Trash into treasure

Hawke’s Bay is one of the country’s biggest food producers, which also means we are one of the biggest creators of food production waste. 

But an exciting new project is set to tackle this.

The recently launched initiative – Sustainable is Attainable Hawke’s Bay – is working to change trash into treasure, not only keeping waste from landfill but developing high-value by-products. With around 30 local businesses already committed to the project, it’s off to a strong start.

Nicky Solomon from Food & Beverage Hawke’s Bay is the coordinator for the project. “It kicked off at the end of 2021 after I had heard about the project in Timaru. Sustainable is Attainable Timaru has been running since 2019 and, with the backing of the district council’s development agency Venture Timaru, they’re already into the advanced research and feasibility stage.”

“I immediately saw the potential for Hawke’s Bay to do something similar, and to join the dots with another similar region,” she says.

Nicky approached a number of organisations, including the 3R Group, for both technical support and funding. “Funding is crucial for a project of this kind. Fortunately, we have received support from all five Hawke’s Bay councils, Callaghan Innovation, Massey University and the Bioresource Processing Alliance,” Nicky says. 

The project was a good fit for us at 3R with our focus on reimagining waste, so two of the three interns working on the project, Olivia Cotter (University of Waikato) and Sara Dooney (Canterbury University) are based at our offices, with a third intern, Nelson Harper, based at Massy University. 

Over the past three months this team has been working with Nicky and Natalie Martin, 3R’s materials innovation manager, to identify and focus on a number of waste streams from the region’s primary industry. These range from the pomaces (pulps and other by products) from processing fruits and vegetables to the plastic wrap around pallets, and tanalised (chemically treated) timber like fence posts.

While some of these, such as food waste, can and are used for composting, other materials end up in landfill. Pallet wrap, for example, is a widely used and recyclable type of plastic, but because it’s soft rather than rigid processors can’t accept it. Tanalised timber presents a different set of challenges as the chemicals in the wood need to be neutralising before high-value uses for the timber can be found.

Organic waste, which accounts for tens of thousands of tonnes a year, currently has the highest potential for having value added to it.

For example, pomaces from juicing fruit and vegetables could be further refined to extract high value compounds like essential oils, antioxidants, dyes and enzymes. The ‘waste’ from this process could then be processed further to extract other commodities like sugars, starches, proteins and cellulose.


First published by BayBuzz. Click here to read the full article.


Visit Sustainable is Attainable Hawke’s Bay and Food & Beverage Hawke’s Bay for more information.


Article added: Thursday 28 April 2022


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