This guide covers Central Otago District only. For other parts of the Otago Region, please refer to the Zero Waste in Otago homepage.
We love it when you share our guides with others – please do so by sharing the link to our website, rather than copying and pasting our work and reproducing it elsewhere.
NB: All our regional guides cover as many low-waste options as we could find for:
- Kitchen and food packaging
- Cleaning products
- Bathroom products
Scroll down to view each category.
At the end of the guide, we also list community groups, council services and ideas for tricky waste streams, so make sure you check that out too!
FOOD OPTIONS (I.E. STORES THAT OFFER LOOSE ITEMS WHICH YOU CAN PUT, UNPACKAGED, INTO YOUR OWN BYO BAGS/CONTAINERS)
Lots of pantry staples – from flours, grains and rice, through to condiments, spices, legumes, nuts, seeds and liquid foods – usually come in single-use packets. Here, we list shops that stock all manner of pantry foods loose in bulk bins (or which at least have an option for you to avoid unnecessary packaging), so that you can put these ingredients straight into your own bags, jars, containers and bottles, and skip the packaging!
- Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street, Alexandra – offers a wide array of dried food in bulk/unpackaged (including, but not limited to, nuts, seeds, cereals, grains, legumes, flours, dried fruit, pasta, and baking goods like baking soda and baking powder), a range of spices, sweets, treats and snacks, and liquid foods like vinegars, oils, honey, syrups etc. They also have a peanut butter extruder, just BYO jar! All Bin Inns across the country offer a 5% discount if you bring your own bags and containers.
- Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra – stocks fresh dates unpackaged and also offers refills of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, tamari, and maple syrup (just BYO clean bottle). Thrive also orders in bulk organic dried goods that they repack in store, but you can BYO bags/containers for these, just drop them your containers off with staff and they’ll refill them for you (note, you might not get what you want immediately because it depends on what’s been newly ordered in etc., but just go in and have a chat about it). You might want to suggest to the store that they replace/supplement their repacked bulk items with bulk bins from which customers’ bags/containers can be filled on the spot (bulk bins don’t have to be huge, could just be large glass jars on shelving).
- Supermarkets – most supermarkets have bulk bin/pick and mix sections with wholefoods (BYO bags for these). However they’re pretty expensive, often more so than equivalent ingredients in packets (bah!), and generally pricier than the bulk bins at Bin Inn. But look out for when things in the bulk bin aisle in supermarkets are on special because sometimes you can get a good deal!
Places that sell unpackaged meat, sausages, smallgoods, seafood, cheese and/or deli foods who will happily put your unwrapped purchases straight into a BYO container – woohoo!
- The Fridge Butchery Delicatessen, 48 Tarbert Street, Alexandra – get a range of unpackaged meat, olives, salads, smoked salmon and unpackaged cuts of some cheeses like brie straight into BYO containers – woo!
- The Fridge Butchery Delicatessen Cromwell, 9 The Mall, Cromwell – sells unpackaged meat and cheese off the wheel through the deli cabinet, just BYO container to have it put into!
- Sausage Alley, 27 Sunderland Street, Clyde – only open Fridays 8am-5pm. We didn’t get there when it was open, so hopefully they have their meats, sausages and small goods unpackaged so you can BYO container – if not, just ask!
- Unpackaged live mussels – there are a few stores around town that stock unpackaged live mussels at self-serve counters. We put them straight into upcycled ice cream containers/BYO containers rather than the plastic bags the stores usually provide. You can find unpackaged live mussels at New World Alexandra, 89 Centennial Ave, Alexandra.
- Try your luck with BYO containers at the supermarket delis – Most supermarkets have a deli section offering meat, seafood, olives and other antipasti, salads, lunch foods and more – all unpackaged. Some supermarkets will allow you to BYO container for these goods, while others won’t. It can be hit and miss, often depending on the staff member you talk to. For example, New World and PAK’nSAVE supermarkets have a flexible franchise model which means they can usually make their own in store decisions about whether to allow BYO containers or not, whereas pretty much any Countdown will not accept BYO containers. It’s always worth asking though!
The following stores bake and sell unpackaged bread and bakery goods (some things in some of these stores might be pre-packed or wrapped in cling film, just avoid those things!). So all you need to do is BYO bag to put the bread/bakery goods into. Some places will bag up their bread later in the day, so you want to get in there early enough before they do that (i.e. before 1pm).
