Events and Venues are always trying to reduce cost and make a marginal profit. The margins are so small that most events struggle to find their way through it, and as a result often end up losing money. 

Below are 3 ways events can save money, improve their event, and improve the overall experience: 


Catering at Dunedin Stadium

Catering at Dunedin Stadium

1 Catering

There is a reason Sydney Showgrounds' catering is kept in-house. It's the same reason Vector Arena recently stopped outsourcing their catering.

Catering companies offer venues large cash incentives and free machinery investment, but more and more venues are now waking up to the fact that nothing is free. 


Every dollar counts, including money made over the bar from drink and food sales. More importantly fans don’t show up to an event for the music, rugby or event itself - they show up for the experience. 


Catering companies make most of their money from the backhanded rebates from food companies. The stadiums outsourced catering sell's a Coca Cola for $6, few people buy it due to the high cost, and then the stadium's catering books show “no money”, but back at the catering company's Head Office Coca Cola just paid a nice fat check for the opportunity to sell its sugar water at the venue. The Catering companies HQ makes a lot of money. 

The interest of the catering company is not to make the event experience better, it is to increase margins and make more money. 

It is a conflicting interest with the event organizers and venues.  

So why do venues outsource their bread and butter to catering companies? 

The first reason is the incentives, but beyond money, the main reason is that it removes any risk and blame from the venue organizers. When something goes wrong at the event, (long lines and slow service) the event organizer can blame the catering company. 

So what can event’s do? 

Bring their catering in-house. It is easier said than done. But if you can find the special someone who has the leadership to make this happen, you will never look back.  

Get in contact with someone like, Matthew Lazarus-Hall - Owner of Uncommon cord - he has a wealth of strategic knowledge in the entertainment industry. 

2 Waste Management

Reusable cups from England Rugby World Cup Image from  Sportbuzzbusiness

Reusable cups from England Rugby World Cup Image from Sportbuzzbusiness

There is a reason almost every Rugby Club in France has a set of reusable cups. 

It is the same reason the Rugby World Cup introduced a reusable cup system at the 2015 events in England. 

And it is the same reason the Rio Olympics had 45 different reusable cup designs that made not just a major impact on waste but increased their beer sales dramatically. 

Waste management cost are increasing year on year. There is no option for events, but to bow down to $40,000 + waste bills. 

What is the main reason for the waste? 

Disposable products. 

Disposable cups. Disposable Tents. Disposable Food Packaging. Disposable everything. 

There is a reason San Fran decided to eliminate disposable bottles from the city and it is the same reason France has banned disposable food packaging from 2020 . 

It is why major sports teams and venues like Twickenham and Stade de France are leading the charge for reusable products in Europe. 

Reusable products not only reduce waste but increase beer sales, create a souvenir and whole new revenue stream for sports teams and venues. 

Lets hope more Sports business in New Zealand and Australia open up to the opportunity. 

Reusable cup system that was intergrated in Europe 

Reusable cup system that was intergrated in Europe 



3 Alcohol Laws


Lets face it, we all just want to have a good time. 

How do you increase cost to an event? 

Health and Safety. 

Why? Everybody has to comply with Health and Safety. Nobody refutes it. Society abides by the state law as there is no alternative. 

The result? 

Health and Safety brings increase paperwork, which brings on extra cost. 

It is how the Dairy industry saw Fonterra grow and take out all small milk producer. 

It is how the meat industry created 3 big companies and eliminated the hundreds of small processing plants. 

In the event industry the big push right now is Alcohol Laws. 

It is now seeing many events almost go out of business. This includes racing club's, major venues, festivals, and more. 

The worst part - every region has different restrictions and different ideas about intoxication. 

So what can you do? 

Smart events like Toast Martinborough have hired a new events manager who understood all alcohol compliance in-depth. This means more events need to find managers who have a clear understanding of all the laws and build relationships with the authorities.

Other event organizers are putting $10,000-$20,000 aside for miscellaneous spending towards health and safety type incidents and their lawyers fees. 



Ambev's paid a high price for sponsorship at the Rio Olympics, but it was worth it. 

