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NZ’s disposable summer: gear that’s left behind

File Photo.

Once the party's over, all that is left behind on the trodden Waiohika Estate are the abandoned remnants of a great Kiwi summer. 

Hundreds of cheap, barely used tents are left on the estate's grass fields near Gisborne after the Rhythm and Vines New Year's festival, a three-day event which attracts 21,000.

Here, the hard-to-win war on such camping waste is most apparent. But it is felt across the country during a season when Kiwis generate, on average, 30 per cent more waste. 

Rhythm and Vines event manager Dan Turner says they're trying to encourage punters to reuse their tents, or at least take them home.

"The Warehouse doesn't help," he said. "Those $20 tents, they're not waterproof and they just get left behind. It's such an issue, we really want those kids to spend a bit more money and take the tent home."

At festival's end, volunteers and site cleaners take the  tents left standing and donate them to schools, charities and community groups.

But there are only so many free tents a school needs and, year after year, the pile of tents continues to grow.

Heidi Parks, general manager of Gisborne's Salvation Army shop, says the amount of donated items that had to be disposed of had increased as products became cheaper and less durable.

"When you buy a $20 tent, you know you're not going to have it in three years' time.

"The percentage of waste we, and other second-hand stores, get has risen because of the rise of one-off goods."

Auckland account manager Sally Pardoe , 24, has attended RnV several times  but this year travelled north to Northern Bass with eight friends.

Despite being a regular festival-goer, she again found herself in need of a tent this summer. The group pooled money for a marquee, each spending less than $100 for gear which included a $20  Warehouse tent and $5 camping chair.

The cheaper and discounted camping stock often sold out before Christmas, she says.

"These festivals a lot of things happen, they might get ripped… you don't really bring your nice stuff because it might get wrecked."

And come the end of the three-day event at a farm at Mangawhai, Pardoe and her friends walked away from it all.

"Honestly, the amount of stuff that gets left behind is ridiculous, and it's fully usable … Because it's so cheap we're detached from it, and we don't mind leaving it."

Northern Bass has acknowledged the one-off camping experience many seek, and offers festival-goers the option of buying a recyclable cardboard tent, as well as use of an air mattress and sleeping bag. 

The Warehouse Group carries a large range of outdoor products through both The Warehouse and retailer Torpedo 7, including two-person tents currently selling from $19 and camping chairs beginning at $15. 

Buying manager Lonnica Van Engelen said swimming pools and pool inflatables were popular this summer, particularly the bright and fun inflatables shaped like fries and cupcakes.

It has been a slow start to camping gear sales this summer, but with fantastic weather now coming through and anniversary weekend coming up, "we've seen tents and camping equipment flying out the door".

"In terms of using tents for festivals, we certainly hope they aren't ours being left behind because ours are great quality and designed to be used many times – not just once."

Kiwis' readiness to dispose of summer waste isn't contained to festivals alone. The Packaging Forum estimates there is a 30 per cent increase in waste nationally over summer, and a 400 per cent increase in waste in tourist and seaside areas.

In December, leading New Zealand sailor Peter Burling said he was "sad" to find deflated beach balls advertising company My Food Bag floating in the Waitematā Harbour. 

A mountain of rubbish left outside an automated trash compactor by holidaymakers in Colville, Coromandel, had local council staffers asking people to use the available facilities properly. 

Thames Coromandel District Council operates its refuge centre seven days a week over summer, and runs extra rubbish and recycling collection. A council spokeswoman said they were still collating the numbers for the holiday period. 

Sustainable Coastlines co-founder Camden Howitt says Kiwis needed to remember to protect the places that they enjoyed and loved.

"That can come in the shape and form of buying quality goods rather than single-use goods, being responsible after you've camped somewhere ... making sure all of that comes with you."

/ Stuff


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