Distillery ramps up sustainable initiatives
Award-winning liqueur and spirit-maker Koakoa is doubling down on its groundbreaking spirit crates system as it ramps up its commitment to be one of New Zealand’s most sustainable distilleries. Their spirit crates system was initially launched in 2019 by co-owners Chris Barber and Bec Kay in response to the excessive amount of cardboard and glass being […]
Award-winning liqueur and spirit-maker Koakoa is doubling down on its groundbreaking spirit crates system as it ramps up its commitment to be one of New Zealand’s most sustainable distilleries.
Their spirit crates system was initially launched in 2019 by co-owners Chris Barber and Bec Kay in response to the excessive amount of cardboard and glass being discarded in their sector after just one use. The company has received a $5000 grant from its local Council, enabling them to purchase an additional 200 plastic crates, doubling the scheme.
After their gin, vodka and limoncello is delivered in the green plastic crates, their hospitality clients return used bottles (in the crates) to the factory. After being washed, sanitised, and refilled the bottles are returned to their clients. Each bottle is used up to seven times before ultimately heading for recycling.
Chris says to date, their scheme has saved 1600 bottles, delivering more than just financial savings. “On average, our bottles cost about $1.90 each, and our labels cost $0.70 each. In just over a year, we have saved our customers more than $4,000 and cut the need for an additional 133 cardboard boxes. With the support of the new grant, we can now double the impact and the savings. It will reduce our environmental footprint further and help our customers reduce theirs.
“Most of our customers want to reduce their waste, and this is part of a wider change. If you make your staff aware bottles can be reused, they treat them better, and then start thinking the same way with all the other things they use,” says Chris.
Eilish Andrews, Waste Minimisation Advisor for the Kāpiti Coast District Council, says Koakoa’s bottle swap scheme addresses the top of the waste hierarchy: Reduce & Reuse, and says it will lead to long-term and measurable waste prevention through the application of circular economy principles.
In addition to the crates, Chris and Bec have also sourced a recyclable alternative to the 12ml tasting cups the company must use under Liquor Licensing laws, saving thousands of plastic cups from the landfill each year.
“After a big event, we see bins full of plastic tasting cups heading straight for the landfill, which horrifies us. We’ve always brought home our cups to recycle locally to make sure they are recycled, but when new regulations came into play, where only plastics numbered 1, 2 or 5 could be recycled we had to put our thinking caps on – as our cups were a number 6.
“We’ve rolled our sleeves up and worked with another Kiwi company to develop an alternative that can be recycled here and around most of New Zealand. It’s important for us to be leaders in our industry because sustainability sits at the heart of what we do,” says Chris.
The scheme is initially available across the wider Wellington region, as Koakoa works on the logistics of taking it nationwide.
Pictured above: Chris, daughter Ruby and Bec (photography by Joanna Piatek).
Below: The new green crates system.