Every day dozens of customers flood into Rocket café on Grey St and stream out carrying cardboard cups full of steaming hot coffee.
And while owners Sanchia and Martina Brodrick are stoked business is humming, one thing’s been niggling at their consciences – the waste.
Every time they sell a cup of take-out coffee they know they’re sending another plastic-lid-topped cardboard cup to the landfill.
So the two twenty-somethings, who bought Rocket in 2005 and expanded the premises last year, are doing something about it.
With a bit of help from Environment Waikato waste minimisation facilitator Susa Kupa, they’ve come up with an innovative green customer loyalty scheme based on a reusable metal coffee cup.
“Customers will be able to bring it back to be washed after they’ve used it,” Sanchia said.
“And every time our customers buy a coffee they’ll get a stamp on a loyalty card and earn points towards environmentally-friendly rewards like native trees.”
The sisters have always been environmentally conscious, which they attribute to their mum’s influence and to growing up beside Whakatane’s beautiful beaches.
“The café also backs onto Environment Waikato and just them being there made us feel like we should make more of an effort,” Sanchia said.
“We used to throw out dozens of milk bottles a day and I’d feel really guilty about it. I’d stand out the back tying up the rubbish bags wondering if they were watching us.”
The pair now recycle all their plastic, tin cans, aluminium and cardboard and would like to start recycling organic waste too. There are also plans to package the recycled cup scheme and sell it to other cafés.
Susa is applauding their innovative thinking and challenging other businesses to follow their lead.
“Lots of people in our region are now recycling, which is great, but there’s so much more we could all do to reduce waste in the first place,” she said.
“There are heaps of opportunities out there for businesses to help protect the environment and save money through more efficient waste management.”
Green MP Nandor Tanczos is also supporting the idea.
“Commercial waste is more than half of the waste stream so what businesses do it extremely important,” he said.
“These two women are really good examples of business owners taking their responsibilities seriously.”
Martina said the move would build on the coffee culture she and Sanchia had worked hard to create and was confident customers would react positively.
“There are a lot of green, forward-thinking people in Hamilton East,” she said.
Waikato businesses who would like help or advice on waste management are encouraged to call Susa at Environment Waikato on (07) 859 0971.