of not covering our books have been freeing up staff time and reducing our spend on plastic film which works out at about 85c per metre.

“But the real benefit has been reducing our environmental impact and showing others that small changes in our day-to-day lives can add up to bigger impacts on our environment,” says Jo.

“I’d encourage others in the community to do a small stocktake of their own plastic use and see what changes they can make now to reduce the impact of plastic pollution.”



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