- The Courthouse Café, 8 Centennial Ave, Alexandra – bakes and sells some beautiful bread in-store which you can get without packaging, just BYO bag!
- Unpackaged bread is also available at the Alexandra Friday Food and Produce Market (see below).
- Most supermarkets (and even some Four Squares) stock unpackaged bread, bread rolls and/or bakery goods in their bakery section – just pop them into your BYO bags!
Markets and other low-waste goodies you might not have thought of
- Markets – No two ways about it, if you want to get a good source of unpackaged, often locally grown, produce, markets are the place to frequent! Shopping local is also a great way to reduce waste because the food and goods don’t have to be packed up for travelling long distances and because you can have direct one-on-one conversations with the grower or producer, explaining that you don’t want their beautiful product in a packet, and brainstorming alternatives together (a kind of conversation/collaboration that is very difficult to have with a supermarket!!) For example, even if the seller has already packaged-up the goods, often you can ask to have them transferred to your own bag/container and have the seller keep their bag/container for reuse. Or ask the seller if they ever take back returned empties (whether glass jars for preserves or glass pottles for cosmetics/beauty products) for sterilisation and refill. Often the answer is yes, and you’ll also find that there are plenty of farmers and producers in around Central Otago already doing this! Check out the Alexandra Friday Food and Produce Market (every Friday from 10-2 at Pioneer Park, Alexandra) or Cromwell Farmers’ and Craft Market, Cromwell Heritage Precinct (9am-1pm, every Sunday from Labour Weekend through to mid-April).
- Trade Aid – Trade Aid‘s 2kg sugar bags are also great for upcycling as bulk bin bags, and are home compostable once they do wear out. You can get Trade Aid sugar at New World Alexandra, 89 Centennial Ave, Alexandra and New World Cromwell, 2 Murray Terrace, Cromwell.
- Milk – Look out for Windy Ridge milk in reusable glass bottles – Windy Ridge takes back your empty bottles for sterilisation and reuse. So, when you buy your first bottle, you pay slightly more to cover the deposit on your bottles. When you’ve finished the milk, return the empty bottles from where you buy the full ones, and you can either have your deposit refunded or just buy your next bottle of fresh milk (at a lower price the second time on). You can get Windy Ridge milk at Fresh Choice Cromwell, 1-3 Illes Street. Though not technically, in Central Otago, it’s also available at Blue Spur Butchery, 13a Ross Place, Lawrence. In Alexandra you can get milk powder put into your own bag/container at Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street.
- Coffee – wherever possible, we encourage people to find places that sell whole or ground coffee beans unpackaged and have them put in BYO bags/containers. In Alexandra you can get coffee beans/ground beans put straight into your own bags/containers at Tin Goose Cafe, 22 Centennial Ave (from Unknown Chapter Coffee Roasters), or at Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street.
- Beer – look out for places that sell beer on tap and BYO bottles/flagons to fill up. We found locally brewed craft beer on tap at The Victoria Store Brewery, 34 Sunderland Street, Clyde and Seahorse Brewery, 12 Pinot Noir Drive, Cromwell; and a mix of craft and classic beer, both local and otherwise, at Super Liquor Alexandra, 33 Centennial Ave, and Super Liquor Cromwell, Barry Avenue. Or else, most liquor stores do ‘swappa crates’ of beer – i.e. crates of twelve 745ml bottles of classic NZ beer (e.g. Lion Red/Brown, Speights, Tui, Export Gold etc.) which can be returned (when the bottles are empty) so that the bottles can then be sterilised and reused (a better outcome for glass bottles than recycling because reusing the same bottle over and over requires way less energy and resources than recycling).
KITCHEN/FOOD PACKAGING ALTERNATIVES
Reusable drinking vessels (cups and water bottles)
Say “no more” to disposable takeaway coffee cups and plastic water bottles by getting yourself reusables instead! Get reusable water bottles at Wrapt Gifts & Decor, 66 Centennial Ave, Alexandra (metal and glass) and Paper Plus Alexandra, 64 Centennial Ave, Alexandra (metal).
There are lots of options for reusable takeaway coffee cups:
- Cromwell is running the CupCycling initiative, so ask about this when you’re next at a cafe in Cromwell!
- Get the Joco brand at Tin Goose Cafe, 22 Centennial Ave, Alexandra
- Get the NZ-made Cuppa Coffee Cup at Paper Plus Alexandra, 64 Centennial Ave, Alexandra (which also stocks porcelain reusable takeaway coffee cups)
- The glass Sol brand is available at Wrapt Gifts & Decor, 66 Centennial Ave, Alexandra
- Nom Nom, 23 Holloway Street, Clyde stocks the Express Cup brand.
