India and Steven Korner began their journey to creating a prototype for Method, an inter-locking recycling bin system for offices, after doing the unthinkable, leaving two perfectly good jobs.
It was a big risk for the young couple, particularly with the arrival of two sons soon after, India says.
“Some people thought we were crazy leaving good jobs. Steve was a mechanical engineer and I was an office-leasing broker at Colliers and we had recently shifted to Melbourne from Auckland.
“But we had always wanted to have our own business, so we moved back to New Zealand and in 2011 we bought Total Bins, selling commercial bins.”
The pair drove around the country selling wheelie bins, bags and recycling labels to businesses, and quickly discovered a niche – that there was a lack of product offerings for large-scale businesses to easily recycle.
“We were surprised at the poor quality of recycling solutions available for modern offices,” India says. “We saw sophisticated corporate environments where the recycling system was an afterthought – in conflict with the aesthetic created by architects and designers.
“Ugly bins were hidden in cupboards or in the kitchen. Despite recycling at home, few made the transition to recycling at work although many companies prided themselves on being sustainable.”
So, with Steven’s background in engineering (he had spent five years at Fisher & Paykel), and India’s experience in graphic design and sales and marketing, the two set to work on a prototype, which they designed over three years.
India says if it weren’t for their backgrounds in design, the task would have been a daunting one.
However, the two did their research and consulted architects and businesses to create the most efficient design possible. The result is 60-litre, 755mm-tall bins made from recyclable polypropylene, which can lock together to form a station for any number of distinct waste streams.
Steven says he even did a couple of overnight cleaning shifts to tap in and understand the potential users of the bin.
“We wanted to see how we could make it a bit more intuitive. I wanted to understand the workload cleaners have to get through during the night and the pride they take in their work, so I was able to experience that and understand their frustration,” Steven says.
The couple also picked the brains of a few architects to get feedback on what the product should or shouldn’t do.
“Jonathan Custance, he’s been very helpful and donated time. Some bigger firms, who are extremely busy have also been helpful; they got what we were trying to achieve.”
The Korners say they distilled the advice given to them into product objectives, and came up with as many ideas as they could, including a way to solve a common problem – bags detaching from the bin and falling to the bottom.
They’ve since patented their fastening system.
They also came up with two lid designs – a “touch to open”, which locks in odours and an open design to allow easy access.
India Korner says she called on her skills in graphic design to create some of the aesthetic components for the bin.
“I studied graphic design and then I decided to go into property, but I’ve been utilising all my skills. We created the logo, the recycling labels for the bin, packaging for the bin as well as business cards, stickers, instruction brochures, and the website we did together.”
The couple says their product is targeted towards any kind of business with an open plan office environment and have already secured a few contracts since launching at the end of January, including Auckland University, TradeMe, PwC, Les Mills as well as some co-shared spaces including Biz Dojo.
“We can really make a difference in that corporate environment where there is an open plan fit out and our bins fit into that kind of layout. It’s an efficient way for them [businesses] to recycle.”
Method has a reseller in Christchurch and Wellington, Europlan. The warehouse is in Masterton, while Auckland's Viscount Plastics has the injection moulding contract.
The couple says the mould for the bin weighs 15 tonnes and had to be shipped over from China, but the bins are New Zealand made.