8 Feb 2017

A trial of disposable food packaging and cutlery that can be composted begins at three major events in Christchurch over the next month.

The trial will see almost 200,000 people using compostable food packaging and cutlery as the Christchurch City Council trials more sustainable event practices.

Food vendors at Sparks, the Christchurch Lantern Festival, and the Fairfax Night Noodle markets have signed up to use the compostable “service ware” in a bid to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

Christchurch City Council Events Production Team Leader Drew Urlichs said at previous events if waste sorters were not on site, almost 100 percent of waste went to landfill - a figure he hoped to turn around dramatically with the trial. 

Events Production Manager Drew Urclichs holds some packaging

Christchurch City Council Events Production Team Leader Drew Urlichs with the new compostable packaging to be trialled this month.

"Until now, we have not been able to put packaging and cutlery in the green bin or even recycling because they contain plastic coatings. In Christchurch our recycling and composting facilities don’t currently accept products with a plastic coating. We wanted to trial a range that didn’t have a plastic coating and see just what difference it would make to the amount of waste going to landfill at events.”

Around 200,000 people in total would be attending the three events, providing a huge trial number for staff to assess.

“All the vendors at these events will have to use the plastic-free service ware where possible, knowing that some liquids require plastic coated containers. The products that do have plastic will be placed into the red bins instead. There is still a long way to go in this area but we are making a start!

“It should be as simple as people buying their food, eating what they need and even if they have food left on the plate or in the container, they can throw the whole lot in the green bin and every part of it, including the knife and fork, will be compostable.”

Signage would be up around the events, and volunteers would be stationed next to bins, advising people which bins were appropriate for their waste.

“It’s a big scale trial and it is attracting interest from Council’s across Australasia. Having these events enclosed makes for the perfect trial environment. We can measure exactly how much of the event waste will go to landfill,” Mr Urlichs said.

Disposable packaging being used at night noodle market“Normally at an event like this where there are no waste sorters, you might get almost 100 percent of waste going to landfill because none of the service ware is compostable and often recycling is rejected … but our goal with this service ware is to get 80 percent diversion. That is 80 per cent of waste from the event being composted or recycled and out of our landfills.”

Mr Urlichs said the Council was leading the trial to try and build a “full circle relationship”.

“We want a better conversation between event organisers, service ware suppliers, vendors and local authorities.” 

Alex Magaraggia of Ecoware, the company supplying the service ware, said Ecoware applauded the Council's leadership in moving toward diverting waste, which would otherwise be sent to landfill.

"We have a shared goal of reducing the amount of waste that is currently going to landfill. With the Council’s forward thinking initiative, coupled with our compostable packaging, we are looking to turn this goal into a reality in 2017.”

The materials collected would be processed at the Christchurch City Council Organics facility in Bromley, operated by Living Earth. The composting plant converts over 60,000 tonnes of organic matter in organically certified compost each year.