The Brazilian beer company introduced it's Skol brand to the world of reusable souvenir cups, each one emblazoned with a different Olympic sport.

The strategy led spectators to guzzle hundreds of extra litres of beer in the hope to accquire the whole collection of 42 different cups. 

Not only did Ambev sell vast amounts of beer, it has gotten the Skol name into kitchen cupboards across the world. (Globelet Director, Linda Jenkinson brought back 20) 

The popularity of the Globelet concept makes sense at an event where T-shirts from the Rio 2016 megastore cost 95 reais ($30NZD), making a $13-real beer-and-cup offering a bargain.

The faceoff between Brazilian and Swedish women soccer teams the semi finals - based at the Maracana soccer stadium - demonstrated how much of a hit the cups were. Skol's beer stations were bustling with activity.

"Of course I'm buying more beer because of the cups," said Claudia Maria Dias de Sousa, 58, a physical education teacher from Belem, Brazil. "They're souvenirs for my friends from the Rio Olympics."

The collection of cups from every sport at the games. 


Dias de Sousa said she has collected eight of the hard plastic cups so far. She was overheard requesting a basketball cup because soccer had sold out. At a basketball game Saturday night, a spectator tossed one of the yellow and green cups into a trash bin at half time. Within a minute someone had retrieved it, adding it to a stack of more than 10 he was carrying around.

"People will go for the perception of getting something that's special and spend the extra money," said Joe Favorito, a sports marketing expert who teaches at Columbia University in New York. "It's a great branding opportunity for Skol."

Ambev, which is controlled by Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, needed to deliver strong results at this year's Olympics. With Brazil mired in recession, the company sold less beer by volume in the second quarter than it has in the last seven years, while also losing market share to less expensive rivals. Chief Executive Officer Bernardo Pinto Paiva told investors on that 2017 could be better as consumer confidence recovers and inflation slows.

The idea was to pay homage to the different Olympic sports, instead the cups turned into a hot collector's item, Bruna Buas, Ambev's Olympics manager, said through a press officer.

In response to the cup craze and to promote responsible drinking, Ambev said it has set aside space at venues where fans can exchange cups as if they were Pokemon cards.

Skol's strategy isn't totally unique. Budweiser, which Ambev sells as a premium brand in Brazil, had a collectible cup at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Coca-Cola did something similar. But the gimmick of building a collection of Skol cups sets it apart. It also means beer salespeople must often negotiate the details of the cup before serving a beer.

Let's hope the All Blacks, NZ Cricket and stadiums want to get in support of a similar concept in New Zealand and Australia. Globelet is here to make it happen. 

Rio Collectors Cup

The Truth about Compostable Cups

Why festivals stopped using compostable cups?

When Splore festival decided to introduce Globelet, the main cause for change was that they were consuming over 5 compostable cups per person.

With Globelet they only needed 1.5 cups per person. 

That is almost five times less cups consumed per person. 


How can a disposable product be ecological?

A biodegradable cup, like any cup, requires the consumption of raw materials for it's manufacture.

Every cup that is made, regardless that it is made of compostable material, requires the same amount of energy as it takes to produce a Globelet. 

What does this mean?

5 times as many cups a produce per person when a compostable cup is used and every cup is produced for single use. 

Biodegradable cups are not eliminated immediately from this earth and take a significant amount of time to degrade.

The worst part: Biodegradable cups need to be sorted perfectly to be used for compost.



A Globelet cup is circular

  • Made in New Zealand

  • Reused (100 times)

  • Reusable locally (wash) at our washing centres

  • Refurbish locally (we can reprint the cup)

  • Recycled locally (we can recycle any of our cups in New Zealand)

A Compostable cup is linear 

  • Made in China

  • Used (1 time)

  • Discarded

  • Composted (if it is lucky to make it to the compost factory)




  • Founded: 2013

  • Globelet:  1 years

  • Location: 
    Hagley Park, Christchurch

  • Attendees: 14,000

  • Globelet's used: 14,000

  • Savings: $10,000*


  • Plastic Cups: 50,000 /yr*
    *estimates based on event usage data, and cups sold.