Say “no straw thanks” next time you order a drink out and either use your mouth to drink, or get yourself a reusable metal straw instead. If you’re keen on a reusable metal straw, you can get them from Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra; Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street, Alexandra; New World Alexandra, 89 Centennial Ave; Touch Yarns, 19 Sunderland Street, Clyde; Paper Plus Alexandra, 64 Centennial Ave, Alexandra and Paper Plus Cromwell, 19 The Mall, Cromwell.
Alternatives to plastic cling wrap, plastic sandwich bags and tin foil
- Beeswax wrap – find at Unichem Alexandra, 4-6 Centennial Ave (the Munch brand), Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra (the Honeywrap brand), and Freeway Orchard, 180 State Highway 8B, Cromwell (although this one is wrapped in plastic). NOTE: making your own beeswax wrap is much cheaper than buying it pre-made. To make it yourself you need to get natural fibre fabric (cotton) and unpackaged beeswax. Touch Yarns, 19 Sunderland Street, Clyde is a great spot to get offcuts/discounted cotton fabric with pretty patterns, or keep a look out in second hand stores. Freeway Orchard, 180 State Highway 8B, Cromwell, sells unpackaged beeswax.
You can find dishbrushes with wooden handles and removable + replaceable, home compostable heads at Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra, and Go Bamboo veggie brushes (which can also be used as a dishbrush, and is home compostable) at Thrive and New World Alexandra, 89 Centennial Ave.
We also encourage people to move away from using dishclothes, sponges and bench wipes made out of synthetic material (as these leach microfibres and they’re also destined for landfill when they wear down) and to use natural fibre cloths instead. New World Alexandra, 89 Centennial Ave and Four Square Clyde, 5 Fraser Street, Clyde both stock the 100% cotton dishcloths. You can get the fancy Bianca Lorenne 100% cotton cloths at Touch Yarns, 19 Sunderland Street, Clyde, and locally knitted 100% cotton dishcloths at Gumnut Creations, Scotland Street, Roxburgh.
Refills of cleaning products
- Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street, Alexandra – stocks a wide range of both liquid and powdered cleaning products/ingredients you can fill your own bottles and containers with, including eco laundry powder and nappy wash. Note that the cleaners stocked in bulk at this Bin Inn are mostly not eco cleaners, so not really ‘zero waste’ if you include the household drain as a waste stream (which we do).
- Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra – offers bulk refills of Ecostore dishwashing and laundry liquid.
- Eco Planet laundry powder comes in a cardboard box with a cardboard scoop – no plastic lining! You can get it from New World Alexandra, 89 Centennial Ave, Alexandra.
- Alternatives to plastic pegs – get Go Bamboo clothes pegs (with a metal spring mechanism) from Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra and New World Alexandra, 89 Centennial Ave, Alexandra.
Ingredients for DIY cleaning products
- Baking soda and washing soda – available unpackaged in bulk bins/refills at Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street, Alexandra
- Vinegar – available unpackaged in bulk bins/refills at Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street, Alexandra (white vinegar and apple cider vinegar) and Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra (just apple cider vinegar).
Low Waste Dental Care
Bamboo toothbrushes are a great alternative to plastic toothbrushes because they have wooden, home compostable handles (though bristles are still plastic and need to be removed from the handle and put in your rubbish bin). You can get bamboo toothbrushes at Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra, Paper Plus Alexandra, 64 Centennial Ave, Alexandra, New World Alexandra, 89 Centennial Ave, Unichem Alexandra, 4-6 Centennial Ave, Alexandra Pharmacy, 60 Centennial Ave, Splurge/Touch Yarns, 19 Sunderland Street, Clyde, Cromwell Pharmacy, 22 The Mall, Cromwell, and Lake Dunstan Pharmacy, 2A The Mall, Cromwell.
Unpackaged Bars of Soap
It’s easy to get soap without packaging in Central Otago. The following stores sell totally naked bars of soap:
- Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra (including Ecostore bars)
- Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street, Alexandra
- Wrapt Gifts & Decor, 66 Centennial Ave, Alexandra
- Folklore Clyde, 19 Holloway Street, Clyde (made in-store)
- Creative Framing and Gifts, 25 The Mall, Cromwell
- Cromwell Pharmacy, 22 The Mall, Cromwell.
