WORDS LIZ FRENCH / PHOTOS TEZ MERCER + SUPPLIED
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.
LOVE AND A WARM CLIMATE
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.
“SOME GUYS LIKE MODEL TRAINS. I LIKE RECYCLING.”
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.
WEARING SEVERAL SHIRTS
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.
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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