By the time Mar­ty Hof­fart was born, dur­ing a pre-Christ­mas Saskatchewan snow­storm in 1964, recy­cling was non-nego­tiable in the Hof­fart fam­i­ly. As the sev­en­th of nine chil­dren, clothes gen­er­al­ly reached the Cana­di­an prairie boy only after they’d been worn by four old­er broth­ers. Toys and bikes were repaired and reused, noth­ing was wast­ed. “We were a large, poor fam­i­ly but every­one in our neigh­bour­hood was the same in those days. I shared a bunkroom with four broth­ers, there was always a fight for the best bed!”

Decades lat­er, he is still fight­ing. Only now, he’s bat­tling to reduce waste on this side of the world and his work is evi­dent in more than 4,000 schools and busi­ness­es around New Zealand.

Mar­ty was aged three when the Hof­fart fam­i­ly moved to Alber­ta so his father Gus could take an oil com­pa­ny job. “My dad hat­ed the shift­work but knew the firm’s schol­ar­ship pro­gram­me would help his fam­i­ly — eight out of nine of us went on to have a ter­tiary edu­ca­tion.”

Hof­fart num­ber sev­en com­plet­ed a BA inso­ci­ol­o­gy and psy­chol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta before head­ing straight to jail. His work with dis­ad­van­taged youth and career alongside the Gov­ern­ment of Alber­ta Social Ser­vices exposed him to youth­ful mur­der­ers, rapists, delin­quents and men­tal­ly unwell young peo­ple who were primed for a life­time in insti­tu­tions. In those days, he and fel­low staff had to account for all the teenagers’ tooth­brush­es due to their poten­tial to be fash­ioned into weapons.


In 1986, Mar­ty and three friends trav­elled to New Zealand, where they picked kiwifruit in Te Puke, hitched around the coun­try, head­ed to Aus­tralia and home via Asia. A cou­ple of years lat­er a Tau­ran­ga friend invit­ed him to return. On that trip, he met young jour­nal­ist Sue Troughton at a bar­be­cue. “We spent one hour togeth­er.”

Sue then embarked on her OE with a girl­friend who sug­gest­ed a side trip to Marty’s home town of Edmon­ton. The Kiwis’ week-long stay stretched to six weeks and romance blos­somed before Sue con­tin­ued on to the Unit­ed King­dom and Europe. “There was a bit of chas­ing around the world but even­tu­al­ly she joined me in Edmon­ton where we lived for a year before land­ing in New Zealand in 1993 for a Mata­mata farm wed­ding.”

The deci­sion to set­tle in Tau­ran­ga was easy. “Edmon­ton is a pret­ty hard sell,” he laughs. “When it’s hot and sun­ny on The Mount Main Beach, Edmon­ton is minus thir­ty and buried in snow.”

After anoth­er stint trav­el­ling to India and Asia and liv­ing in Canada, the cou­ple set­tled con­tent­ed­ly in Tau­ran­ga to raise two boys. Son Jake, 18, is com­plet­ing a Bach­e­lor of Man­age­ment Stud­ies and is active in Youth Search and Res­cue. At 15, Aquinas Col­lege stu­dent Tom is a water polo play­er and knife sharp­en­er (in fact, we fea­tured Tom in the ‘Peter Williams’ issue last March alongside oth­er self-employed teenagers). Like their father, both boys have an entre­pre­neuri­al bent.


Mar­ty speak­ing at TedX Tau­ran­ga

Mar­ty nev­er lost that desire, ger­mi­nat­ed by child­hood hand-me-downs, to live sus­tain­ably. “I have always hat­ed to see waste. In my sin­gle days I was the flat­mate who thought about com­post­ing and recy­cling and bought my clothes in op shops. Some guys like mod­el trains, I like recy­cling.”

After work­ing with the Child and Ado­les­cent Men­tal Health Ser­vice in Tau­ran­ga, an over-the-fence chat with neigh­bour Bruce Trask saw him switch tracks. Mar­ty joined Bruce on a coun­cil-fund­ed mis­sion to instil recy­cling habits in chil­dren. “After one of my ear­ly vis­its to a school, I found my car cov­ered in ash from the incin­er­a­tor. That absolute­ly con­firmed to me the impor­tance of what Bruce had start­ed.”