Bars for Shampoo/Shaving/Deodorant/Moisturiser
We’d encourage you to get your everyday toiletries – from shampoo through to shaving soap – in bar form, which means you totally avoid the plastic/aluminium bottles that liquid products usually come in!
- The Ethique range is popular and includes shampoo bars, conditioner bars, shaving bars, deodorant bars, moisturiser bars, etc. (all of Ethique‘s bars come in home compostable packaging). You can find them at Paper Plus Alexandra, 64 Centennial Ave, Alexandra (all of Ethique‘s bars come in home compostable packaging), and Paper Plus Cromwell, 19 The Mall, Cromwell.
- Pitstop Power – a Dunedin-made organic natural deodorant sold in bars that come in a cardboard box and wrapped in home compostable baking paper (while you can buy the initial plastic dispenser for the refills, we reckon you can just go straight for the refill and use it like a deodorant bar, skipping the need for the plastic dispenser). You can purchase these at Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra.
Reusable Menstrual Products
There are zero waste, low cost alternatives to disposable sanitary items like tampons and pads. You can buy menstrual cups at Fine Things Lingerie Boutique, 50 Tarbert Street, Alexandra, Alexandra Pharmacy, 60 Centennial Ave, Alexandrandand World Alexandra, and Lake Dunstan Pharmacy, 2A The Mall, Cromwell.
- Shaving – avoid plastic shavers that are designed to be disposable and go for 100% metal razors that will last you decades and only require the 100% metal and recyclable blades to be replaced (or sharpened with a leather strop!). And remember to use a bar of shaving soap instead of shaving foam that comes in an aerosol can – you’ll need a shaving brush to make this work. We didn’t find anywhere that sells razors (though you can usually get your local barber or hairdresser to order them for you wholesale), but shaving brushes are sold at Unichem Alexandra, 4-6 Centennial Ave, Alexandra and Alexandra Pharmacy, 60 Centennial Ave, Alexandra.
- Cotton Buds – Go Bamboo makes home compostable buds so you can avoid the single-use, unrecyclable plastic ones. Get them from Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra.
- Toilet paper – Thrive, 43 Tarbert Street, Alexandra, sells Greencane toilet paper (which is wrapped in home compostable packaging)
- Ingredients for homemade cosmetics/toiletries – Baking soda and epsom salts are available in bulk bins at Bin Inn Alexandra, 38 Tarbert Street.
COMMUNITY GROUPS, SUPPORTIVE NETWORKS, AND HELP WITH TRICKY WASTE STREAMS
- Food Waste – food waste and scraps going to landfill not only produces methane, but also represents the loss of an excellent resource that could be turned into compost to enrich our soil, or, if the discarded food was still edible, the loss of perfectly good food that could go to someone that wants to eat it. If you haven’t yet got a system for dealing with your food waste and are unsure where to start, you could ask a neighbour or friend to help you set up a compost, or you could go to a workshop run by Central Otago REAP, 14/20 Centennial Avenue, Alexandra which runs semi-regular composting workshops. Or, you might want to purchase a worm farm or bokashi bin – you can get subsidised bokashi bins from Health 2000 Alexandra, 50 Tarbert Street or Wastebusters Alexandra, Boundary Road (discount subsidised by Central Otago District Council), or a subsidised worm farm from Central Wormworx, Cromwell. Don’t forget about greenwaste too, which also doesn’t belong in landfill. You can drop greenwaste off at the Ranfurly, Roxburgh, Alexandra and Cromwell transfer stations for a small fee, where it will be mulched rather than landfilled.
- E-waste – electronic waste is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, with huge environmental implications because of the toxins this waste leaches, but also the loss of incredibly precious resources embedded in these items that are not recovered when the waste is dumped in landfill. Rather than throwing your broken electronics out – have you considered trying to get them repaired first? You could pay someone to do it, or look out for Repair or Fix-it Cafes where experts donate their time to fix people’s broken items for free at a designated repair event (usually run by community centres, churches or councils – perhaps ask if a centre near you might be interested in running a session). If your electronics really have given up the ghost, rather than chucking them out, take them to Wastebusters Alexandra, Boundary Road, for recycling and safe disposal (a small fee will be payable for the processing of the electronics for recycling).
