our story

Until now we have had ways to pass on our used clothing, often donating it and feeling good about doing good and it is all for free. We have no idea where our clothing will end up or aware of the fact that someone else will pay for it to be disposed of further down the line. And there is the environmental cost.

If you think about it, aside from clothing, we pay to dispose of most other items. We pay for kerbside rubbish and recycling, inorganic collections and pay to drop off items at the landfill. Given that clothing is one of our fastest growing and carbon intensive waste streams, I predict we will see a lot of change in this space in the next 5 years. Out of sight, out of mind can’t be the way forward.

A broken system 

Ripple was created to tie together and tackle three unnecessary issues in New Zealand.

The need. We suffer from one of the worst rates of child poverty in the western world impacting 1 in 8 Kiwi kids. Just take that in for a moment, that number is alarming. Having fitting and weather-appropriate clothing, shoes, raincoats and pyjamas is something that many of us take for granted but with the rising cost of living, basic essentials are becoming luxury items for many families.

The excess. At the same time, many households find themselves with an excess of clothing and looking for time-efficient, responsible solutions to regularly shift these items without them ending up in landfill. While there are currently a number of ways to pass these on, there are often issues with these solutions, which you can read more about here.

The waste. In NZ, textile waste accounts for approximately 5-6% of landfill but they produce about 30% of the carbon impacts. Textiles are responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, making them “one of the most carbon-emitting industries in the world alongside oil, gas and agriculture”.  Despite this textiles are not really on our household or national radar.

My personal why

Hi there, I’m Michelle the founder of Ripple. Looking back I can see a number of experiences that led me to taking the plunge and starting this social enterprise.  Having gone to primary school in both decile 1 and 10 areas, I was aware early on that life wasn’t the same for all kids.  But it wasn’t until I picked up an article a little over a year ago, that I felt compelled to do something.

This article discussed the increasing levels of material hardship in New Zealand and its short and long term impact on our kids.  There were accounts of siblings alternating days at school due to having to share a pair of shoes, stories of being too cold to sleep at night and of being too embarrassed to go to a friends birthday party as they only had a uniform to wear. 

I had recently done a clear out of my kids’ outgrown clothing, much of which was in great condition. I had two massive bags that nobody I knew wanted. Living near several Op Shops, I knew the reality of how much remains unsold and put in the skip, and I am aware of the significant CO2 impact of that.

At the same time my eldest was starting to hear and ask questions about global warming. I was feeling like the little things we do to combat our carbon footprint in our household, were falling very short.

So I set about creating a system and network to meaningfully help clothe those who need it most and prevent clothing from having to go into landfill in the first place. Over several months, late nights and interviewing friends, retailers, councils, environmentalists, recyclers and people on the street – the concept of Ripple came into being.

Nice idea, but why do I have to pay?

When exploring ways to fund Ripple, I headed down many long winding roads which ultimately led to dead ends – councils, funding applications, retail partnerships/memberships…in a nutshell, lots of rejection.

I learnt two things;

  1. This will need to be funded by everyday Kiwis that care.
  2. If we want to be in it for the long haul, we can’t rely on donations and occasional funding that could cease at any moment – we need to cover our own costs. That is why we set up Ripple as a social enterprise.

Think user pays, or a donation with a difference…

This can be looked at in two ways.

Just as we pay to dispose items at landfill and pay for our kerbside rubbish and recycling collections, this is a user pays system – covering the cost to collect and process and or recycle your used clothing for a second life with the added bonus of supporting our social cause.

Usually, when we donate money to a cause, we do not know exactly what our donation will be spent on. To be transparent, the purchase of a Ripple Collection Bag contributes towards the following costs:

  • Payment processing per transaction
  • Postage, labels and envelopes (getting bags out)
  • Courier bag and shipping (getting clothes in)
  • Cost to hand sort
  • Costs for any repair materials
  • Cost to get waste textiles recycled
  • Transportation of clothing (out for upcycling/repair/recycling)
  • Gear Boxes, packing tape, tissue paper and stickers (we want the experience of opening a Gear Box to be special)
  • Delivery/distribution of Gear Boxes

The costs aren’t huge, but they do add up. 

By using our service, you are choosing to support our social and environmental mission and creating your own ripple. Once we have processed your items, you will receive your very own impact statistics to prove it (all without leaving the house).

Can we change the way things are done? 

With material hardship on the increase and bans of textiles to landfill taking place globally, we need to try. The adoption of purchasing reusable bags at supermarkets shows us that changing consumer behaviour and the status quo is possible. Overseas examples of textile recyclers charging individuals to process their clothing also shows this can be done.

We believe Ripple offers a unique solution that makes it easy for Kiwis to take responsibility for their end of use textiles, while simultaneously supporting the community and the environment. It is in our hands.

We fully recognise that Ripple is not solving any of the hardships many families are experiencing, but offers our community a way to support them by reducing some financial stress. After all, as the saying goes – it takes a village.


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