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Julie McMillan uses Waiomu Beach Cafe’s new milk tap. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Coastal cafe meets rural ingenuity 

A waterfront cafe along the Thames Coast has connected with a dairy farm in rural Waikato, and now its plastic waste has been reduced by the thousands.
The Waiomu Beach Cafe has recently installed a milk tap from Kaipaki Dairies, a rural business in Ōhaupō that aims to encourage cafes, hotels, and other hospitality venues to tackle sustainability by replacing plastic bottles with milk straight from the pail.
“Sustainability is the underpinning value of my business,” Waiomu Beach Cafe owner Julie McMillan said, “and I’d heard about the milk taps and wondered how long it would be until they came our way.
“But then John [co-founder of Kaipaki Dairies] came in one day and asked if we wanted to know more, and I dropped everything and said: ‘Yes!’.”
Julie said the installation of the milk tap will stop at least 5000 plastic bottles per cafe per year from heading into landfill.
It also meant her staff didn’t have to continuously undo lids.
“The plastic bottles used to come in cardboard boxes… the milk got put into them, it took five minutes for it to be used, and then it was thrown out. That’s exactly what was happening.”
Julie said she had always been mindful of sustainability “right from the get-go”.
When she took over the Waiomu Beach Cafe – which is now up for sale – around 15 years ago, being environmentally-friendly was always front of mind.
“Sustainability for me is about community, environment, and ethical business. We live in the most stunning environment; it’s our playground, it feeds us, and it deserves respect.”
All single-use coffee cups at the cafe are compostable. There’s also a collection point on the porch that collects the used cups and lids which the staff then send away to be composted.
Julie said with the milk taps, “change was effective immediately” and she encouraged other businesses to give it a go.
“The recycling bin is no longer full of plastic bottles which means we can be more conscious of our rubbish and be smarter at the back end of the businesses with our waste management,” she said. “And the team has really embraced it.”
Kaipaki Dairies’ milk tap is designed to sit right next to a cafe’s coffee machine.
The milk is delivered in either 10L or 20L reusable pails that sit in the fridge, with old pails taken back to the factory for deep cleaning, sterilisation, and refilling.