The Future is Zero


Rifling through the bins at Matakana market has became a favourite pastime of market manager Fiona McGeough. However, with the markets now a zero waste event, the mixing of plastic-lined coffee cups with their compostable cousins will soon be a thing of the past. When the Matakana Village Farmers’ Market first welcomed curious locals way back in 2004, waste warriors and Rainbow Valley Farm stall holders Trish Allen and the late Joe Polaischer put zero waste firmly on the agenda. All compostables were taken back to their farm and turned into compost, and the market was proudly plastic bag free.

When Trish and Joe stopped running their stall and the market doubled in size, the spirit of zero waste got lost under the mounds of corn-based cups, bamboo plates and stained napkins. When Fiona joined the ranks last May, she wanted to bring it firmly back.

By making the markets an official zero waste event, 90 per cent of waste is kept out of landfill (with the aid of friendly bin-side rubbish guides); waste is weighed and audited regularly and vendors serve their delicious market food on compostable serveware. “We’re just returning to the original ethos. That’s what the market has always been about.”

Assisted by viticulturalist, general manager of Brick Bay vineyard, co-owner of Tuckshop and Matakana Cinemas, and mother of two, Anna Didsbury, the duo decided to look past the bins and tackle the wider waste issues in Matakana.

The first step was to find someone to deal with green and food waste. “It’s a problem city-wide, because everybody that has a conscience is starting to move to compostables, but the Council isn’t providing the infrastructure,” says Anna. Most commercial operators send organic waste to EnviroFert in Tuakau, however the 250 kilometre round trip from Matakana seemed a less suitable option.

A solution came in the form of Red Beach business Compost Couriers. Headed by 20-somethings Matt Hanson and Harrison Burt, the duo started (very) small, with their own compost bin in their backyard. They are currently looking at setting up a commercial composting site in the Rodney region. Matt, who used to work for compostable serveware makers Innocent Packaging, says that working in the industry opened his eyes to the issues of infrastructure. “There are a lot people who create the packaging, but not a lot of people who collect it.”

As the market’s waste-savviness grows, (thanks to a $15,000 funding injection from the Waste Minimisation Fund), Anna and Fiona will spread the “Zero Waste Matakana” ethos out to retailers in the village. Anna’s latest commercial venture, Tuck Shop, will act as a trial business for new initiatives.

Other ideas include creating a short, zero waste film to play at the movies (co-owned by Anna and her husband Dan); an educational waste showpiece in the car park; and fixing the current public bin set-up. “Everyone is recycling so much more at home after getting our new yellow-top bins,” states Anna. “And a lot of people in this area compost. People must feel horrible when they go into a public space and just see one bin.”

Given the other environmental initiatives in the village (the compost-creating, organic community garden; Torea Road’s free stall; and the local Four Square who will soon offer soft plastic recycling and whose food waste is collected and divvied out to pig farmers), Anna and Fiona hope that Matakana will become as a leader in the zero waste space.

But for now, Fiona and Anna have set their sights on perfecting the systems at the market, so Anna can get back to her day jobs, and Fiona can find a new hobby.