In 1999, people who lived in Wanaka and Hawea were sick of having to send all their waste to the landfill. The community decided to do something about it, and got together to build Wanaka Wastebusters. The Wanaka recycling centre and reuse shop opened in early 2000. The following year, the Alexandra community opened Central Otago Wastebusters.
The two Wastebusters operated independently until 2015, when Central Otago Wastebusters faced financial collapse. The Board asked Wanaka Wastebusters to help. Wanaka Wastebusters agreed to take over Central Otago Wastebusters, becoming one big Wastebusters family.
Unfortunately, soon after, fire destroyed the recycling shed and the reuse shop on the Alexandra site. Luckily even Buster the shop cat escaped unharmed, and the site was fully insured. With the support of Central Otago communities, Wastebusters has continued all its recycling and reuse activities while recreating a shop made from containers on the Alexandra site.
Wastebusters is all about busting waste and helping people pass on unwanted things. It is also a substantial business, employing 37 people. But it’s not your normal business. Wastebusters is a social enterprise owned by the community, with a not-for-profit charitable status.
Being a social enterprise means there is no safety net. If Wastebusters makes repeated losses, it will go bankrupt like any other business. Wastebusters aims to make a surplus so that the work can continue, but the driving force is not to maximise profits. Wastebusters goals are to:
- Reclaim resources and minimize waste
- Make communities resourceful, affordable and fun
- Be an alternative to a disposable society
Wastebusters core services are business and events recycling, drop-off recycling, reuse shops, education for sustainability, advocacy and support of waste minimisation. Sometimes the work is smelly and hard, like collecting recycling from events and hand sorting it. But the big picture makes it worthwhile. Some day there will be life without waste, and everyone who has been part of Wastebusters will be able to say, “We helped make that happen”.