Hokitika Wild Foods Festival - Globelet Case Study


  • Founded: 1990

  • Globelet: 2 year

  • Location: Hokitika

  • Attendees: 8000

  • Event Duration: 1 day

  • Globelet's used: 15,000


  • Plastic Cups: 45,000 /yr
    *estimates based on event usage data, and cups sold

Womad Festival - Globelet Case Study


  • Founded: 2004

  • Globelet: 3 year

  • Location: New Plymouth

  • Attendees: 22,000

  • Globelet's used: 25,000

  • Revenue: $50,000*

  • Savings: $10,000*


  • Plastic Cups: 55,000 /yr*
    *estimates based on event usage data, and cups sold

Sydney Festival - Globelet Case Study


  • Founded: 1976

  • Globelet: 2 year

  • Location: Sydney

  • Attendees: 100,000

  • Globelets used: 15,000

  • Revenue: $150,000*

  • Savings: $30,000


  • Plastic Cups: 150,000 /yr*
    *estimates based on event usage data, and cups sold

Auckland City Limits Festival

  • Founded: 2016
  • Globelet: 1 year

  • Location: Auckland

  • Attendees: 20,000

  • Globelet's used: 50,000

  • Revenue: $50,000*

  • Savings: $20,000


  • Plastic Cups: 150,000 /yr*
    *estimates based on event usage data, and cups sold

The Cost of Disposible Cups

Globelet is not a cup company

Most people believe Globelet is a cup company. We are not a cup company. 

You won't find us at some retail outlet.
You won't find us packaged up in some box to save yet another coffee cup.

We imagine a future without disposable cups. To do that, it is less about cups and more about the systems. 

Yes the cup itself is important. That is why all our Globelet's are locally made, 100% reusable, and 100% recyclable locally. 

But the full designed system from our local production, onsite festival systems, washing and logistics, and end of use storage and recycling. That is the full loop.

At globelet we imagine a reusable society. One with less goods made and more goods reused.

The cost of disposables

The life cycle of a product is the most important product itself. 

When someone looks at Globelet they compare us to disposable cups. 

They think Globelet is expensive. They normally pay 10/20 cents for a disposable cup. 

Here is what the events forget: 

- For every Globelet required an event needs 5 times as many disposable cups. That means 50,000 cups for every 10,000 people. This cost is $10,000.

- Then there is the other cost. Environmental, cleanliness of the event, and the real cost to pick up and dispose of all those cups.  This cost is $10,000.

All up Disposable Cups (whether compostable or recyclable) require a larger spend then Globelet and its system. $20,000.

Humans of Waste - Kombucha

We are a little Kombucha obsessed. 

We drink it everyday and we have created reusable Globelet’s for three of New Zealand’s most iconic Kombucha brands Organic Mechanic , Good Buzz Brewing, and Wabi O.

What is Kombucha? 

Essentially it’s a fermented tea-based beverage that uses a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast),  as a starter culture to produce a probiotic and gut-healing beverage.

It is good for your gut, which in turn is good for your brain.

A good brain equals a good life. 

We love Kombucha. 

This blog is a dedication to our three favourite Kombucha Brands.


Organic Mechanic - Auckland

The OM Boys

The OM Boys

Known as the OM boys. 

The Organic Mechanic has exploded on the Auckland scene ever since they set up their famous juice and smoothie stand at the La Cigale French Markets

A year ago they started producing Kombucha. It was the right drink at the right time and the Auckland market exploded. 

As a team of dedicated Eco warriors, they are on a mission as a business to take care of Mother Nature, and do all they can to minimise the carbon footprint they leave behind. 

They are creating a closed loop Zero Waste system with reusable Globelets as their cups and refill keg stations. 

Their next plan is to roll Kombucha Refill Stations (see below) out all over the country, (starting with their OM shack).


Wabi O Kombucha - Christchurch

Wabi O Kombucha being bottled 

Wabi O Kombucha being bottled 

Wabi O (‘Wah-Bee-Oh’): Abbreviation for Wabi Originals, a liquid transformation venture. 

Wabi Originals was born out of a chance meeting between a food pioneer and a tea expert in New Zealand.

