Ōpōtiki Library Uncovers Plastic Pollution

Ōpōtiki Library Uncovers Plastic Pollution
Hilary Beaton
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Ōpōtiki Library Uncovers Plastic Pollution

Small actions can bring about large change.

Plastic pollution has become one of the world's biggest problems, Jo Hunt became aware of just how big of a problem in 2018 during Plastic Free July. Three years down the track of changing old habits, and Ōpōtiki Library has been able to evaluate the impact of not covering books. 

“I wanted to prove that small actions lead to large changes,” Jo says.

Since 2018, the library has bought over 2,000 new books. This would equate to one kilometre of plastic at 85 cents a metre. “We are a small library but it all adds up.”

Covering books is time-consuming for the staff, too, taking them away from mission-critical: providing the community with trusted and reliable information and access to a range of services, programmes and events.

“We stopped covering fiction paperbacks to reduce our use of plastic and it has grown from there.”

But the real benefit according to Jo is the impact on the environment. “Plastic accounts for around 20% of NZ’s landfill space. That’s 252,000 tons of plastic heads to our landfills every year, and our wildlife is choking on it,” says Jo.

The fear is book covers will become tatty and unattractive to readers, but Jo assures us none of those 2,000 books has been thrown away.

Jo admits plastic has its place especially for those books that require extra care and longer shelf life. But the game plan is to encourage others to follow in the library’s footsteps and reduce plastic pollution one step at a time.

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