Many businesses are working hard to reduce their environmental impact beyond just plastic bags. Retailers create waste in a number of back-of-house ways, from food waste to pallets wrapped in plastic.
Mashbone, a dog treat company, was born from Garage Project Brewery being smarter about its by-products that came from production. It turned by-products that contained high protein and fibre into sustainable dog treats.
Project manager and leader of the pack, Kalen Acquisto, says as a sustainably focused business Mashbone was determined to use waste products more wisely.
“I would say that smart use is something we care a lot about. We have our sustainability programme here at the brewery and we’re always looking for ways to use our by-products but also cut down on resources and be more efficient. I think success for us is others doing similar things and kind of catching on what needs to happen.”
Yet the issue surrounding the sustainable treats plastic packaging remains. Fortunately, Acquisto presents the forthcoming solution of biodegradable plastics.
“We are in the process of sorting biodegradable packing for the treats as well. Because all our products are made from locally sourced ingredients already, it’s the one thing we’re working on improving and should be ready in 2018.”
Acquisto encourages businesses to actively work towards reducing waste, no matter if that is fuelled by consumer demand or following the steps of a larger business.
“I think it is too easy to be caught up in the day-to-day, and the little baby-steps. It’s so important to reconnect with that bigger image by connecting with other sustainable practices and to know that every step makes a difference along the way.”
“It’s a two-part thing. A lot of what we do is because we care, and I think it’s exciting to see that sustainability matter more and more to consumers everywhere. I think people aren’t just doing it to fit in, which is also fine, but you can tell people are truly striving to be more educated.”
The bigger picture
Ecoware founder James Calver says businesses must lead by example and listen to consumer demand to truly target the problem.
“I think what’s happening is that consumers are becoming more aware themselves. However, it is quite a complicated evolution. Things like ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’, unless explained to the consumer, are just words that sound nice.”
Ecoware has been supplying companies with biodegradable alternatives to packaging for six years, and since its initial stages, has known that its work is an important part of a big change already seen within New Zealand.
“We take responsibility as much as we can from cradle to grave. I think we can put our hand up and say we’ve had a very heavy influence in changing the industry and changing the country.”
Calver says that the growth in sustainability efforts can also be seen by his company’s 607 percent top-line growth.
“Although this is also a reflection of hard work, it is a reflection of the country moving forward and trying its best to adopt more sustainable practises. It’s not that hard to do, it’s just about doing it, but we’re here to hold people hands through the process as well.”
Calver emphasises the importance of educating consumers because from education comes awareness of what happens to products at the end of their lives.
“It’s complicated, and people who aren’t educated are the ones blurring the lines. It’s complicated not from the products perspective but from the industry and the infrastructure, and the end of the line which includes the council and its different standards per region.”
Each regional council has different standards of waste disposal, making it confusing for retailers to comply with different expectations per area. The newest updates to the Waste Minimisation Act of 2008 are being implemented in the hope of significantly reducing waste going to landfill by 2020 through synchronising laws across the country.
Yet according to the New Zealand Waste Strategy, the number of landfills in New Zealand is reducing. In 1995 there were 327 and 115 in 2002. Recent reports estimate about 54 landfills exist, with much stricter regulations surrounding them.
However, consumer demand for greater transparency and sustainability is likely to open doors in this area as time goes on. Conscious consumers are increasingly mainstream, Calver says.
“What you’re seeing now, just through consumer influence, is big corporates having to include sustainability in their bottom line,” says Calver. “It is becoming the norm.”
“Consumer voice for change is only just getting started. I think New Zealanders are waking up to what we have to do because we are falling behind in sustainability in a global level. If we don’t change things now it’s going to be too late.”
Calver expects retailers’ focus on limiting waste to increase their ‘green’ image, as this is more favourable to consumers, but also reminds retailers that changes must be consistently carried out, not just promised.
“As retailers fully adapt and promote it then they’ll be ahead of the competition because that what consumers are looking for. One thing we try to convey to people is that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. It is an ever-evolving process, and the sooner you jump in the sooner you’ll get ahead.”
James Calver (Right)