Instant commodities help people meet day-to-day commitments but the legacy left for future generations isn't pretty.
A Marlborough District Council website reports rubbish taken to the region's landfill each year fills a volume the size of a rugby field and 15 storeys high.
This week is National Recycling Week in New Zealand and communities are reminded to stop and take stock of their commitment to the environment. It comes with the call: "Make Recycle Week an annual event for New Zealand, by trying to live waste-free for one week."
Rarangi resident Gabriella Waizenegger, with husband John Martin and sons Francesco, 14, and Lukas, 12, tries to make waste-free living a daily goal.
She grew up in Germany and brought its recycling protocols to her new homes, first in Australia, then New Zealand.
Aussies and Kiwis used to look at her sideways, she laughs, when they watched her at the supermarket putting fresh produce into random bags she had brought from home, then asked the check-out staff to stuff everything she had bought into re-usable carry bags.
Recycling had got off to a slow start in Marlborough in the 1990s. Gabriella took everything she could to depots like The Blue Door and put other goods she did not want but could not bear to throw away in every available storage space.
When the Marlborough District Council introduced its kerb-side recycling collection service, Rarangi was one of the outlying districts excluded. Gabriella and John joined other committed residents and started independently transporting their recyclables to the Marlborough Resource Recovery Centre in Blenheim.
Francesco and Lukas were responsible for getting everything sorted, she says. Plastic items had to be divided into different categories, newspapers were stacked, paper, cardboard, cans and glass bottles separated.
Those chores have largely ended with a new user-pays wheelie-bin service brought to Rarangi, allowing householders to toss everything into a single bin. But the boys are responsible for filling it and that takes about a month, as does a small rubbish bin the family uses.
The Martins reduce waste by grow much of their own fruit and vegetables and keeping the garden replenished with organic rubbish made into fertile soil by composting or tossing into the Bokashi drum or worm farm.
"My husband does the worm farm," Gabriella says.
"Look at the family picture, what everybody can do," she adds, "the vital changes everyone can do.
"That's the only way things can change, if every person contributes."
‘Less is best" is a philosophy she encourages her family to follow, believing it is vital for children to be taught to think about what they are buying, using and disposing.
‘My husband builds furniture out of driftwood . . . and I'm trying not to use the car all the time.
"And that keeps me fit as well."
The Marlborough Express