With a proliferation of cafes, bars and restaurants serving the Wakatipu, Sustainable Queenstown is ramping up the drive to get local businesses on board with RefillNZ, encouraging locals to be ‘refillers not landfillers’.
Venues and businesses that are happy to allow the public to stop by, customer or not, and refill their drink bottles for free, whether by tap, jug or public water fountain, are being urged to sign up. A one-off $20 fee is paid to RefillNZ and members are given a sticker and poster to display in their window, have their business location marked on the national RefillNZ map and are included as a refill-friendly stop on the RefillNZ app.
Habebes manager Tomas Giraldo, proud to represent a refill station.
Pak ‘n Save owner Michelle King with Pak ‘n Save’s refill station.
Soul Food owner Paul O’Hara, proud to offer a refill station.
Sustainable Queenstown executive officer Jess Larmont says there’s been a really positive response so far with 35 of the 73 businesses she had contacted by late last year getting on board with the programme. Queenstown Lakes District Council has also signed up its public drinking fountains.
“We’ve only really just started and haven’t contacted hotels or hostels yet, with Wastebusters taking up the district-wide challenge in Wanaka,” she says.
RefillNZ is on a mission to encourage people to live more sustainably by reducing plastic pollution at its source, says Jess. “We really need to promote reuse over recycling as recycling is just not available or viable for many products so they end up in the landfill,” she says. “We really need to just stop buying that stuff.”
Research shows Kiwis use almost 190 plastic bottles each every year, which RefillNZ says only adds to landfills, contributing to plastic pollution in oceans, killing marine animals and getting in the fish people eat.
It’s not only about re-normalising the refilling of water bottles, but reuse of coffee cups too.
A handful of cafes on both sides of the hill have also taken the initiative to go single use, disposable (takeaway) cup free. The likes of The Exchange, Mrs Woolly’s and the Arrowtown Bakery, as well as Big Fig in Wanaka, are among those who have been leading the charge on this locally, says Jess. “You can either bring in your own mug or pay a few dollars on a mug loan scheme, keeping the mug or dropping it back for a refund.”
“In Wanaka they’re planning to be single use cup free by 2022 so no cafes will offer them,” she says. It’s an ambitious move but one Jess hopes the Wakatipu can match. “We’ve had preliminary meetings about it and we will crank it up this year, encouraging people to bring in their own metal or crockery cups instead.”
Tourism operators, who will also be encouraged to get on board with RefillNZ, will be approached to opt into an existing cup loan scheme of their choice this year too, (2021).
With no commercial composter in our district it’s even pointless promoting compostable cups, says Jess. She encourages people to also turn up with their own reusable containers at the likes of takeaway food restaurants. “The more people do this the more it normalises the behaviour and makes it acceptable.”
“It’s about changing habits and putting the responsibility on consumers too, not all on the businesses,” she says.
In the long run it’s a move that should save businesses money too. “We shouldn’t need to spend money on water and now people will know where they can stop off while hiking or biking and fill their bottles for free.”
There seems to be greater awareness of these issues among young people, who Jess says tend to be more diligent about avoiding plastic drink bottles. “If you buy a reusable metal bottle it will last you at least five years.”
“We’re really trying to get people to revise their mindset from recycle to reuse as recycling doesn’t reduce waste,” says Jess. “We can’t rely on it to be the magic thing solution to save the environment as it won’t.”
Sustainable Queenstown’s RefillNZ drive locally was greatly boosted by funding from the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s waste minimisation fund. There are also a number of other great waste reduction initiatives operating locally.