Glass hero – Nick Keene, Schnappa Rock Restaurant & Bar

Schnappa Rock owner Nick Keene.

Nick Keene is the owner of popular Northland restaurant and bar Schnappa Rock, in Tutukaka, which has been working hard to embed recycling and sustainability into its DNA. The Hospitality industry faces unique challenges for recycling glass which Nick, as a National Board Vice President of Hospitality New Zealand and sustainability champion, is eager to help overcome.

Tell us about the glass recycling at Schnappa Rock.

At the moment we have eight bins for glass recycling, which we double handle to reduce the co-mingling. We then have another four bins for plastic and tin etc.

We’ve always had a glass bin, a cardboard bin and a waste bin and we would make the effort to keep glass separate and put it in the glass bin. But then about six or seven years ago I saw that the collection truck lift the waste bin and throw the contents in the back and the lift the glass bin and throw the glass in too.

This made me wild because I though we were doing the right thing, and we were paying for the glass collection. That’s when I became keen to get involved with Hospitality NZ and push the sustainability angle and that’s when I started talking to the GPF. We then started developing a better solution for the glass.

It’s easy to chuck glass in the bin – why did you decide to make sure it’s recycled?

It’s in line with our general business ethos of participating in a circular, sustainable way. We serve line-caught fish, free range pork, our vegetables grown in our own garden (spray free). We have a responsibility to look after the golden goose, which is our tourism offering and our environmental offering.

I acknowledge there is a cost and extra effort but, in the end, I think we will be in a stronger position to deal with what will be a requirement – what I hope will be a requirement. I’m keen to participate in creating a template for the hospitality industry.

You are also closely linked with the Tutukaka Marina and its glass recycling efforts.

I used to be a trustee on the Tutukaka Marina Management Trust which applied for some funding from the GPF to install a glass recycling bin (in 2018). The marina is across the road from Schnappa and we share the use and cost of it in winter.

It’s also become something of a community glass drop off. Rather than go to the transfer station at Ngunguru the community come here and use the specialty bin. It’s an extra cost, but it’s worth it.

What future plans do you have?

I’m keen to develop a portal through the bar where we can sort the glass into clear, green and brown straight away and then just carry the bins out at the end of the night.

We do need to develop a better solution overall for our glass storage. Over the summer especially it gets tight so I’m busy working on a solution which uses bigger bins, and I’m talking to our waste management company about how that could work.

Are refillables something you are looking at?

What I eventually want to do is switch to a model where we don’t have pack beer (beer bottles) and we just have keg beer – that’s were I see it going in the next three to five years.

People are still fairly parochial about the beer that they drink, but what I want to do is turn this bar into a venue where you drink the beer that is made locally. And we have high quality offerings now.

This also fits with our ethos of serving locally sourced ingredients.

In terms of keeping things in that circular fashion it makes sense to have most beer on tap. We want to get really great local beer in kegs, serve it on tap, put it in glassware, wash the glassware and send the kegs back to be refilled. It’s far more efficient than getting glass bottles refilled, and I personally think beer is better on tap.