Throwaway culture at odds with our No8 wire identity

As we head to the end of July I’ve been reflecting on my, admittedly not very successful, attempt to complete Plastic Free July. Aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating single-use plastic for at least one month a year, this movement originated as an initiative of the Western Metropolitan Regional Council, Perth, in 2011. By 2013 they’d thrown the challenge open to the world.

Just to be clear this is not aimed at eliminating all plastic, it’s specifically about single-use plastic, such as their top four list – throw-away plastic bags, bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws.

I used to think I was doing really well; over ten years ago I removed plastic wrap, tin foil and baking paper from our house and have been managing fine without this. Unfortunately I’m struggling with two of the top four above. I do have reusable coffee cups but don’t always remember to take them with me and I’m still far too prone to accepting plastic shopping bags. I guess just the fact that it’s caused me to stop and think, and reassess my own practices is something, but I’ll definitely strive to do better – and on a permanent basis.

It’s an interesting dilemma when you think of where we started, our ‘number-eight wire’ culture, of making do with what we had and finding ways to repair and reuse virtually everything. We currently have two works on display which reference this. No. 8 Wire, a work by Nigel Brown, conveys a sense of nostalgia for an identity built on practical ingenuity and the simple life working the land. We also have a work by local artist Ben Pearce, Stone Age Eight Gauge, which recently won the Fieldays No.8 Wire Award. This award celebrates the resourcefulness of New Zealanders, particularly the ability to make do with any available resources. Resembling ancient artifacts, such as spearheads and stone tools, Pearce’s work shows that the number 8 wire mentality was global – transcending time and place.

And yet now, we’ve become a plastic throw-away culture. In the early 20th century, when plastics were developed, they replaced other plant and animal products, such as the use of ivory and tortoiseshell. However come the 1960’s the use of plastics for durable items spread to disposable plastic packaging.

And it can be really frustrating, plastic is everywhere! As a busy person I tend to shop at supermarkets for time convenience (usually late evenings when markets aren’t open) but I object to finding cucumbers now completely wrapped in plastic, pumpkin quarters the same, and so on.

I’m really rather pleased therefore that one of the films in the NZ International Film Festival this year, Tomorrow, is focused on environmental issues. Not from a doom and gloom viewpoint but a more optimistic look at what we, as individuals and communities, can do. I’ll certainly be making time in my diary to see this film – showing on Thursday the 8th of September at 6pm. The film festival will be on at the Century Theatre from the 1st of September through to the 18th.

No. 8 Wire, Nigel Brown

No. 8 Wire, Nigel Brown


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 23 July 2016


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