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Environmental, fundraising initiative looking for new home

Monday 25 September 2023 | Written by Joanne Holden | Published in Environment, National


Environmental, fundraising initiative looking for new home
With a $23,000 USD grant from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, Te Ipukarea Society was able to relaunch the Rent-A-Plate initiative earlier this year. Photo: Supplied/23092430

A portable dish-washing trailer built to keep disposable plates and cutlery out of Rarotonga’s landfill is struggling to find a new home.

Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) has been calling for a school, sports club, disability organisation, or even a team of community groups to take over Rent-A-Plate – an initiative which parks at markets or events and lends out eating utensils for a gold coin donation, reducing waste while fundraising.

The service has the potential to raise between $300 and $500 each time its wheeled out, TIS technical advisor Kelvin Passfield says.

“Our goal is to save the rubbish, it’s not to make the money,” Passfield says.

“For us, it’s about reducing waste on the night – and changing people’s perceptions about rubbish as well, so they can try minimising rubbish at home.

“We want to leave it to someone else to make the money. But, despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to encourage anyone to run it.”

Passfield – who has been a society member since 1996, and working for the non-government organisation since 2013 – says the original concept for Rent-A-Plate came from Apii Te Uki Ou, about five years ago.

“It started as a fundraiser for them. We got some donations for some of the materials, and we helped them set it up,” he says.

“They did it for a couple of years, quite successfully – but it needs someone to drive it, and the person who was mainly behind it left. It lasted a little while after that, then it just didn’t get renewed.”

With a US$23,000 (NZ$38,669) grant from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, TIS relaunched the initiative earlier this year.

CITC also helped sponsor the service’s return, while Vonnias and Mareko provided support as well.

After trialling Rent-A-Plate with a pop-up tent at Saturday’s Punanga Nui Market, the society decided to put together a purpose-built trailer with a kitchen sink, solar-powered battery for the water pump, and a gas-operated hot water system.

“It’s a fully self-contained unit. We use our own power, our own water,” Passfield says.

The society started wheeling the new trailer to the Muri Night Market, to increase the number of days the service was in use and heighten its impact, Passfield says.

“We ran it for a month or so, just to tease out any teething problems and make sure we knew what we were doing,” he says.

“There is a lot of support from the tourists. Some people will put a dollar in. Some people will give you $20 and say, ‘This is a good cause.’ You’ll make the good money on the nights where you’ve got a few people like that, who appreciate what you’re trying to do.”

The society never intended to run it for themselves, Passfield says.

“Our intention was to put it out to an organisation, or a collection of different organisations to share it, as a fundraiser for them. We’ve approached schools, sporting organisations, disability groups.

“We’ve put a couple of Facebook posts up about it. A lot of people like it and tag other people, but it hasn’t gone beyond that.”

Passfield says if a group expresses interest in operating the trailer, the society would join them for the first few runs and train them to use it.

The last time the society operated the service was about a month ago, Passfield says.

“We’ve also lent or rented it out for a couple of events,” he says.

“We would encourage any interested groups, organisations, whatever to contact us.

“If anyone wants to hire it out for a private event, we’re quite open to that.”

TIS can be reached by phoning 21144, emailing, or visiting the office in Avarua.