Transformation Areas

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Wanaka Wastebusters: Unpacking the best and worst packagers

Companies guilty of crimes in packaging should beware: Wanaka Wastebusters are out to get you. The group is a community-owned enterprise, working to encourage recycling and waste minimisation.

It was while working for almost a decade encouraging the community to recycle, however, that the Wastebusters realised a major problem: recycling could only go so far when huge amounts of packaging is designed “for the rubbish” – in other words, packaging that simply cannot be recycled. Despite the undeniable success of recyclers in recent years, 72kg of packaging waste per person goes to landfill each year in New Zealand.

It was this realisation that led the Wanaka Wastebusters to start the Best and Worst Packaging Awards. These awards promote awareness of the amount of waste packaging produces, and provides a way for consumers to feed opinions back to businesses about their packaging. Nominations are received from the public, and the awards attract a large number of voters – over 10,000 in 2012 – meaning producers have a real interest in the results.

The success has been clear: companies – often those that are finalists in the Worst Packaging Awards – have improved their packaging, meaning more packaging is being made to be recycled and less to be sent to landfill. 

The Unpackit Awards have received financial support from the Waste Minimisation Fund, administered by the Ministry for the Environment.

Wanaka Wastebusters was a finalist in the Communicating Sustainability category of the 2013 NZI National Sustainable Business Network Awards.