The school pro­gram­me rapid­ly snow­balled. Bruce and Mar­ty formed a not-for-prof­it-trust, EERST(Environmental Edu­ca­tion­for Resource Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Trust), that installed recy­cling bins in every Tau­ran­ga school and reduced waste by 70%. If they could do this in Tau­ran­ga, they thought, why not the rest of New Zealand? And why not cre­ate some incen­tive, by giv­ing schools trees in return for their paper and card­board recy­cling efforts? The result­ing Paper4trees scheme has scooped numer­ous awards and is now in 4048 schools from Kaita­ia to Bluff. More than 170,000 trees have been plant­ed with help from spon­sors like Shell Todd Oil Ser­vices, Fonter­ra and Bin Inn.


Since team­ing up with Bruce in 1999, Mar­ty has become New Zealand’s go-to guy for recy­cling. He’s called on to speak at con­fer­ences and front news items, bend politi­cians’ ears and both devel­op and deliv­er ter­tiary lev­el train­ing. He now wears mul­ti­ple hats, though in his case they are the bright­ly coloured mono­grammed shirts hang­ing in his office. He’ll don one shirt to talk to a school or com­mu­ni­ty group, anoth­er to advise busi­ness­es on waste reduc­tion and per­haps a suit to meet the Min­is­ter for the Envi­ron­ment or deal with media, some­thing that hap­pens more often now he chairs the nation­al Com­mu­ni­ty Recy­cling Net­work.

He took on the lat­ter role, which sees him head a board of eight, con­vinced the real knowl­edge and dri­ve for change lay in the com­mu­ni­ty sec­tor rather than gov­ern­ment.

Clean up with Keep Tau­ran­ga Beau­ti­ful

More recent­ly, Mar­ty noticed Tau­ran­ga was miss­ing from the list of region­al towns that belonged to the Keep New Zealand Beau­ti­ful Net­work. He’s rec­ti­fied that and now keeps local envi­ron­men­tal groups in the loop and has the city involved in the annu­al Keep New Zealand Clean week in Sep­tem­ber.

Waste Watch­ers is the most com­mer­cial string to his bow. To ensure they were per­ceived pro­fes­sion­al­ly and “not some beard­ed hip­pie do-good­ers” Mar­ty and Bruce estab­lished Waste Watch­ers Lim­it­ed in 2005. The result­ing con­sult­ing com­pa­ny ten­ders for coun­cil con­tracts to audit and offer advice on decreas­ing busi­ness waste and ensure Tau­ran­ga City and West­ern Bay Dis­trict Coun­cils meet their com­mit­ments under the Waste Min­imi­sa­tion Act.

It’s no sur­prise that Mar­ty is a pas­sion­ate advo­cate of a pro­posed con­tain­er deposit scheme that would pre­vent New Zealan­ders from bury­ing two 747’s weight in bev­er­age con­tain­ers dai­ly, “It’s a no brain­er,” he says. “It’ll gen­er­ate jobs and put the price of a dozen beer up by a mere six cents.” Con­vinc­ing the gov­ern­ment and indus­try is not as easy.

The man who ris­es at five every morn­ing, and has deliv­ered his son to swim­ming and run up The Mount by sev­en, sees recy­cling oppor­tu­ni­ties every­where. Late­ly, he has turned real estate signs into recy­cling bins and had his will­ing staff make bags from car seat belts, pro­mo­tion­al ban­ners and obso­lete pro­duct labels.

For a waste war­rior like Mar­ty, the key to sus­tain­abil­i­ty is sim­ple. “Make it easy, eco­nom­i­cal and reward­ing,” he says. “Bring the com­post bin near­er the kitchen, tax car­bon-pro­duc­ing vehi­cles to encour­age elec­tric cars, rein­tro­duce bot­tle return incen­tives. Remove the bar­ri­ers.”

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