After the Christchurch earthquakes, Wabi O's founders emerged from the tea room, ready to bring their Kombucha's to the world.

They have an array of different flavours to hit almost anybodies palate, with their product now found in North America and Christchurch, New Zealand


Good Buzz Kombucha - Wellington

Good Buzz Family.jpeg


We first meet the Good Buzz family at the world famous Wanderlust Festival in Great Lake Taupo

After one year, the family business - run by dad Alex - took off. 

You can now find Good Buzz Kombucha almost anywhere in the country, partenered with various amazing brands, including Globelet.

They are so advanced that they have even brought out a Kombucha that is made with Coffee. 

Reusable vs Disposable (Biodegradable) - What is better?

Globelet began in 2012 as an association between two friends who had no intention of creating a business – we worked voluntarily and with a sole aim of reducing the number of throw away cups being used locally. 

It has now become a full fledging business to try and cope with the issues surrounding disposable cups. 

1) How can a disposable product be ecological?

Even if biodegradable, a cup requires the consumption of raw materials for its manufacture and if this product is only useable once the production volumes increase commensurately in proportion to the volume of cups required.

A container produced for a single use is not environmentally friendly. Biodegradable objects are not eliminated immediately and can take a significant amount of time to degrade furthermore, biodegradable cups need to be sorted perfectly to be used for compost.

2) Globelet cups are made from polypropylene plastic, a derivative of petroleum.

Our cups are washable and (where avoidable) do not end their life in the rubbish after being used, being either kept by the user to be used again domestically or reintegrated into our service and reused, having been washed to Australasian hygiene standards.

It can be used many, many times since we are now looking into how to remove the printed image (only currently available on silkscreen cups) and reprint the cup (exclusive Globelet this year). 

The Globelet cup is plastic, but is not a disposable cup.

The priority is therefore to reduce the use of throw away cups and to reduce the production of biodegradable objects.

The best waste is no waste! To convince you of our commitment and our environmental convictions, I would like to share some of the innovations that we have achieved.

 • The technical characteristics of our cups mean that we can wash them using 6 cl of water.

• Our wash stations are spread over strategic points to be as close as possible to where the cups will be used while ensuring economic sustainability of the concept and of our organisation.

• We are examining creating one of the worlds first reusable cups that is constituted of Algae and there for reusable but can also go back into the Ocean. 

 • Finally, we are examining a project which when proven will permit the reuse of 98% of the washing water while maintaining the current hygiene standards.

I refer you to the study that was made in Germany by an independent consulting firm at the 2006 Football World Cup.

The conclusions of this study can therefore be summarised as follows:

• The disposable cup is 25 times more polluting than the reusable cup,
• The biodegradable cup is 20 times more polluting than the reusable cup. In seven games played at Twickenham, it can be estimated that over 1,000,000 disposable pint cups were used, for a total amount of nearly 10 tons of wasted plastic, calculated at 8 grams per disposable cup. This represents a volume of some 70 m3 of plastics in the form of disposable 60-centiliter cups.

The same reasoning can be applied to thousands of events, which would thus generate considerable waste reduction. For our project, the use of plastics is not an issue; in fact, plastic is an interesting material because it is very solid and therefore can be washed and reused!

Moreover, non-reusable cups, such as those which were used during the Rolling Stones and UB40 tour and afterwards recycled, have not proven to be as interesting a solution as that of reusable ones but are nevertheless preferable to the complete wastage of disposable cups!

The idea is therefore to replace the wastage of the disposable, and therefore non-sustainable, product by the use of a cleaning service.

The waste water produced by the Globelet washing procedure is non-polluting as we use a washing solution that is environmentally friendly and created by ECOSTORE.

If all of the Australasia, America, the United Kingdom and Europe were to stop using disposable plastic cups, local cleaning services could be developed. Studies have also shown that with a higher capital investment it would be possible to install cleaning systems that filter and clean the water used in the process so that it can be reused.

This investment has been calculated at €200,000. The use of disposable plastic products will be forbidden in France in 2020 and other countries are considering the same regulations. Washing cups is tedious work. 

At some festivals in Europe cups have been cleaned and reused for 8 years. Some of the cups used at Twickenham have been washed for reuse five times.

