Composting is a means by which we can pave the way towards a more sustainable future. By choosing to serve up on packaging made from only eco friendly materials, businesses that support compostable packaging options can help benefit New Zealand.
Plastic use is among the leading concerns for Kiwis today and many of us would like to see this remedied by a significant reduction in the production of single-use plastics. Businesses can proactively respond to this demand by engaging in commercial composting.
Compostable packaging is a great alternative to plastic, however, it is not the fix-all solution to the multi-faceted waste problem we are facing. To reduce waste in New Zealand overall, we need to diversify our infrastructure and educate the public to make composting part of our everyday life when we dispose of food and compostable packaging products.
What Materials Can be Composted?
When nature takes charge of the life cycle of a product, composting steps in. It makes sense that, once made, a plant-based product ought to return to the same earth from which it came. The path to zero waste in New Zealand is laid by the foundations of a circular economy, where what is made and used can continue to serve a purpose once disposed of. It is through a lack of education that compostable packaging such as coffee cups often get thrown in the landfill. Informing people about how and where to properly compost their coffee cups and compostable plastic cups will eventually generate change.
Plant-based materials offer a naturally non-toxic and hygienic alternative to plastic. Nature Pac favours sugarcane bagasse, a by-product of the sugarcane industry, along with compostable coffee cups made from Polylactic Acid (PLA) which is a renewable, low-carbon bioplastic made from plant materials. It is important that we look beyond recycling towards compostable materials, as a more sustainable solution for our planet.
Home Composting vs. Commercial Composting
Cities in New Zealand do not yet provide the infrastructure to support commercial composting; there are plenty of rubbish and recycling bins in public spaces, but rarely compost bins. Nor do our compost facilities support the vast collection of food waste and compostable packaging from our homes and businesses.
Organic waste that is currently sent to landfill is a sorely missed opportunity for New Zealand to reinvest vital nutrients into our soil in order to continue to produce a more sustainable life cycle for our food industry. Local councils across NZ are driving waste minimisation targets led by central government to reduce waste sent to landfill by encouraging widespread awareness of home composting. Minimising our waste is a problem that all New Zealanders must face together to generate vast change.
Commercial Composting Facilities in New Zealand
Many compostable packaging products can only be composted in commercial facilities. For bagasse products and PLA composting, a higher temperature is needed to start the break down process than what can be reached by conventional home composting systems. There are twelve commercial composting facilities in New Zealand, and three more which are community-led.
Councils and private greenwaste providers do not accept compostable packaging in their kerbside waste collection. Compostable packaging must be transported by a waste company to a composting facility. Clearly, the environmental disposal of compostable packaging is not yet up to scratch. This is due to a lack of infrastructure in our industrial composting industry and a missing collaboration between industry leaders and our community of consumers. Yet, the act of producing and processing plant-based products generates far less environmental impact than it takes to produce the toxic, oil-based pollution of single-use plastic.
Supporting compostable packaging is the first step in choosing to turn away from those in the oil industry who continue to profit from the destruction of our planet. Stand on the right side of history by ensuring that we have one to look back on some years from now, and be among the staunch pioneers of compostable packaging in New Zealand. He waka eke noa – we are all in this together.