Old tyres saved from landfills are being turned into pet beds, largely thanks to Covid lockdowns and an enthusiastic group of Auckland students.
Not only has the initiative spread throughout New Zealand but more helpers are needed to run the not-for-profit company because the founding students have moved on to tertiary studies.
The innovative Paws for a Cause began mid-2020 as a Rangitoto College Young Enterprise Scheme to help families struggling to provide for their pets.
For decades the Young Enterprise Scheme has been operating in New Zealand high schools to inspire students to discover their potential in business and in life generally.
Highlighting landfill dumping
Paws for a Cause was founded by students Oliver Zhang, Alex Zhang, Jasmine Jared, Emily Ren, and Max Ji to highlight the prolific dumping of unroadworthy tyres to landfills and to support pet owners during lockdowns.
The group obtained waste tyres from several sources and designed cushions to fit inside them or be used separately.
Paws for a Cause CEO Oliver Zhang says that after he and friends set up the not-for-profit company, they began to partner with animal shelters and community groups who helped to distribute products through the country.
“After exploring our options, we expanded our product offerings to include our soft pet product range, utilising recycled oxford cotton and polyester scraps to align with our environmental goal of encouraging sustainable resource use,” Oliver says.
Purchases help the SPCA
“We are a non-profit company that runs on charitable donations. For every (pet) home you buy, we will also donate our pet products to the SPCA, another organisation that distributes pet products around the country to those who need them.”
After two years of operation the company has had more than 2000 units of recycled polyester and cotton pet beds manufactured overseas and shipped to New Zealand to distribute nationwide with the help of the SPCA.
They have also recycled more than 50 tyres in their ToughRuff Tyre Pet Beds and donated them to local families.
Oliver says it is not well-known that toxic chemicals and heavy metals leach from tyres.
Every year, millions of old car tyres end up in landfills around New Zealand.
“Over time, these rubber coverings are weathered and broken down to start releasing various chemicals and toxic heavy metals such as mercury, damaging local ecosystems through soil acidification and runoff.”
During the project the students faced many challenges, most importantly funding.
“One of the things that we learnt along the way was that everything costs money. From creating our own logo to sourcing our materials, we quickly realised that if we couldn’t cut down or even eliminate some of the long-term costs, we wouldn’t be able to reach our goal of becoming a financially sustainable non-profit company,” Oliver says.
Lockdowns caused set-backs
“We also experienced several set-backs throughout 2020 and 2021, mainly due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and constantly changing lockdown rules.
“For instance, the first August lockdown last year caused all sorts of problems, from delaying our product shipments from China and incurring several extra costs such as extra handling fees by the shipping company, and having the containers impounded at the ports for almost a month.
“There were also weeks where we were in a Covid hotspot and couldn’t meet on Saturdays to make our pet-beds.”
And have the pet beds changed the lives of pets and their owners?
“We really do hope so. We can’t say for sure whether the lives of the owners that we’ve donated pet-beds to have changed, but we enjoy seeing the smiles on the faces of the owners, and just the general sense of community that our work can allow us to experience—both us, and the recipients of our pet beds,” Oliver says.
Sometimes, when we receive photos from owners with their pet cat or newborn puppies sleeping in our kennels and beds, it does engender certain feelings of satisfaction and joy in knowing that we’ve created a positive impact.
“It’s these little moments that are very positive reinforcements and contribute towards encouraging us to continue doing what we do.”
Public help needed
But with the students leaving school for tertiary studies they need some help to keep the company going. That’s where the public comes in.
They are looking for students with strong writing and communication skills, social media and marketing skills, coding and graphics design, among others.
If you want to support the Paws for a Cause team in 2022, you can join through their website or contact them through their Instagram page @paws4acausenz. You can also make donations or purchase their products.
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For more information:
Visit their website pawsforacause.space