News Wastebusters will close the doors of its Alexandra operation at the end of June has left Central Otago locals reeling.
Last week, the social enterprise announced its Boundary Rd-based reuse shop and recycling services were no longer commercially viable and would cease to operate on June 30.
Wastebusters was stopping all of its recycling services in Alexandra, Cromwell and surrounding rural communities, including to business customers.
Its Wanaka operation was not affected.
Self-confessed Wastebusters ‘‘frequent flyer’’ Anita McLaren said she was ‘‘absolutely gutted’’ by the news.
‘‘I couldn’t believe it, it’s a real shock.’’
The Alexandra woman had a ‘‘Wastebusters first’’ approach to shopping and had created a backyard haven with items she had sourced — including her back fence made of garden forks and spades.
‘‘You go in there and can get whatever you need — you can guarantee you’re going to find it there.’’
She was concerned about the staff and members of the community who relied on the reuse shop to source low-cost, quality items.
‘‘What’s going to happen now? What are the staff going to do?’’
Claire Scherp, of Alexandra, echoed those sentiments and said news of the closure had left many questions.
‘‘Everybody is feeling the pinch with the cost of living, so what happens now?
‘‘I just don’t think this is ideal for our community.’’
She was concerned how the closure would impact on recycling services in the district; the kerbside waste collection red bins were set to reduce in size in July and there were limited options for taking larger items.
‘‘I like the idea of reusing what we’ve already got . . . we’re quite a throwaway society,’’ she said.
‘‘We don’t have the space [in landfill] because if we carry on the trajectory we’re on with waste . . . where do we put it?’’
She questioned what would happen to the land when Wastebusters vacated it.
Wastebusters general manager Tony Pfeiffer said the organisation’s Wanaka operation had subsidised the Alexandra site since it took it on from Central Otago Wastebusters in 2015, and with the lease due for renewal, it was time to face up to ‘‘commercial realities’’.
The Central Otago enterprise was in financial difficulty when it was handed over eight years ago and now, with ‘‘volatile’’ commodity markets and intense competition in recycling markets, the organisation could not ‘‘hang on any longer in Alexandra’, he said.
‘‘We’ve had to make the hard call that it’s not financially viable for us to continue to operate on the Alexandra site.’’
‘‘As a social enterprise, we need to ensure that we are financially viable for our people, our place and our impact, so we can continue to work for zero waste into the future. It wouldn’t be responsible of us to commit to operating a loss-making site into the future.’’
The decision to withdraw from Alexandra was only made recently, he said.
He hoped another community organisation would pick up the baton to offer services.
Plans for winding down of the site were ‘‘still forming’’, but looking after the eight permanent staff and additional seasonal contractors was a top priority.
Plans would also be made for the Wastebusters cats Buster and Sid, who were ‘‘well-loved icons’’ in the community, Mr Pfeiffer said.
Wastebusters iscontinuing to negotiate with Central Otago District Council (CODC) to see if there are any ways Wastebusters can continue contributing to waste reduction.
It will hand over the community recycling drop-off at Boundary Rd to the district council on June 30.
CODC infrastructure manager Quinton Penniall said it was ‘‘sad’’ to see a valued community service close down and the council was looking at opportunities to continue Wastebusters’ involvement in the community providing education and waste minimisation initiatives.
‘‘It’s always sad to see a valued community service like Wastebusters’ Alexandra reuse shop close down. We know how much the shop and Wastebusters have meant to Central Otago over the years, and we understand the difficult decision that the team has had to make,’’ he said.
CODC was also interested in talking to community groups who might want to re-establish a reuse shop at the Boundary Rd site.