Presenter:  Lesley Ottey, Ecoeducate

Presentation title:   The Great Bear Rescue

Event: WasteMINZ Conference 2016

Date: Wednesday 19 October

Session: Pecha Kucha

Lesley Ottey rescues bears and other cuddly toys from going to landfill and finds them new homes.

Charity Stores in Waimakariri are inundated with donations of soft toys and even though they sell them at low cost they receive more than they can sell. Also, some of the donated toys are ripped or too dirty and unsuitable for donation. The stores end up sending wheelie bins full of toys to the landfill.

When community waste champion Lesley Ottey heard about this she was horrified and thought there must be a better way. She looked around in her community to see who could benefit from these toys, and now takes around 1 wheelie bin of toys a week from one Rangiora charity shop, washes them at home with washing powder donated by ecostore, and then stitches any up that need fixing.

The more disreputable toys go to local vets and animal rescue organisations for animals and birds to cuddle up to or play with. The very small toys she stuffs with catnip and donates to the cats at the SPCA and other local cat rescue organisations. She takes the larger teddy bears to dementia units in local rest homes for the residents to cuddle up with, and also gives toys to the local police, St Johns, fire department to help children through traumatic times.

Lesley also visits pre-schools and primary schools and teaches the children how to turn the toys into hand puppets, or hats, door stops and draft stoppers, which the schools then sell as a fund raiser. Schools use the toys to encourage children to read or as educational resources, and Lesley also uses some of the toys in the Council’s education programmes which she delivers.

Lesley has now rescued 28 wheelie bins of toys – plus 5 extremely large toys that would each almost fill a bin – from going to landfill, and has spread joy in her local and neighbouring communities. The demand for the toys is strong and they are going out as fast as they come in.