Saving the planet one piece of plastic at a time is helping to create beautiful jewellery, and plant pots, while supporting many charities through New Zealand.
An Ekko Shop opened in Upper Hutt in 2018. Its recycling service soon followed and aimed to fill a gap in the market.
Owner, Tanya Jennings-Smith, says they wanted to stop recyclables going to landfill.
Upper Hutt does not have ratepayer-funded kerbside recycling, although it offers a community recycling station. Residents also have the option of user-pays kerbside recycling bins through waste collection companies.
Turned into beautiful jewellery
At Ekko Shop people can donate plastic bottle tops and bread tags. These are sent to Objet D’Fox in Christchurch where Michael Fox makes them into flowerpots and earrings.
Michael receives bottle tops from businesses, organisations and individuals around New Zealand.
He makes around 400 pots per year and the number is steadily increasing. It takes about 40 to 60 bottle tops to make one pot.
Fifty per cent of the profits from the bread tag earrings go to a charity called Breadtags that raises money to fund wheelchairs and also to buy equipment for people with disabilities in selected overseas countries.
Michael says his business was established in 2016 after a time experimenting with plastic waste as a raw material to make art and product designs.
Beach garbage sowed seeds
After watching a documentary on the great Pacific garbage patch, the seed was sown. Walking along Caroline Bay, in Timaru, after a storm revealed around 4 kg of plastic waste.
It was our response to the plastic pollution issue becoming more prevalent in the world,” Michael says.
Michael also does commission work and product design for companies with an environmentally friendly ethos, sometimes using the material that they donate.
Objet D’Fox sells through its website and several New Zealand stores.
Ekko Shop is also a collection point to support several other organisations.
Prescription glasses and wine bottle screw caps are sent to Lions Clubs while tabs from aluminium cans go to Kidney Kids NZ. An organisation set up by the late Jonah Lomu to support children with kidney disease.
Also accepted are beads, costume jewellery and broken jewellery for CanBead, which runs therapeutic jewellery-making workshops to create new necklaces and earrings.
The workshops run by the CanInspire Charitable Trust are designed for people and their supporters who are experiencing illness, trauma or loss.
The Ekko Shop also accepts donations of quality used bras. These go to the Uplift Bra Project and are sent overseas to countries where it can be difficult for women to obtain bras.
Tanya explains that many bras are donated by women who have lost or gained weight. Ekko Shop also accepts donations of unused underwear.
Recycling helps others
Tanya says locals support their recycling efforts, especially when they learn where items go and how they can help others.
She says children enjoy seeing how the items are separated into colours at the shop.
Sorcha Carr, who is responsible for marketing, says customers are motivated because they are making a difference.
She says the shop’s 123 Main Street location in Upper Hutt is also ideal for people who don’t have a car as they can carry items in.
Second store in Otaki
In response to the success of the Upper Hutt store, a second outlet was opened in July 2021 in Otaki, opposite New World on State Highway 1.
Tanya says that this had just begun gaining momentum when the country went into Level 4 lockdown, so resuming trade was like starting over again.
One of Tanya’s wishes is that New Zealand would recycle plastics into road surfaces. This has been done overseas and has been trialled in New Zealand.
Ekko Shop also sells bulk foods and spices, some manufactured in the Hutt Valley.
They also sell eco-friendly bathroom products, beauty products and children’s clothing.
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