Therefore, even better than recycling, our service offers reusability – and the best waste is non existent waste! We hope that the people who decide to keep their cups will reuse them instead of continuing to buy disposable ones. I

In countries like Germany, France, or Spain, where the project is well advanced compared to the United Kingdom, people are often seen using reusable cups at picnics rather than disposable plastic ones.

In 2015 we decided to branch out into Australia to help widen our reach and are in the throes of establishing washing and drying stations here in Australia.

Thank you for helping us to prevent wastage. We are not a large company and it is not our intention to give lessons, but we think that it is no longer possible or logical to continue to use a product once and simply throw it away.

Ryan Everton Director Globelet


You can easily plant seeds in a GLOBELET , as opposed to buying traditional starter pots. This can save you some money and is a simple way to recycle old GLOBELETS you may have lying around. Seeds can germinate and grow in just about anything, so long as they get enough nutrients, warmth, light and water. Later, after the plants are growing, you can transplant them into larger containers.

Step 1

Look at the seed packet instructions. Some seeds need to be treated (soaked in water or abraded with a knife, for example) before they are planted, according to The Garden Helper.

Step 2

Fill the Globelet with three-quarters full with potting soil. You can sometimes use soil from your yard, but potting soil is typically better--soil from your yard may contain seeds, insect larva or plant diseases.

Step 3

Wet the soil with water from a watering can (or hold the Globelet beneath a trickling faucet).

Step 4

Poke seeds into the soil. Different plant seeds require different spacing--check the seed packet for recommendations. Typically, you should place seeds 1/8 inch deep and should not crowd them together. You can, however, always thin the plants out when they begin to grow if there are too many.

Step 5

Place the Globelet on a saucer. The saucer will catch water draining from the cup so it doesn't run all over everything. Place the saucer in a warm, sunny area and keep the seeds moist--don't let seeds dry out too much or they may not germinate.


A showcase of our Better Future Factory in Sydney Australia. All washing and drying machines were customs built by Globelet to ensure products are 100% clean, use minimal amounts of water and come out 100% dry.

Washing cups can be difficult. So we made it easy. Here is how we do it. 

Major Events: 

At major events (over 10,000 people) Globelet has 2 options. Onsite washing or offsite post-event washing. 

Onsite Washing:

Our Globelet Washing HQ

How it works: 

All Globelet's are washed onsite. We have a central hub (Globelet HQ) inside here we run our washing machines, logistical equipment, distribution and a front of house.

Globelet supplies: 

  • Staff and Logistics

  • Marquees and Set Up

  • Conveyor cup dishwashers and Conveyor cup dryers

  • A cup return station and support

  • Swimming pool to soak cups

  • Optional wash your own cup bins

Event supplies: 

  • Water access

  • Power Supply

  • Volunteers

We have a happy and helpful team willing to make anything work for an event.

We have a happy and helpful team willing to make anything work for an event.

Offsite Washing:

Our friend Thomas Heaton looking after production washing

Our friend Thomas Heaton looking after production washing

How it works:

Some events prefer to have the majority of the cups washed offsite. This is usually due to the amount of cups they require and access to water is difficult. 

All the cups get shipped dirty from an event and washed and dried at our HQ. 
Two new washing stations being developed in New Zealand and Australia. 

Cups in the pool being washed post festival after ACL.

Cups in the pool being washed post festival after ACL.

The Team Stacking Cups

The Team Stacking Cups


Other Events: Globelet Washing

Some tips if you want to wash the cups on the site yourself. 




  • Have a place from the passage of electrical cables.

  • Have a drinking water point (hot if possible) available.

  • Have a discharge wastewater to reach and out of the passage groups.

  • Provide an electrical point to illuminate the night stand.

  • Install a table, there lay three plastic tubs (we can make available to you on reservation):

The washing set up

Tray 1: wash glasses with a green liquid dish, with a sponge without scraper.

Tray 2: first rinse.

Tray 3: a mandatory second rinse.

The water in the rinsing tank must be renewed regularly. The water in this tank is emptied and refilled. 

