Our Story

Wastebusters: a brief history

Wastebusters is known throughout Aotearoa New Zealand for its zero waste leadership. For more than two decades, we have been working at a grassroots level with integrity and passion. 

Our story began back in 1999, when people living in Wānaka and Hāwea, sick of having to send all their waste to the landfill, decided to take action. The community got together and built Wastebusters from the ground up. In 2000, the Wānaka recycling centre and reuse shop on Ballantyne Road opened.

We started the Wānaka kerbside recycling collections for QLDC in 2005, and held the contract for six years. In 2007, we developed and launched the hugely popular Dr Compost programme, we also brought Zero Waste Education and Enviroschools programmes to schools across the district.

From 2011-2014, Wastebusters ran our UnPackit Awards, a fun and engaging campaign which targeted ridiculous packaging across the country. We began working at events, providing real recycling solutions for events including Rhythm & Alps, Wānaka A&P Show and Challenge Wānaka. 

In 2015, when community-owned Central Otago Wastebusters faced financial collapse, their Board asked Wānaka Wastebusters to help. We agreed, but soon after we took over Central Otago Wastebusters, fire destroyed the recycling shed and the reuse shop on the Alexandra site. Luckily, even Buster the shop cat escaped unharmed and thanks to community support, we continued our reuse and recycling activities while rebuilding.

We launched our Resourceful Communities programme in 2019, and with funding from the Ministry for the Environment and Queenstown Lakes District Council waste minimisation fund we expanded our zero waste impact through repair, research and dedicated engagement campaigns. In the same year we began delivery of the district’s waste education and communications programme.

In 2020, we celebrated 20 years of leading the way to zero waste!

We also launched our Repair Revolution events and Slow Fashion campaign across the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts. In 2022, we joined the Re-Action collective to ensure new and pre-loved uniforms could be kept in use. A year later, our new workshop series Low Waste Living: Households was launched to help our communities find ways to reduce waste at home. 

In 2023, Wastebusters had to make the difficult decision to close down the Alexandra reuse shop and recycling services. For eight years, the Wānaka operations for Wastebusters had subsided the running of the Boundary Road site and services.

When the Alexandra site lease came up for renewal, Wastebusters had to face up to the reality that it was not financially viable to continue operating the Alexandra reuse shop and recycling services. With sadness, and huge appreciation for the community support and aroha, we closed the gates on 30 June.

Not for profit community enterprise

Wastebusters is a community enterprise, with a not-for-profit charitable status. As a community enterprise, it is Wastebusters’ responsibility to ensure the financial viability for its people, place and zero waste impact. There’s no safety net. If Wastebusters makes repeated losses, it will go bankrupt like any other business.

We have charitable status from the Charities Commission, recognising our not-for-profit model which returns all surplus earned through our resource recovery and education services back into zero waste impact for our communities, which includes: 

Vibrant zero waste hub

For over two decades, our zero waste hub in Wānaka has kept resources in circulation through our funky and vibrant reuse shop, and our recycling for business, events and drop-offs.

Our hub is a place of connection for our communities, inspiring them to join us in the journey to zero waste. Our reduce team works to turn the tap off on waste flows, delivering education for sustainability, and supporting our communities to make choices which support the shift to a circular economy.

Our driving force is not to maximise profit but we aim to make a surplus so that the work can continue. Our goals are to:

  • reclaim resources and minimise waste
  • make communities resourceful, affordable and fun places to live in
  • be an alternative to a disposable society
  • work for zero waste

Circular economy in action

Wastebusters’ vision is to move our communities towards a zero waste district, which other regions aspire to and learn from. We bring together practical solutions (our reuse shop and recycling services) with community engagement, education and inspiration to bring about change where resources are valued and kept in use for as long as possible. 

Wastebusters creates and nurtures purposeful partnerships to accelerate and amplify our impact. Together, we can shape the future of Aotearoa and drive positive change for a zero waste, zero carbon, circular economy. 

Some day there will be life without waste, and everyone who has been part of Wastebusters will be able to say, “We helped make this happen”.