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From fringe to mainstream - Wastebusters turns 20

20yr montage 2

From fringe to mainstream - Wastebusters turns 20

Long before recycling was mainstream a group of Wanaka locals got together to start a community recycling centre called Wastebusters. 20 years on its been an outstanding success and a leader in its field and the envy of many in Queenstown who yearn for something similar.

When Wastebusters opened in 2000, it immediately started working towards zero waste, with just three staff and a dream. The organisation now employs over 50 full and part-time staff over two sites, one in Wanaka and another in Alexandra. 763 businesses recycle with them. In terms of impact last year Wastebusters sent 2,280 tonnes of material off to be recycled into something new, and around 135,000 customers took home something from one of their reuse shops.

Wastebusters is a social enterprise, which delivers reduction, reuse and recycling services, funded either through its own business operations, specific council contracts or waste minimisation fund grants. Wastebusters has a strong affiliation with the council’s waste reduction initiatives and helped spearhead last years move to household three bins recycling, with a waste services sub-contract to help inform the community on how to use the bins effectively and promote waste minimisation in the district.

The secret to Wastebusters success and it ability to go from strength to strength is thanks to the contributions of hundreds of people, a clear vision and supportive community.

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Some of the highlights of the last 20 years have been:

  • bringing recycling to Wanaka and running the first kerbside recycling service 2007-11
  • joining with Central Otago Wastebusters to continue to offer recycling, reuse and waste reduction services to the Alexandra and Central Otago communities
  • running the Unpackit Awards to reduce ridiculous packaging
  • bringing Repair workshops to the district
  • helping the Queenstown Lakes community know how to use their kerbside recycling bins, and seeing over 3,000 tonnes of kerbside glass recycled since July 2019
  • part-funding Enviroschools facilitators for schools in Wanaka and Queenstown
  • supporting local festivals with real recycling including Tuki and R&A

Wastebusters works towards zero waste with groups from all over our district, Aotearoa and the globe, and with people up and down the supply chain (community enterprises, schools, NGO’s, businesses, local and central government).

“As we head into the next 20 years we want to continue helping our community to be resourceful and resilient, a place where everyone can prosper’. said Communications manager Gina Dempster “We’ve done a lot of growing, we’ve had a lot of fun, and there are plenty of achievements to celebrate!”

Recycling, reuse and sustainability have gone from fringe ideas to major initiatives across Wastebusters first 20 years. On the agenda for the future is a network of community recovery and repair centres, helping the community reduce, reuse and recycling. Not only would it be a massive step towards a circular economy, but it would also bring more fun, connection and resilience to communities. Instead of throwing things out a community recovery centre could be the place to go to get it repaired or where you drop it off to be repaired and then sold on.

Major leading retailers are recognizing that taking back and repurposing their merchandise is not only sustainable but also be profitable while opening their brands to new markets. IKEA for example will begin to take back products from later this month, that are no longer needed in return for a discount or a voucher for other products.

The original Wanaka Wastebusters investors couldn’t have thought back then just how ahead of their time they were and successful the social enterprise was going to become.

Wastebusters turns 20 on November 27th.