Some liquids make the glasses smell and colour (including wine and coffee). If you can not wash the glasses immediately, let them soak. If you wash the cups in hand, please make sure they are washed properly. 

The glasses are machine washable but traditional dishwasher can "throw" the cups because they are lightweight, take a test. We also offer professional glass washers for rent.

The drying space 

our drying rack

our drying rack

Cups should ABSOLUTELY be dry before being stacked and stored. Moist, they become moldy and smelly. We would be obliged to charge you for washing. 

Globelet's are slow to dry. So plan time and space. The method of a pyramid of cups seems to be the best option, but beware of drafts.

Drying is less simple than it seems: polypropylene did very little caloric inertia (compared to glass or metal). So we cannot rely on the heat stored in the dishwasher.

If you have technical constraints to your event, do not hesitate to contact us. We'll help you find a solution.

Once these points considered, you will have a clean site, the public appreciates the approach and you will save hundreds or thousands of plastic cups (which constitute more than half of the waste of the event)..

Wash against Waste


The Wash Against Waste Trailer is an eco-friendly waste reducing system that is available for hire at any event and can be used by anyone.

The Wash Against Waste trailer was built  in November 2013 for the purpose of waste reduction at events. Sarah Jane Murray, our Waste Programme and Development Manager, was an influential force in establishing the trailer.

Working closely with Auckland Council, Ecostore, Kemsol and Smart Environmental, the trailer was launched to become a strong success and a leader in waste-reduction systems for any event. It has since been featured regularly at the New Lynn Night Markets and also attended Splore 2015, and a range of local school fairs.

The Wash Against Waste trailer is the first of its kind in New Zealand. EcoMatters is a NGO and we are aiming to turn Wash Against Wast into a social enterprise for the organisation. We need your help to keep it going and achieve our goals of total waste reduction at events. To support us, you can hire the trailer for any event, with a small hire fee, there are plenty of different options to suit your budget and your event.

Visit the Wash Against Waste website for more details:

If you require further information please contact Sarah Jane:



The waste generated at events has become a major issue. 

Disposable plastic cups litter fields at festivals with smashed cups

 But there are even bigger issues. 

  • Cheap tents get left at the end of events. Smashed. With no option but too go to landfill. 
  • Generators suck litres of diesel just to power the sound systems.
  • Disposable plastic water bottles are consumed just to keep festival goers hydrated. 
  • Thousands of people drive with half empty cars to the same destination with no thought to share the ride. 

The result is tens of thousands of dollars in waste expenses.

It is hard enough for Festival directors to make a profit. The last thing the want to think about is their waste. 

Enter Green Shoot Pacific (GSP).


GSP are New Zealand's leading event sustainability professionals providing a full suite of sustainability services including waste minimisation strategies.

Founded by one of New Zealand's leading festival directors, Amanda Wright from Splore Festival and New Zealand's leading sustainability consultant, Dave Watson. 

Together they have created remarkable results at numerous festivals in New Zealand including Splore, Rhythm 'n' Alps and Northern Bass

Their main focus includes 

  • The identification of sustainability issues and their impact. 
  • The development of integrated management systems and action plan
  • Team Training

And much more… 

If you are looking at reducing your waste, support the environment and reduce your waste cost. 

Check out GSP here




Dave and Amanda (GSP) with Globelets. 

Dave and Amanda (GSP) with Globelets. 




Before you burn me at the stake, you must at least hear my plea.

I know, it’s our weekly feelgood. We’re all doing our part to reduce, reuse and recycle. But it’s just that that is the problem: recycling is a sham.

Of course, it’s better than throwing all of your rubbish into the bin but recycling as we know it is not the answer. We’ve created a downward spiral that’s not getting better any time soon; the solution requires a paradigm shift in responsibility. It’s hard. Really hard. But the challenges we face are immense.

A sobering thought.

When you next go into a supermarket take a look at the products on the shelf and note: everything here will end up somewhere else. The food, of course will fill your bellies but the packaging goes ‘elsewhere’: to our recycle bins and to our landfills.

The point is that nothing is ‘thrown out’, it’s simply ‘moved elsewhere’.

