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PRINKE: Norfolk Island’s eco shop

PRINKE: Norfolk Island’s eco shop

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PRINKE: The story of Norfolk Island’s eco shop tackling our Island’s (and world’s!) plastic waste.

Prinke…(how do I say that?) – There are two ways of pronouncing Prinke. The most common, which is used daily, is ‘Prinkey’. But if you listen really carefully you may hear some of the island elders pronounce it ‘Prinkeh’.

Thanks to two enterprising Island women an old Norfolk word that had fallen out of common use can now be heard on a regular basis: “I’m just off to Prinke for my morning coffee” or, “time to re-stock the pantry, what do we need from Prinke?” Sharyn Quintal and Claire Quintal are the owner/operators of Prinke Eco-Store and Café which, since opening in the days before Christmas 2018 has quietly challenged and changed the shopping habits of many locals and visitors alike.

While there are a number of meanings to the word prinke, it was the one ‘to be extremely grateful’ that Claire and Sharyn took to name the shop, reflecting a strong love and respect for their Island home, heritage and community. Acting on the desire to respond personally and locally to the devastating local and world-wide impact of plastics on our environment and human health, they decided to open an eco-store that offers food staples and goods without plastic manufacturing or packaging. They sell no single use plastics and focus on locally grown and good-for-your-body organic foods, chemical-free alternatives to general household products and also an extensive range of locally made gifts and goods.

Prinke encourages a more mindful approach to consumption: purchase only what you need in the quantities you need. That may be in bulk to save on packaging; or down to a few grams to trial a new ingredient or recipe (instead of a typical supermarket pre-packaged amount – the remainder of which tends to sit in the cupboard until out of date!). Reusing and recycling are of course part of their philosophy. They’ve made it so easy for shoppers to be good ‘earth-friends’ by having undertaken the research into the products they stock to ensure they meet the highest environmental standards.

There’s an undeniable Norf’k groove to Prinke. Every day you’ll see locals chatting and bantering over a coffee and some sweet wetls (delicious food), or calling in to drop off their fresh produce and other locally made gifts and items. It’s a place people feel good in, a genuine and friendly place with a definite modern feel. However, there’s an unconscious call back to another time going on here too.

Prinke is connecting Islanders to an older way of life on Norfolk that existed due to factors of culture and isolation, but which began to erode as consumerism in general increased and especially in recent times with the advent of online shopping. Sharyn says: ”Before we opened the shop I was explaining the concept to my father-in-law and he suggested, as a bit of a joke, that we call it the ‘turn back time shop’. He said that what we were trying to do was how he grew up. Not by choice, but necessity. He recalled that there was no plastic when he grew up and everything was reused. He was tasked as a young boy to ride his bike to get the weekly meat from the Butcher shop… and he would pick it up in a pillow slip or a sugar bag – no plastic bags in those days!”

 

 

While no-one really wants to turn back time on convenience and time-intensive chores, there is much to be gained by pausing and re-thinking our consumer practices – especially as nearly everything today is made of, or arrives choked in plastic packaging. ‘Mindless’ purchases inevitably lead to excessive waste that in turn becomes an expensive burden for our Norfolk Island community to manage. On our small island home with no land-fill option, there is nowhere to hide an ever-increasing quantity of waste. Waste management in recent years has overwhelmed and overburdened the capacity of the community to pay for both local disposal and shipping excesses off-island. Spending so much money to ship our waste to become landfill in another jurisdiction is clearly no ‘waste solution’.

The good news for Norfolk Island is that Prinke is not alone in working to change community waste attitudes and practices. In 2020, local environmental group ‘The Norfolk Wave’ was knee-deep in trying to find solutions to the island’s growing waste problem, when they heard of a Byron-Bay based recycling company called ‘Revolve Your World’ (RYW) who were using efficient waste management techniques and existing technologies to drastically divert waste from landfill. They had transformed the recycling rate of the Byron Bay Beach Hotel (with a daily patronage roughly the same as the Norfolk Island population) from 10% to 90% overnight and maintained this recycling rate for over three years. After visiting in 2021, the RYW team believed that a collaboration with the Norfolk community could not only work locally, but also create a template for other communities across the globe.

In collaboration with The Norfolk Wave team, the Norfolk community and the Norfolk Island Regional Council, RYW co-designed a bespoke recycling centre that would shift our thinking from a linear model (resources are created, used, then disposed of) to an innovative circular economy that catches clean waste to turn it into community resources.

