Clothing for compost

This project has now finished! Results below.

The objective - To decrease the amount of textile and organic waste to landfill from Upper Hutt.  To increase consciousness about the benefits of composting and re-purposing textiles.  To test the theory that if waste becomes currency will we still waste it?


What is Clothing for Compost?

Clothing for compost is a place where you can exchange your household organic food waste for store credits.  Your store credits can be used to off-set the cost of purchases in store.  In store we will have good quality second hand clothing for sale as well as some designer re-purposed clothing, household items and rescued resources for your own art and craft projects.

Yes, waste as currency - how do you feel about your potato peelings now?  Are you suddenly seeing them with new eyes?

Food scraps will be composted in worm bins, traditional compost bins and bokashi bins.  We will test lots of methods and feed back to the community what works best and the pro's and con's of each method.





How do I get involved?

We are located at 123 Main Street, Upper Hutt.

  • Stop putting your food scraps in the bin and bring them to the pop up shop. We will weigh it and record this in our very cool database. Your store credits will be calculated and you can use them or save them.

  • Like us on facebook at Rework Network and share with your friends and neighbours.

  • Come and visit us in store and bring your friends and work colleagues.

  • We are currently collecting clothing and textiles. If you are having a clear out and are passionate about what we are doing and would like to give your clothing or textiles to us, then this is what you do:

  • call, text or email us your name and address and we will drop off a collection bag or two for you to fill - 02102425715,

  • read our list of things we collect (listed below) and fill your bag/s, once you are ready contact us again and we will collect your bag/s, it's that simple

Profits from the second hand clothing sales will be directed to agencies and Trusts working to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Upper Hutt young people.

This is very much an initiative to grow strength and connection in the Upper Hutt community, so you know what you give benefits your local community.


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Survey results and insights

The ‘Clothing for Compost’ experiment project was an amazing, challenging, intense and hugely rewarding experience and I’m very grateful to the Upper Hutt Community for getting on board in various amazing and wonderful ways.  From the people who donated clothing, bought clothing, contributed food scraps, emailed, asked questions, filled in surveys, talked about their views and more.

This was at the very heart a community engagement project and I was privileged to meet a lot of interesting, committed and understanding members of our community.  This project helped me build knowledge about our community, hear views on food waste, recycling, politics, economics and everything in between.

I learnt a massive amount and I got to understand the issues and concerns about waste in our community and the perceptions and principles that drive our behaviour.  It was a very enlightening experience.

Together through this project the food scraps contributors diverted 1065kgs of food scraps over an 11-week period.

As part of the ‘Clothing for Compost’ project I conducted two surveys one was a general waste survey aimed at Upper Hutt residents who didn’t participate in the clothing for compost project.  The second survey was a contributor survey for those individuals who contributed food waste through the project.

Project survey results available on request - email

The general survey had 258 respondents.  Of the 62 individual food scrap contributors to the project there were 32 respondents to the contributor survey.

Learning from the survey results

Contributor survey

The most surprising findings from the contributor survey was that the credit incentive offered was not the biggest motivation for participating in the project.  The biggest incentive was doing a good thing for the environment, followed by reducing waste and connecting to the community. Connecting to the community was the most surprising result for me.  It is a great indicator of what could work for further community engagement around an environmental issue in our community.

I was under the impression that people needed a motivation or incentive to do the right thing with regards to waste minimisation and it turned out I was right, it just wasn’t the motivation or incentive I thought it might be.  It turned out that the platform to come together was enough for most of the contributors surveyed.  The results also show that as the project progressed, the credit incentive motivation remained constant whilst all the other motivations increased.

I hoped that understanding the benefits of separating food scraps from general waste by physically doing it, would encourage many individual households to start composting at home.  The survey results show 22 respondents are considering composting at home.  Other positive but not surveyed results include, participants offering their food scraps on social media pages to other members of the community, two participants talked about blending fruit and vegetable scraps in a blender and pouring it directly on their gardens.  This showed participants were finding ways to solve their food waste problems in different and innovative ways and they were engaging and talking to each other about these solutions. This was not only community engagement gold, but it demonstrated behaviour change and mindset shift.

An interesting result from the contributor survey which is also seen in the general survey is that the most common reason people are not composting at home is because they don’t know what to do.  Followed closely by the pests and smells issue.  With some specific and targeted education this could help more individuals realise the benefits of composting at home.

The amount of spending on waste removal was quite high and this surprised me. It is an issue that can be used to engage individuals about waste minimisation and how separating waste can reduce waste collection costs.  This is something a lot of respondents started to understand during this project and something I would talk to contributors about when they visited.  Some contributors had completely changed their waste system at home after starting on this project and cut their waste costs considerably.

The benefits findings were remarkable and again doing the right thing or feeling like you were doing the right thing was the leading benefit!

General survey

The most interesting thing in reading the findings in the general survey were some of the mindsets that persisted which resulted in negative and detrimental behaviour around waste minimisation.  Granted this isn’t a large sample set or a particularly targeted sample of the community, but the comments were never the less enlightening.   

The general survey gives a good baseline on the general attitudes and behaviours around food scraps, what’s being done with them, how much households pay for waste collection or removal and the possible barriers to composting at home.

It was interesting to see that one of the main barriers to composting at home is not knowing what to do.  This is a great indicator for any further wide spread community education programmes that Council is developing.  Another indicator is targeting education around the correlation between separating waste and waste removal costs.

If nothing else, it makes very interesting reading!

In summary

I’m very grateful to the Upper Hutt community and to the UHCC for the grant of $1866 towards the composting part of this project.  Thanks also to the team at UHCC who helped and supported me through this project, namely Sarah Cole, James McKibbin, Phil Gorman and Sarah Garnham.

Thanks also City Councillors Angela McLeod, Dave Wheeler and Steve Taylor who visited me in the shop.

Upper Hutt has a unique waste minimisation landscape which centres around the decision to remove kerbside recycling as a rates funded service in favour of a user pays service.  The management of that decision resulted in some detrimental mindsets to become ingrained which now negatively impact the community’s behaviour around waste minimisation.  Our waste minimisation rates have dropped considerably, and they are now the lowest in the country.

We can’t change the past, but we can impact the future and these mindsets can be changed.

This project above all else was a demonstration that with careful consideration and thought we can get our community to own their responsibilities with respect to waste minimisation.  We can move them from their blame mindset to one of taking back control and owning their responsibilities and following that up with action.

Aside from anything else we must work together, there is no way round that!  For us to make any headway in re-engaging Upper Hutt in waste minimisation we must invest in waste minimisation projects and specific, targeted education and engagement projects.

This project produced some fantastic results and considering the relatively low financial investment I think the impacts have been significant, positive and far reaching, showing that investment in these types of projects can create impactful change.  There is so much to draw on regarding moving Upper Hutt forward and I hope we can keep that motivation going, in partnership.