Eco-friendly ‘product stewardship’ makes dollars and sense

One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but Kiwi businesses can be backward in coming forward when it comes to dealing with waste.

As the problems with recycling hit the news this week, with 150,000 unwanted car tyres being shunted around the country, one company is taking the problem of re-using waste to heart with a novel approach to the issue ­– ‘product stewardship’.

The idea behind Hastings-based 3R Group is companies need to make sure that everyone involved in the lifespan of a product is working to reduce its environmental, health and safety impacts. And they might just saving a bit of money in the process.

3R CEO Adele Rose says many companies want to keep it green, but are in the dark about the actual cost efficiencies that can be achieved.

“Imagine the cost of dumping things to the landfill,” she says. “If you’re a manufacturer and you’ve got skip bins and rubbish trucks lined up, that’s costing you money.”

Nine times out of 10 however, businesses can reduce the waste going to landfill by about 50%, just by being smart about what goes into the skip, Rose says.

“The end saving could be thousands of dollars a year. In one case we worked with we removed significant costs which allowed the company to redirect those funds to cover half the salary of an additional staff member.”

Getting past outdated perceptions around waste can be a problem however.

“We have an enormous barrier in the first conversation with manufacturers, because they say ‘we haven’t got any money in the budget to do it this year. Talk to me next year.’ But they have the potential to save money straight away by reducing landfill waste. Then there’s the process itself, which can often create further savings and efficiencies.”  

The company must be doing something right however, having attracted the attention of one of New Zealand’s best-known business people.

While saving the environment is a noble goal shared by many, says Adele Rose, 3R chief executive, many companies are still in the dark about the actual cost efficiencies that come with keeping it green.

One of the shareholders in 3R is The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall, a prominent angel investor who has put money into a number of New Zealand-based technology start-ups.

Rose says Sir Stephen’s investment is a big vote of confidence in the company and its potential.

“His particular interest is in what we are doing here that can be exported offshore, particularly around IP and developing stewardship programmes that can be expanded on in other countries.”

She says his knowledge and experience is a useful resource to tap into when needed and he is approachable despite being involved in many businesses and activities.

“He’s very available. If there’s something you need help with it’s just an email away.”

3R has offices in Hastings and Christchurch and has also been building up its presence in Wellington, looking to push legislative change that will bring New Zealand environmental and product stewardship laws in line with countries with more advanced regimes overseas.