THE ZERO-WASTE EVENT CHAM­PION

Element - - Waste Champions - KIM REN­SHAW By Adam Gif­ford

Kim Ren­shaw de­scribes her­self as su­per­com­pet­i­tive.

Com­pet­i­tive enough to don gloves ev­ery Mon­day morn­ing from De­cem­ber to March and go through the waste gen­er­ated by her Tau­ranga Gourmet Night Mar­ket to make sure it is 100 per cent com­postable.

That ex­pe­ri­ence has mor­phed into Be­yond The Bin, an ini­tia­tive aimed at get­ting other event man­agers to buy into the zero-waste vi­sion.

Ren­shaw started the mar­ket af­ter selling nat­u­ral prod­ucts like co­conut oil around farm­ers’ mar­kets.

“I wanted to set up some­thing more in­ter­est­ing and ex­cit­ing, and I wanted to do the best job pos­si­ble with waste so it be­came part of the cul­ture as we set it up,” she says.

While she al­ways had an in­ter­est in con­scious liv­ing, she says her drive to tackle waste came from see­ing home com­post col­lec­tion sys­tems in ru­ral Canada, han­dling both green waste and kitchen scraps.

The venue, a park be­low Mauao in Mount Maun­ganui, proved a mag­net for fam­i­lies look­ing for some­where to gather on Fri­day night, and hot food stalls proved pop­u­lar.

With fel­low zero-waste zealot Sam Grey she looked for pack­ag­ing that could be com­posted, and then found some­one to com­post it.

That wasn’t an easy task, be­cause past at­tempts had re­sulted in a high level of un­re­cy­clable rub­bish.

“The so­lu­tion we agreed was the rub­bish would be picked up on Fri­day night, and on Mon­day morn­ing we would go through it by hand at the com­post plant and pull out any con­tam­i­nants.

“As an event man­ager it opened my eyes and helped me un­der­stand the chal­lenge.

“In the be­gin­ning we would say ‘let those guys use tin­foil, it helps their prod­uct,’ but when I found I was pulling a whole pile of tin­foil out of the com­post, I said they can find some­thing else to use.

“In the end we cre­ated a re­ally good waste stream so 100 per cent of what was used had to be com­postable or re­cy­clable, it can’t go to land­fill.”

There’s still some waste that must be re­moved, but Ren­shaw says it’s what peo­ple bring from home – glad wrap, dis­pos­able nap­pies.

“Peo­ple do come and bring their own food, you can never get rid of that and I don’t mind, but it’s al­ways a re­ally small amount,” she says.

For the sec­ond sea­son Ren­shaw and Grey doc­u­mented the suit­able pack­ag­ing op­tions, com­pared prices and held a work­shop for ven­dors.

“All of them got on board once they could see the ben­e­fits. A lot of them changed prod­ucts.”

Many had tried to do what they thought was right, but had to be told that, for ex­am­ple, biodegrad­able plas­tic wasn’t suit­able be­cause there was no suit­able re­cy­cling fa­cil­ity in the re­gion.

The tough rules haven’t scared off ven­dors. Ren­shaw opened ap­pli­ca­tions for this sum­mer’s mar­ket this month, and within days had more than 80 ap­pli­ca­tions for the 45 sites.

“What is re­ally cool is other events lo­cally caught on, and peo­ple came to me say­ing ‘We want to do what you are do­ing, how do we do it?’”

WOMAD over in New Ply­mouth also heard, and con­tracted the pair to re­ju­ve­nate their waste min­imi­sa­tion ap­proach.

“We talked to ven­dors, changed the prod­ucts, and then put to­gether a big team of vol­un­teers to hand sort, and we sent al­most six tonnes to com­post,” she says.

Back in Tau­ranga a speak­ing en­gage­ment brought an in­vi­ta­tion from the Toi Toi Manawa Trust to ap­ply for a so­cial en­ter­prise grant.

“I said the Gourmet Mar­ket didn’t need grants but it could be an op­por­tu­nity to share the mes­sage wider with other events,” Ren­shaw says.

A pro­posal for Be­yond the Bin scored a $20,000 grant, which has been used to de­velop a busi­ness run­ning work­shops for mar­ket ven­dors and event or­gan­is­ers and of­fer­ing con­sul­tancy for large events.

“It’s not a tra­di­tional com­mer­cial model. I see it as a so­cial pro­ject more than a so­cial en­ter­prise.

“We will train a bunch of event man­agers and once they are all trained and self-suf­fi­cient we won’t need to keep train­ing.”

The idea caught the at­ten­tion of Tau­ranga City Coun­cil, which set up a waste min­imi­sa­tion event fund which buys work­shop places so event man­agers can learn from the ex­pe­ri­ence of Ren­shaw and her team.

Ren­shaw says the ex­pec­ta­tion that events and fes­ti­vals will strive to­wards zero waste is grow­ing.

“Sus­tain­abil­ity doesn’t sell tick­ets but it is a feel-good, so if we get to the stage where fes­ti­vals think they have got to be the best at this, it’s a win-win for ev­ery­one.”

She ex­pects that within five years com­postable pack­ag­ing will be the norm. “All the ven­dors will know how to do it and the economies of scale means it will be the same price as the other stuff.”

Photo: Swift & Click

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