And the scary part comes upon realising this is just one single supermarket. Zoom out and see the many other supermarkets all through the country, and then the world, and then dot in the other department stores, restaurants etc and then consider this alarming fact according to the story of stuff: for every bag of rubbish a household produces, businesses have produced 70x that getting it to you.

We have a problem.



Recycling is something we’ve been told we can do to help do our part. It’s how we turn that waste into something useful.

It starts at the design of a product. A developer will consider packaging that safely and cost effectively packages the goods whilst looking good and has considered the end life. We’ll revisit this later.

From here I’m going to focus on glass bottles because it’s the part that I am the most connected with, and it’s also a nice analogy of the situation as a whole.

Most of the expense of a glass bottle isn’t the materials, it’s the energy use and the supply chain. Consider the high temperature needed to melt and form the glass and the worldwide freight and logistical supply chain to get bottles from say, Italy to New Zealand. It is the major expense, above the bottle itself. As a point of reference a beer bottle (high volume production) will cost around 30-50c per bottle. My bottles cost approx $1.95+gst per bottle ex Auckland by the pallet.

The only bottles made in New Zealand are made from recycled glass by a company called O-I, who can make any bottle (but minimum order for atypical bottles is 1 million units so beer and wine bottles are the main bottle made in NZ), and I suppose custom pieces from glass blowers which would cost about $40-$70/bottle. Manufacturing bottles, even if made in NZ still has a considerable energy cost, despite not having to ship it from around the world, whether it be from recycled materials or new.

Glass bottles are of course, recyclable; so after use they go in your recycle bin and are carried away, sorted into colours and then in NZ, around 60% of the material used for making new glass is from recycled glass (called cullet); it’s then melted down and reformed into new bottles. The rest is broken down into dust and used as filler in roads. For every metric tonne of glass that is recycled instead of being made from scratch, 315kg  carbon dioxide is saved from going in the atmosphere.

It sounds pretty good. So good in fact, many large corporations are getting behind your recycling effort: Coca-Cola Amatil, Frucor, Lion Nathan, Foodstuffs etc. Check out what they have to say at the Glass Packaging Forum, a non-profit organisation whose ‘function is to divert bottles from landfills’. You’ll definitely come away with warm fuzzies, it’s wonderful stuff.

But lets just step back here and compare recycling to a better alternative: washing the bottle. Suddenly, recycling becomes an absolute waste of energy.

Statistics point heavily in the favour of recycling when you compare recycling to filling landfills, but recycling is a world apart from simply re-using packaging that already exists.

But here’s the real crunch: the onus to recycle is on you, not the company producing the waste: there is a disconnection with the problem and the root of the problem.

Lets go back to that initial design of a products packaging: The price of thinner, single use glass bottles is cheaper than one that can be washed. Despite most of the cost being in the supply, that little materials cost can still be littler. Also, plastic bottles are significantly cheaper than glass. Remember when we used to get our milk in reusable glass bottles? Well the movement is a trend throughout the world.


(image courtesy of

It’s a trend throughout the world because a company can offset the cost of disposal to you. With the onset of recycling and the people taking responsibility out of corporate waste; there is no incentive for designing packaging to be reusable -it may as well exploit the system. The system that is paid for by your rates.

A side-story, and a problem far greater than bottles: E-waste.

In the U.S., around 400 million consumer electronics are discarded every year. There is a growing mountain of electronic waste that the US government has no idea what to do with. The difficulty of e-waste is that traces of toxic metals seep into landfills so e-waste must be dismantled by hand, so the cost of getting rid of this waste is huge. Unfortunately, much e-waste is shipped overseas to developing countries with cheap labour and laxed environmental laws. We call this recycling. New Zealand does this too.

Indeed, low prices carry a high cost.

So what if we put the onus on the companies and reconnected the waste with the design?

Imagine a scenario where you don’t buy your TV, instead you have it on a long term lease. At the end of its cycle, when you’re ready for a new one, you return it to where you purchased it and get a small rebate. Since the company who made it knew it was going to come back, they designed it to have re-usable components, degradable parts or whatever it takes to deal with this product at the end of its life. If it can’t deal with it, then it has to dispose of it and pay the cost of doing so, reflected in the price of the product. The incentive for the company becomes that of less waste and more product, or products that last. Of course, we pay more for our products at the time of purchase but in that price is the cost of disposal. A truer reflection that isn’t warped by externalisation of costs.

