Reduce, Reuse and Recycle During COVID-19

By author photo Megan Alsford


While life has slowed down for many of us during the global pandemic, one thing that has seen a spike is home delivery and online ordering. As businesses continue to evolve to keep themselves afloat many are now turning to online platforms to sell their goods to their customers who are stuck at home.

While I’m loving the convenience of home delivery, I’m now left with a range of cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, used sticky tape and plastic bags. This got me thinking, what is the best way to reduce my environmental impact while receiving all these goods. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a list of contactless delivery items in the system ready to be dropped off at my door. And my list ranges from anything from firewood, toilet paper, craft supplies and a coffee. So, if you too are looking for novel ways to make the most of the delivery paraphernalia then why not try these ideas:


This one is easy enough as the most logical thing to do it cut it up into small pieces and put in the recycle bin. But this is only as good as your recycle bin is big. Once your bin is full try this instead:

  • Keep one bigger box aside. Cut up smaller boxes and keep the pieces in the bigger box. When things return to ‘normal’ many tips offer free tipping of cardboard to be recycled.

  • Repurpose boxes for storage. You can paint them or get creative and decorate them with ribbons or old wrapping paper too if you don’t like the look of plain cardboard. Shoe boxes make for a good sock holder, larger boxes can be good when cut down to keep seasonal clothes in one spot to slide under the bed. Different sized boxes are also really useful for storing kids toys.

  • Repurpose small boxes into gift hampers. Who wouldn’t want to receive their own care package during these times of social distancing? Decorate the box with paint, textures or old wrapping paper and fill with things your friend or loved one will enjoy such as baked treats (so that’s what you can do with your isolation baking) or a bundle of books you loved and post them.

  • Cut up boxes and use them for the kids, or yourself, to practice painting on them.

  • Feed them to the worms – do you have a worm farm or compost? Did you know they need food scraps but also paper and cardboard can help to balance the carbon content? For worms, use equal parts food waste and paper or cardboard and make sure you tear the cardboard into small pieces. For compost, simply make the cardboard small. For both options, add some water to help kick start the breakdown process. Don’t have a worm farm? Look online for some inspiration to get one started using materials from around the house.

  • Cut out a mask and decorate it, could be fun with the kids. Then use the mask during one of your video calls with friends for fun.

  • Turn boxes into creative play with the kids, make it into a robot, car or tank.

Polystyrene Boxes

Did you know that polystyrene is a type of plastic with air mixed through? It’s considered a type 6 plastic which can technically be recycled. The problem is as it breaks, small pieces fly off which can contaminate other recycling which is why it’s often not allowed in curbside recycling pick up. Just note that polystyrene noodles aren’t recyclable. Check with your local council for information about where you can drop off your polystyrene for recycling in your local area. Of course, you’ll have to wait until social distancing restrictions are lifted. But it’s easy to keep polystyrene in a safe place until you can go out again. In the meantime, why not put your polystyrene boxes to good use:

  • Make a herb garden. The benefit of polystyrene boxes is that they are light weight and can be moved easily. This may help your budding seedlings chase the sun or hide from the sun if needed. They also provide some insulation during the cooler months to keep seedlings and plants safe. Simply poke a few holes in the bottom for the water to drain and you’re set!

  • Got a cat? Cut out a large hole in the side of the box and then add some soft material or used towel for a little hideaway.

  • Use thin sheets of Styrofoam to layer special photos to keep them flat, dry and safe.

  • Keep aside to use as an eskie, which would be very useful for those backyard camping trips.

Soft Plastics

Not much can really be done with soft plastics other than finding a drop off point for Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling. Even bubble wrap can recycled, it’s okay if you want to use it as a stress reliever first by popping all the bubbles. Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling are found in Auckland, Waiheke Island, Northland, Waikato and Wellington regions. The Soft Plastic Recycling bins are available for use at a number of places including Countdown, The Warehouse, and other locations. Collection bins are not operating during stage 4 lockdown but you can also store the soft plastics ready to drop off when things return to normal. Keep an eye on the Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling website for updates and to learn more about what can go in the bins . Don’t forget to clean out any food scraps from your soft plastics – this is particularly important if you store them at home for a while first. start your journey now

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