Sustainable Queenstown began in 2015 with a group of friends at the pub brainstorming ways to encourage businesses to get rid of plastic bags and straws. The group was initially called the Anti Plastic Population, but in 2018 they became a charitable trust, changed their name to Sustainable Queenstown, and broadened their focus to eliminating waste. That’s when DISHrupt was founded to support local events to reduce waste through the provision of reusable servewear.

A more mindful approach to managing waste at events 

Queenstown winter light festival, LUMA heard about DISHrupt and got in touch. LUMA coordinator Tim Buckley explains: “When the Sustainable Queenstown team started talking about improving sustainability at events, our ears pricked up. We were planning our second installation in the Queenstown Gardens, and we were very conscious of the fact we had a responsibility to make sure we didn't create a pile of garbage at the end of our event.”

“As we spent more time with Sustainable Queenstown, their ideas chimed with our own thoughts around the throwaway philosophy of most events and festivals. Restrictions placed on glassware at events make it a lot easier for vendors to go down the disposable route. But that’s not an inevitability. It’s something we can change. So that first year, we invested in DISHrupt and gave them the opportunity to scale by buying some reusable serveware and donating that to DISHrupt as our contribution to their activities.”

“Becoming a zero waste event matters to us for a few reasons. We're all being confronted with the consequences of our wasteful culture and Queenstown has set carbon zero targets as part of its intent to become a regenerative community. LUMA is here for the long game, so zero-waste needs to be a standard operating procedure, not just a nice to have. Also, if you give people respect and a chance to be respectful, you create a better event environment. People come to the gardens in a respectful, curious mood, and we encourage that with the soundscapes and the installations. LUMA is the type of event that lends itself to managing waste in a careful way.” 

Person holding a plate with wafflesDISHrupt servewear at Luma

From large-scale events to small meetings

LUMA has partnered with DISHrupt for every event since. Sustainable Queenstown trustee and DISHrupt coordinator Lucy Deuble explains how DISHrupt has continued to grow. “After the first LUMA in 2018, the Sustainable Queenstown team had a package to take to other large-scale events. We’ve worked with the Arrowtown Autumn Festival and the Lake Hayes A&P Show". 

Sustainable Queenstown also started what Lucy affectionately calls ‘small DISHrupt’, their reusable hire service. “Meetings and conferences that don’t want to use disposable plates and cups can hire our reusable serve ware for their event. We box up their order, drop it off, and pick it up. All they have to do is wash the dishes. We do events as small as a workshop for 10 people right up to big conferences for hundreds of delegates. No event is too small.” 

DISHrupt stock hundreds of large plates, side plates, plastic tumblers, knives, forks, and spoons. In 2021 they partnered with Queenstown-based reusable coffee cup maker Chunky, to offer metal insulated cups for hot and cold beverages.

Festival goers enjoying live music at the Arrowtown Autumn Festival Pie, Pint and Pinot EventArrowtown Autumn Festival

Becoming a blueprint for zero-waste events

“DISHrupt aims to be a blueprint for supporting event organisers to be zero-waste." says Lucy. "That starts with embedding waste-free requirements in resource consents, so councils can say to event organisers, 'If you don't have this zero-waste framework in place, you can't operate your event here'. But it’s also about having resources and operating procedures to help event organisers plan a zero-waste event. Offering a zero-waste event service is only one part of the picture, and we don't want to be half of the solution. We want to be the total package, so it’s about supporting regional councils and event organisers.”

“There are now events out there that are completely waste free. If you don't have your own knife and fork, you don't get disposable cutlery. It only takes a few brave events to make that stand to show that the world doesn't crumble.”

Burger and fries served on DISHrupt plateBurger served on DISHrupt reusable plate

How to use DISHrupt at your event

Lucy has advice for event organisers keen to work with DISHrupt. “Vendors need to know upfront that you’re not using single-use serve ware, you’ll need to confirm the food your vendors are serving fits DISHrupt serveware.”

“Then, we'll need to get an estimate on the number of people you’re expecting - the size of our team depends on the size of your event. The Lake Hayes A&P show had four and a half thousand attendees and we had three runners, two people washing dishes, and two dryers. Whereas on the busiest night at LUMA, we had a team of 17. Some events seek funding to cover the cost of DISHrupt, others increase their ticket price a small amount.”

“On event day we set up dish return stations everywhere. There will be plenty of return buckets so people wandering around with dirty dishes can return them easily. Then we ensure all your vendors are stocked with the reusable serve ware they need. A team of DISHrupt runners collect dirty dishes from the return stations and redistribute clean items. We ask your vendors how many portions they think they'll sell and when their peak periods will be so we can ensure clean dishes are returned in time and they never run out.”

Tim from LUMA also has some advice for event organisers. “This isn't just a fad. The compliance side of events will be very focused on waste issues in the future. So, embrace it now. The end result might be that events cost a bit more. But people can go away knowing they didn't create a pile of rubbish. It’s important to be open, explain why you’re charging extra for reusable serve ware, and encourage people to bring keep cups. Communication is key. That and lots of event signage showing people what they're supposed to do and how the system works.”

Group photo of DISHrupt staff working at an eventDISHrupt team at LUMA

The best way to support DISHrupt is to use DISHrupt

“If you're attending an event ask for a reusable cup or plate. Supply really does come from demand, and as consumers, we can be a driving force. The other day I went into a new cafe. I’d forgotten my keep cup, so I asked for a loan cup. The owner said, ‘We don’t have them, but do you think that's something we should consider?’ I encouraged her to look into Chunky. A few days later I ran into the sustainability ambassador for Chunky, and she told me they're on board. One single person asking for a sustainable solution can have a big impact.”

The power of demand works in the business world as well. Lucy says, “If you’re hosting a conference or an event in Queenstown, ask your event organiser to make your event waste free. Conferences are huge here, so if a few requests like that make their way to the head honchos of big event companies, that makes a big change.”

If you’re putting on a meeting, conference, or event, and you don't want to use single-use serve ware, Lucy says DISHrupt would love to help. Learn more about DISHrupt, and how they might be able to help reduce waste at your next event, here: