Upcycling initiative goes from strength to strength

Last Updated : 31 Jan 2017
Upcycling initiative goes from strength to strength (1)

West Auckland social enterprise TAT Upcycle has grown from fledgling start-up to emerging business with a bright future thanks in part to funding received from Auckland Council.

TAT Upcycle creates planter boxes and furniture from heat-treated, chemical-free pallet wood that would otherwise end up in the waste stream. The main workforce includes participants from the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODT).

Recovery first

One of TAT Upcycle’s founders, Te Atatu local Hone Pene, says the initiative is all about recovery first.

“Some of our team have had very real problems with deeply moving stories. Theirs are stories about long-term addiction and sometimes even jail. But they are also stories that show that with the right support, people in recovery can become valuable, contributing members of our community.” 

EcoMatters Environmental Trust has been working with TAT Upcycle to mentor and support the enterprise. The trust also provides critical back-office support, such as HR (human resources) support and payroll management.

Pleased at progress

EcoMatters CEO Damon Birchfeld is pleased with the progress the venture has made over the last year.

“Like any new venture, the focus for the first year has been working to understand what’s financially achievable, what the products are that will provide a sustainable future and create jobs, and what the projects are that will create awareness about treating waste as a resource – it’s fair to say we’ve learned a lot of lessons on the way.”

These lessons have led to a focus on developing core products that can be sold online and at local markets as well as servicing larger projects within the community, says Birchfield.

Examples include the manufacture and installation of planter boxes at Housing New Zealand’s new Waterview homes, work on the Waitākere Library Henderson beautification project, a sensory table for complex needs students at Arohanui School at Rutherford Primary School and an installation made from upcycled pallets, recycled glass and dryer tumblers at Kelston Community Centre.

Grant awarded

In 2015, Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation Innovation Fund (WMIF) awarded TAT Upcycle a grant of $50,000.

Ian Stupple, Auckland Council’s General Manager Waste Solutions, says the WMIF funding panel was impressed with TAT Upcycle’s vision and passion.

“What really stood out was the approach, which shows genuine innovation in resource recovery and benefits the community – particularly for those who are recovering from addiction,” he says.

Mr Stupple says the council has been very pleased with the work to date and awarded the enterprise a second WMIF grant in the 2016 funding round for $15,000, to support the scaling up of this project.

TAT Upcycle and sister project TAT Nursery (which provides native seedlings for local restoration projects) are now looking to formally incorporate under the He Tohu Aroha Trust in early 2017.

Upcycling initiative goes from strength to strength
TAT Upcycle founder Hone Pene in the TAT Nursery. 
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