For New Zealand’s green community, small ideas are making a big impact.

Four smart recycling groups are helping keep New Zealand beautiful after their innovative ideas caught the attention of the Coca-Cola Foundation. 

In each case, the groups have worked closely with their respective communities to create unique recycling solutions for waste beverage containers.

As these grassroots ideas took hold the groups each applied for a Keep New Zealand Beautiful grant, sponsored by Coca-Cola, to help develop sustainable solutions. 

Charles Barrie’s story began years ago as he worked in community gardening and waste minimisation projects.

The Aro Valley resident and renowned green thumb saw the grant as an opportunity to create innovative new greenhouses for the local Te Aro School.

“Our Te Aro Upcycle project involves collecting hundreds of plastic bottles and using them to construct greenhouses for the school and community gardens,” said Charles, in his role as Kai o te Aro Project Manager.

Kai o te Aro surveyed community attitudes towards recycling and ran an “upcycling” design competition in which people were challenged to come up with ways to do useful things with “useless” waste.

“It’s a great project, lots of different people in the community worked together, and they still are,” Charles said.

“The gardens in the school and community are benefiting and we could see a chance to raise the topic of waste and wastefulness in a positive way.”

Taking recycling on the road

Wanaka Wastebusters decided they’d keep New Zealand beautiful by taking their campaign to the road.

The group is always looking for new ways to increase recycling of beverage containers and saw the grant as an opportunity to turn a good idea into reality, explained Wanaka Wastebusters Project Manager Sophie Ward.

“The idea we had was to convert an old kerbside recycling trailer of ours into a mobile events recycling trailer,” Sophie said.

The colourful signage and quirky messaging is designed to look like it’s straight out of a 1980s video game, and the trailer will tour around to local and regional events collecting recyclables.

“We have been in the events recycling game for a while and have always thought it would be great to have an "event ready" trailer in our fleet for use at small and large events,” Sophie said.

Spot the litter, recycle the rest

Seeking funding for a beautifully simple education campaign was the motivation for Paper4trees to apply for a grant. 

The group has spent the past 12 years doing an excellent job diverting paper and cardboard from landfill across 4,000 participating schools.

They saw the grant as a great opportunity to expand into beverage container recycling. 

When children are out in the community, anything they see on the ground that has been discarded is often thought to be rubbish,” explained Paper4trees Marketing and Programme Manager Shayna de la Rue.

“This grant allowed us to create a specific focus for younger children to educate them of the difference between litter and recyclables.” 

A natural part of every day 

Staging a play has been a popular way of getting the message across for thousands of years, and the Keep Dunedin Beautiful program follows this tradition.

Each year the program performs a play to primary school children promoting recycling as a natural part of everyday activity. 

Each year the play and cast change so that a fresh approach is always ensured, explained program Dunedin City Council Community Development Coordinator Darlene Thomson.

“The play is an enthusiastic, humorous one that takes on serious issues in a way that children take on board and hopefully take home to discuss,” Darlene said. 

“The intended long-term impacts are that children will not throw rubbish away, but rather dispose of it sensibly or preferably reduce it altogether, and recycling will become second nature to students.”

Visit the Keep New Zealand Beautiful national website at