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Turning a Waste Problem into Job Opportunities


Waste is a problem across New Zealand but in South Waikato two forms of waste have now become profitable upcycling, recycling and job creation schemes fronted by the South Waikato Achievement Trust.

With investment from the South Waikato Investment Fund Trust (SWIFT) a bold vision to transform waste streams while creating work opportunities for people with disabilities or needing support became a reality.


Since 1972 SWAT has been operating in Tokoroa supporting accident victims and people with disabilities. In 2012 SWAT extended its services to support any adults in the community who were marginalized or disadvantaged. A key part of that support is providing employment in social enterprises which gives people a sense of belonging, a purpose and an income.

By 2015 the social enterprises that SWAT established had become fledging businesses in the eWaste (breakdown and recycling of components from old computers, TVs, whiteware etc) and the firewood/kindling sector that were experiencing high demand and growth.

Both business initiatives needed investment capital to transform them into much more comprehensive operations with the employment to match. SWAT developed their business case and strategy and completed a grant application form that met all of the SWIFT criteria.

SWAT was subsequently awarded $350,000.

The investment was to drive business expansion through the purchase of equipment that could increase the speed and volume of their operations.

Russel Ensor, the SWAT CEO explained: “The Trust’s social enterprises must operate as financially sustainable business units although their purpose is to provide local employment rather than generate profit. The support that we have received from SWIFT has enabled us to expand the enterprises and the jobs that they create without the prohibitive cost of borrowing to purchase equipment. “


Since the investment made by SWIFT, both social enterprise businesses managed by SWAT have grown from employing 11 to 26 people – a net increase in 15 jobs for people in the South Waikato.

SWAT’s excellent reputation in recycling and upcycling across eWaste and firewood /kindling positions the entity as a business leader. They have maximized the value of the investment and proved that their business model, targeting and solutions focus can generate sustainable growth, jobs and profitability while leveraging access and proximity to byproducts.


The eWaste recycling enterprise, established in 2012, now employs 12 people.

The collection of eWaste has grown to include not only the immediate regions, but material from as far away as Paraparaumu and Gisborne is processed in Tokoroa. Currently SWAT processes about 60 tonnes per month of eWaste and forecasts this growing to 90 tonnes per month with 4 additional jobs being created.

It is also predicted that Local Government throughout the North Island will look to dedicated eWaste channels enabling sustained growth.

The firewood and kindling business, started in 2014, now employs 14 people. The firewood and kindling is manufactured from wood offcuts and from the peeler cores resulting from processing veneer logs. Both the wood offcuts and peeler cores are industrial byproducts sourced through partnership relationships within the Waikato region – at Tahuna and the ply mill at Tokoroa.

Around 9,000 log cores are utilised each month. Sales are made to a national distributor and both product lines are sold direct to selected local New World and Pak n Save stores.