It must be pretty tough designing electronics to be competitively tiny, cheap and of amazing technical performance as it is regardless of its end life. End life is not a priority; if it was, this problem would be fixed with the same competitive zeal and efficiency of technological advancement.

Read more: Electronic Waste problem on Wikipedia

Back to our bottle scenario

In Dunedin we have a hero named Tony Culling who owns a company in his spare time called Smartbottles.

It is essentially a bottle washing service. With collection points around the South Island,  bottles placed in are returned to him for washing, which he sells to some beer companies and home brewers etc.

The bottles go through a machine with a conveyor. It has various spray systems and washing areas that ensure the bottle comes out sparkly clean and can even lead on to a filling and packaging station.

The problem is, with the movement towards bottles that  are cheaper, thinner and unfortunately non-reusable, most bottles now break in a temperature fit for sanitisation. Also, many bottles that can be washed are recycled instead. So a company considering what bottle to use has a simple decision: it’s cheaper to be wasteful by using a non-refillable bottle. Unfortunately this decision is more ‘expensive’ for all of us.

This system of washing bottles for re-use isn’t unique or rare, in fact it’s what we used to do and it’s still being done in Germany and many other European countries. (How reusing bottles works in Germany – paying a “pfand” or ransom on your bottle which you get back on return.) The point is, there’s a glimmer of hope for a much more efficient system to deal with bottles.

A paradigm shift

Consider this: you buy your groceries, take off the packaging, fill your own containers and leave the rubbish there at the supermarket. Not just you but also a handful of others every day.

In a couple of days there’d be signs up saying you can’t leave your rubbish. Keep doing it and in a couple of weeks there’d be even more resistence to this rebellion. But in a couple of months there’d be a reverse supply chain set up, sustainable product packaging and whatever it takes to satisfy the customer – because the feedback, responsibility and the cost of disposal is coming back to the company.

Simplistic? Idealistic? Unrealistic?

How is it that we’ve set up a nationwide system to collect, destroy and then reform millions of glass bottles that were a wash away from being ‘as new’? We’ve let this happen by taking away the responsibility away from business and filling it with with our own collective stupidity.

The current system of recycling is an inefficient, non-viable ongoing pseudo-solution that we’ve been green washed into.

I have been offering $2 returns on Quick Brown Fox and Lazy Dog bottles, 250ml and 500ml since I began. I’d be lying if I told you this was purely for environmental reasons – this is an economic advantage: bottles cost me $1.95+gst per bottle even when buying by the pallet, and i’d rather buy them from you, my customers.

I get about 1-5% of my bottles returned and it breaks my heart to think you are throwing it into the recycle bin; it’s come all the way from Italy!

Many of my bars around Dunedin know to keep them for my collection, and I get more since I’ve been at the Otago Farmers Market but getting them returned from the rest of the country is difficult – I can offer courier tickets, address labels and extra incentives to make it easy but unfortunately, as experience suggests, I am one bottle amongst thousands; recycling is just that much easier.

So should recycling be banned?

Well, it’s better than throwing it out and as a philosophy it’s legitimate practice. But the way we recycle is a sham – it’s corporate welfare funded by rate payers. We need to shift end life responsibility back to those who create the waste. Otherwise the connection is lost and the incentive to actually reduce waste is void. We have an ongoing problem because of this disconnection.

Shift the responsibility back. Return your waste to those producing it.

PS. Return your empty QBF bottles to me at the Otago Farmers Market on Saturday mornings ($2 cash back or $5 off another bottle), by dropping at Salisbury House, 106 Bond St. Dunedin, or drop ’em at any of the Smartbottles collection points.

Further reading and watching:

Book: The ecology of commerce (1993) by Paul Hawken

Video: The late Ray Anderson on The business logic of sustainability (15mins via TED). Recycling is bullshit

Book: Confessions of an eco-sinner: Travels to where my stuff comes from. Fred Pearce (2005).