Rent-a-plate system a hit

The rent-a-plate system is resulting in less waste being generated at community events.

In an era when taking your own keep cup to a coffee shop is becoming the norm, is taking your own plate and cutlery when you head out for a meal a step too far?

Events coordinator Hannah Wynn, from Little Big Events, doesn't think so, based on the enthusiastic response the company has had from people using its rent-a-plate system at the Little Big Markets in Mount Maunganui, Tauranga Coffee Festival and Vegan Vibes this year.

With sponsorship from TECT, Tauranga City Council, Love NZ and Sign Creations, The Exchange rent-a-plate system was launched at Little Big Markets in Coronation Park in June.

Market-goers rent enamel plates from the food vendor for $2 each and then return the plates to The Exchange for a refund.

Plates are then washed in an on-site commercial dishwasher and re-used, reducing the amount of food packaging waste.

The Exchange started off with just 1000 plates, limiting its use for large events, but Hannah says they are hoping to get more sponsorship to buy more plates. Having a sponsor logo on them may also deter people from taking them away.

“Some people wander off with the plates because they're either not aware of how the system works or they think ‘this is a cool plate' and sneak off with it. We haven't lost too many, but the numbers are dwindling.”

Hannah says the public has been “super-receptive” to the concept, as well as the food vendors.

“It's all about taking the time to educate people about how it works.”

Hannah says the company's events divert much of their waste away from landfill anyway with composting and recycling, but the overall amount of waste has been reduced substantially with The Exchange.

“Overall the total waste generated at an event is lower, but we rate the success of the scheme by everyone's positivity about it.

“Everyone wants to jump on board and lots of people don't want their $2 back because they realise it is not-for-profit and the money goes back into the kitty to cover the cost of running it.”

Down the track Little Big Events would also like to offer reusable cups and cutlery, but in the meantime would encourage people to bring their own.

“That would be amazing,” says Hannah. “From our conversations at the markets people hadn't thought of that but were very open to it, and we're happy to put things through the dishwasher for them on-site if necessary.

“It also means vendors are saving money on packaging, so it really is win-win.”

The Exchange is on hold at the moment in preparation for being located at Our Place - a new city centre container shopping precinct on the site of the former Tauranga City Council administration building on Willow Street.

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