- Wastebusters Alexandra, Boundary Road – Wastebusters Alexandra is wonderful and is run by Wanaka Wastebusters (long recognised as one of the leading community recyclers in the country). Wastebusters is the place to take your recycling in Alexandra because its approach often means it achieves better recycling outcomes than the local kerbside collection (for example, Central Otago District Council recently revealed that glass recycling put out on the kerb for collection has been taken to landfill, while all glass recycling taken to Wastebusters Alexandra is sent to New Zealand’s only glass recycling in Auckland to be recycled back into new glass bottles and jars). Apart from a drop-off for household recycling, you can also drop-off harder to recycle items here, from batteries through to e-waste, textiles, and building materials and other hardware. The range of things the community can drop-off also makes Wastebusters a GREAT place to get your magpie on and scavenge some real treasures. The on-site re-use shop is excellent, very well-stocked, making it a perfect place to find secondhand items rather than buying them new. If you’re wanting a new appliance or gadget, new toys or bikes, or if you’re undertaking a craft, building or home maker project and need some wood off-cuts, scrap metal, bolts, nuts or other building equipment, go to Wastebusters before you go anywhere else – you’ll be amazed at what you can find, at super low prices.
- Central Otago REAP, 14/20 Centennial Avenue, Alexandra – Central Otago REAP runs a huge range of workshops and programs to support more sustainable living, and many touch on waste issues or the kinds of resilience skills that help you to reduce waste at home. In particular, check out Making a Difference for Central Otago (MAD4CO), which is the action arm of the Sustainable Living Program at the Central Otago REAP. Through MAD4CO, local groups, businesses, schools, Council and individuals work together on community projects centred on sustainability, resilience and wise use of resources. The group also holds regular forums where local experts share their knowledge on issues, many of which touch on skills that are really helpful for reducing household rubbish, such as ecological footprinting, permaculture and organic gardening, and food resilience. So check out both Central Otago Reap’s website and the MAD4CO Facebook page for info on upcoming events and to start connecting with interested locals.
- Central Otago Alexandra Buy, Sell, Exchange – are you on the lookout for something in particular – a knick knack, a household appliance, hardware, anything?! Before going to buy it new in a shop, see if you can find it on the Alexandra Buy, Sell, Exchange Facebook page first! And, if you’ve got items you no longer want but which someone else might, don’t chuck them out, list them on this page to see if someone else wants them instead!
- Boomerang Bags Alexandra – Boomerang Bags is an excellent initiative spreading across the country that equips people to avoid plastic shopping bags by making cloth bags available on stands inside and outside local stores and supermarkets. Look out for the beautiful Alexandra Boomerang Bags on stands around town. These bags are sewn by local volunteers out of upcycled fabric at regular sewing bees. If you’re interested in sewing bags then join the Boomerang Bags Alexandra Facebook group, or get in touch with Amy Delport, the local facilitator. Even if you don’t know how to sew (yet) there are things you can do, and it’s probably a great way to learn! We believe sewing is an essential resilience skill for low-waste living, so what better way to start learning than through helping to reduce plastic bag consumption and divert textile waste?!
- Sewing Angels at The Hospice Shop Alexandra, 53 Centennial Avenue – The Alexandra Hospice Shop has a group called the Sewing Angels who use their creative genius to make all manner of handmade items from upcycled fabrics. Many of these items can help people reduce waste, like reusable shopping bags. Go in to The Hospice Shop to check out the Sewing Angels’ work (you might even be tempted to buy one of the creations OR maybe you can request one of the Angels make you a particular upcycled fabric item to help you reduce waste – like a cutlery holder or a reusable sandwich pouch). If you’ve got sewing skills and would like to help divert some textile waste as well, or if you’d like to learn a thing or two, maybe you can become a Sewing Angel too!
- Toy Libraries – reduce the wasteful over-consumption of toys and save money by joining a toy library! Check out this list of toy libraries in Central Otago to find the nearest one to you!
- Menzshed – Menzshed provides a great opportunity for men of all ages to share tools and a workspace (reducing the wasteful overduplication of these resources) and to pass on skills of woodworking and other trades. Menzsheds frequently offer communities the service of repairing broken items like furniture (at a small cost), work with upcycled material that might otherwise go to waste, and create bespoke items for community and charitable purposes. Definitely look up your local – there’s a Menzshed in Alexandra.
- Manuherikia Food Forest Group – on the Eastern corner of Centennial Park you’ll find a developing treasure – a food forest for Alexandra! Drop down to check out what delicious, unpackaged food is hanging from the trees, or take the chance to learn more about gardening and planting by volunteering some time or joining for a working bee session.