In August 2023, Norfolk’s ‘Waste Management Centre’ transitioned into the Norfolk Wave Recycling Centre, and within just three months the centre had diverted a massive 74% of rubbish from being shipped to landfill. They achieved this by taking the island’s biggest household and commercial waste streams and repurposing them into usable products. A daily average of 550kg of glass has been turned into four different grades of glass sand available for sale. A rich garden compost is now available to the community having been made from a daily average collection of 272kgs of food scraps, paper towels and compostable nappies (you can buy the nappies at Prinke!).

One of our largest waste streams – cardboard – is being transformed into biochar, which feeds back into the plastics processing. A daily average of 107kg of plastic (both hard and soft) is mixed with the biochar (carbon) and lime, to create a porous material that mimics gravel. This plastic-based concrete aggregate is now used successfully for local building projects and to create besser blocks for local construction. Through continued education on waste minimisation and fine tuning the recycling capacity of local waste, the Norfolk Wave team, guided by the expertise of RYW aim for a 90% diversion from landfill in the near future.

Our own Norf’k words have again been employed at the centre to remind us that all we need to do is think and act in the ways of our ancestors to be able to leave a healthy and beautiful environment for tomorrows generations to inherit. The Norfolk Wave tells us to miekduu (be resourceful), mainaut (be mindful) and miekhies (act now).

These three words in addition to ‘prinke’ are also resonating with many creative and innovative Islanders. In fact Prinke has become quite a hub for local artists and makers to sell eco and hand-made goods that in turn help us as consumers to ‘mainaut’ (be mindful) about our purchases. Kooshoo sell the worlds-first plastic free organic hair ties and Justine Olausen supplies beautiful handmade glassware created from wine bottles. Other creatives supply a range of locally designed and made cards, tea towels, children’s clothes and books (many in the Norf’k language). Adding to the hub is a steady stream of locals arriving with their fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables and freshly made delicious and good-for-you food and drinks for take-away or eat-in.

Not only does the sale of these particular local goods support local makers and growers but as they are produced locally and therefore not shipped onto the island, they incur no packaging waste, massive food miles or other associated environmental damage and cost.

Living on an island paradise in the South Pacific, there are many reasons to be ‘extremely grateful’. Among them are that Sharyn and Claire decided that love of their island home, family and culture meant they stood up and acted on what they could do to reduce plastic coming onto and becoming a waste problem on Norfolk. Joining with others who implemented massive changes at the Norfolk Wave Recycling Centre and the many other individuals creating locally made environmentally friendly products, they have created a pathway for us all to reduce plastic use and overall waste on Norfolk Island. Awus letl sullen (our children) should expect no less of us.

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I’m on holiday on Norfolk Island: How can I help reduce plastic and other waste? We’re glad you asked!   

  • Purchase locally made and sourced foods, souvenirs and lifestyle goods that contain no or minimal plastic. There’s a lot to choose from and you’ll be cutting down on packaging waste, food-miles and cost.
  • Don’t purchase single use plastics for hot and cold drinks. If you haven’t brought a keep-cup or water bottle from home, Prinke has a selection available and they make great souvenirs!
  • When purchasing for a BBQ or to cook at your accommodation, take a container from your hotel to the butcher, they will pack your meat into that instead of plastic bags.
  • Take re-usable bags to the supermarket or borrow a Boomerang Bag (locally made fabric bags at the entrance to all food shops that you can use and return). Say no when asked if you’d like a plastic bag.
  • Ask your accommodation how you can prepare your room waste so it can be recycled at The Norfolk Wave. Ask how they are working towards providing sustainable solutions – let them know that’s what you look for when choosing where you stay when on holidays.

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Prinke Eco-Store & Café is located opposite the Visitor Information Centre on Taylors Rd and is open 7 days a week from 7am-5pm Mon-Fri, 7am-1pm Sat & 8am – 1pm Sun. In addition to pantry and household staples they serve quality coffee, tea and cold drinks; stock fresh seasonal fruit & veg; have daily breakfast and lunch choices including vegetarian, vegan and gluten free foods; and an excellent choice of locally made environmentally friendly souvenirs, gifts and Norf’k language books. Phone 54511.

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Image Credits: Lisa Richards and Prinke

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Article content disclaimer: Article first published in Discover Norfolk, Volume 07 Issue 01, 2024. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.

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