When coffee cart owner Jenny Mays became concerned about how many disposable cups she was handing out to customers, she decided to do something about it.

Her idea was to serve coffee in ceramic mugs that could be returned for cleaning and re-use. However, it could take days for some of the mugs to be returned, and Jenny would therefore need several dozen.

“I thought that if I printed my logo on the mugs then the next person to find them would bring them back,” says Jenny. “The problem was funding so many mugs.”

Fortunately, the Whakatāne/Ōhope Community Board offers waste minimisation grants for small to medium-sized businesses. With the board’s help, Jenny purchased 77 mugs and had them branded with her ‘Coffee Counsel’ logo through local company Lazer Photo, which offered a good price.

“Instantly, I reduced my carbon footprint,” says Jenny.

“The feedback has been really positive. Most people seem to like the idea, and the people who are environmentally friendly will choose the mugs.”

Jenny sets up her cart at Maraetōtara Reserve six days a week, where her customers can choose to pay a $3 deposit for a mug. When they return, they can swap the used mug for a clean one or get a refund on their deposit.

Community board chairperson Moira Hanna and board member Carolyn Hamill say Jenny’s initiative is exactly the kind of idea they had in mind when they set up the waste minimisation fund earlier this year.

“A lot of small to medium-sized businesses are working hard to reduce their waste and Jenny’s idea sets a great example,” says Moira.

“It was a very thoughtful application for funding,” says Carolyn. “Jenny clearly pays a lot of attention to ways to minimise waste.

Other businesses to receive a slice of the community board’s $2500 fund are Halo Whakatāne and the Vet Health Centre (both for recycling stations), Stage Door (for reusable drink bottles for children) and EPIC (for ‘cupcycling’).

Whakatāne District Council’s Waste Management and Minimisation Coordinator (solid waste), Sheree Kearney, says recycling initiatives helped our district divert more than 10,000 tonnes of waste from landfill in 2019/20.

“We encourage all businesses to reduce their waste, and the community board’s fund is a great way to support their initiatives.”