Q&A with James and Alex
1. A lot has happened over the past 6 to 12 months with sustainability in our country. What have you observed in particular?
J: After being in the foodservice ware industry for almost a decade, the past 6 – 12 months are a dream come true. Awareness is rapidly increasing at both the consumer and commercial level, but more importantly, we have flipped a few rocks and exposed industries that are simply broken.
A: It’s the consumer’s voice, which has continued to grow, that has created a movement against plastic in our country. Plastic bags and straws have become the poster child for this movement and created a lot of awareness. As a result, we’re seeing bigger businesses start to embrace sustainability at high level and their customers are holding them accountable.
J: It’s also exciting to see organic recycling (composting) in hyper-growth mode as it holds hands with this anti-plastic movement – and it’s just getting started. We are going to face serious challenges as we continue to develop the industry, but we look forward to guiding more and more NZ businesses through the rapidly changing landscape.
2. What do you think is key to moving towards the dream of a clean, green and sustainable life in New Zealand?
A: A culture of both reusables and certified compostable single-use packaging will play a part in a more sustainable country. People may forget their reusable products and there will always be situations where reusable is not realistic e.g. at an event or at a stadium, also different foods require different packaging, and takeaway will consequently be needed. But more importantly, oil-based single-use plastic needs to be outlawed. Only then will contamination issues at compost facilities be eliminated. There will be no mistaking a traditional plastic cup with a plant-based compostable cup.
J: I also agree that we need to see government intervention and some serious investment in developing infrastructure for the future. We cannot continue to send waste to landfill. Countries like France who have already outlawed plastic service ware and states in the USA such as San Francisco have accelerated their organic recycling programs (composting) are benchmarking what is possible. Without legislation, the right infrastructure and government support, we will continue to feel resistance from companies that continue to focus solely on profit.
3. What are Ecoware’s short and long-term goals and what are you doing to keep the momentum going with the compostable packaging industry?
A: Short term – we are always innovating and searching for new markets to cater for new businesses. We find packaging which is oil-based, then find a way to swap them for plant-based and ensure they’re certified compostable. We also work to constantly improve the environmental impact of our existing customers. Sustainability is a journey, not a destination, so we help them with pain points and develop products that help – for example, we’re starting to develop coffee bags for our coffee cup customers. We’re also working really hard to close the loop nationwide with councils and commercial compost facilities – watch this space.
J: And long-term – our goal is to challenge the status quo with a drive to leave a legacy in our country and be remembered as aggressive drivers for change. Since embarking on this journey, we can proudly look back and be responsible for changing the way our country views waste. So we’ll continue to chase the dream of a waste-free world with our brand as the driving force for a zero-waste future. Last month we were listed as finalists in the 2018 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, a proud moment that shows we’re on track.
4. What do you think businesses can do that is easy to implement which would improve their sustainability/environmental footprint?
A: There are lots of small things companies can do that can make a big impact around water reduction, switching to energy efficient lighting, and implementing separate systems to allow for composting of food waste and compostable packaging.
J: I’d encourage businesses to implement a reusable culture throughout their organisation and reward staff with incentivises for those who go above and beyond to adjust their behaviour.