Compostable food packaging trialled in Christchurch

Thursday, 11 May, 2017

Compostable food packaging trialled in Christchurch

An environmental trial that took place in New Zealand in February has proved successful, with 61% of waste from three major summer events diverted from landfill. The trial was conducted by Christchurch City Council, in partnership with sustainable packaging business Ecoware, with the goal of maximising the positive environmental, social and economic legacies from events held in Christchurch.

“We started this trial as part of our program to run more sustainable events,” explained Christchurch City Council Manager Events and Arts Karena Finnie. “It was a huge undertaking, with more than a year’s work going into finding manufacturers and suppliers of a compostable product, providing education workshops for food vendors, organising the dozens of waste sorters at the event, and educating the public on what we were trying to do.”

Three major events were selected for the trial — the Night Noodle Markets, Sparks and the Christchurch Lantern Festival — which attracted a total of over 190,000 people to Hagley Park. Food vendors at these events were required to use Ecoware’s fully compostable utensils and packaging, which had previously been approved by a local composting facility and the council.

“Until now, we have not been able to put packaging and cutlery in the green bin or even recycling because they contain plastic coatings,” said Finnie. “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.”

The results find that the Sparks event was the most successful, with 75% of its total waste diverted from landfill (compared to 51% last year). The Christchurch Lantern Festival had 58% of waste diverted from landfill (up from 22% last year), while the Night Noodle Markets had 61% of waste diverted from landfill (no results were available from the previous year). An average of 61% of waste from the three events was diverted from landfill over the three events, which equates to 12 tonnes of packaging.

“It has been a huge success — in the case of one of the events, the amount of waste diverted from landfill more than doubled this year,” said Finnie. “We had fantastic feedback from the public in terms of their support for what we were doing.

“Of those who completed surveys at two of the events, 89% of respondents thought that environmental sustainability initiatives at events were good, and importantly, 33% of those who were aware of the trial said that seeing it in action would change their recycling and composting behaviours at home.”

Christchurch City Council is now looking into phase two of the trial, with around 30 events over the next 18 months set to use the compostable packaging.

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