Turning Waste Into A Valuable Resource

In a society where waste is inevitable, local legend Michael Sly views it not as a problem, but as a resource for the community in Queenstown while working to close the loop and change mindsets for good.

Hear from more changemakers making a difference – watch another episode.

In this episode of From the Ground Up:

  • You’ll meet Queenstown local, Michael Sly who views food waste not as a problem, but as a challenge to solve.
  • Discover how Michael’s innovative ways of working with local businesses and the community are closing the waste loop and changing mindsets for good.
  • Learn how nutrient-dense waste can be transformed into a valuable resource to help feed people in need, instead of going to landfill.

Michael Sly is a born and bred Queenstown local who spends his days composting and his nights distilling wilding pines.

He’s come up with a simple, cost-effective solution to reintroduce vital biodiversity to Queenstown’s environment by producing compost made from hotel food waste and mulch from wilding pines (introduced Douglas Fir trees that threaten local ecology).

Ten years ago Michael started harvesting the invasive trees and turning them into essential oil.

“We generate a lot of mulch from the post-distillation process of making the essential oils. Once we started generating heaps of mulch, we thought, what could we do with it? That’s when I got the idea of doing hot composting.”

“The cool thing about waste when managed correctly is it's actually an amazing resource. I like the challenge of seeing really large volumes of what people think is a problem and turning it into something positive.”

Michael has focused his efforts on hotel food waste, collecting up to 20 tonnes per month, which forms the basis of nutrient-dense soil that is used around the basin for food growing and native plant growing.

“When it comes to food waste, there's three different tiers. At the top tier, we have Kiwi Harvest. They make sure any food that can be eaten is picked up and distributed to all the local food banks. The second tier is groups like Baskets of Blessings which take food that can still be eaten and turn it into meals. Then I sit at the very bottom. I'm the catchment that ensures nothing gets to landfill and all that food waste is turned into compost.”

“We have a very successful tourism industry in Queenstown. As part of that whole tourism experience, people are staying in hotels and eating food, so naturally, waste is created. So when you can take advantage of that concentrated nutrient-dense food waste, it can become an amazing resource.”

“Sustainability is really about how many positive steps you can make in a sequence. You don't have to take giant leaps. It’s important to play and try things out. Take little steps in the right direction and you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.”

From The Ground Up video series digs deep into the stories of local businesses building a regenerative future within the Queenstown community. From pioneering world-firsts to grassroots initiatives, each episode celebrates those making a difference to the environment and their communities, from the ground up.

Hear from more changemakers making a difference to Queenstown’s environment and community – watch another episode of From the Ground Up.

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