Why do we still send more than 80% of our waste to landfill in New Zealand? Why has waste to landfill increased by 35% since 2009. How can this be with so much promotion and effort going into waste reduction and recycling?
There is a reason…
- Food contaminates packaging, making it uneconomic to recycle the packaging…
- Packaging contaminates food, so the food scraps cannot be composted…
As a result both end their life in landfill.
It makes sense then to use Compostable Packaging, so food & packaging can be composted together, returning to the earth, a cycle… the very definition of sustainability.
Old thinking is: TAKES - USES – DUMPS
This is where we take from the environment without respect for nature, then use, exploit and then dump without consideration of the consequences, polluting the very source of our gain (biting the hand that feeds us). This linear model is unsustainable, often selfish and susceptible to greed. However, it does not have to be this way. There is a new way of thinking that uses a cycle where we take renewable sustainable resources, use intelligent design to make products fit for purpose, then after use return them to the earth from where they came. This is referred to as a ‘Circular Economy’, where we unmake everything we make. This transition from ‘Linear’ to a ‘Circular Economy’ is part of the inspiration behind Friendlypak.
Recycling is not the answer for many reasons; however Compostable Packaging has been a real and proven solution for 30 years in Europe. Food, green waste & packaging are all composted together, returning to the earth from where it came. This is called “Cradle to Cradle rather than “Cradle to Grave”, saving landfill, litter and pollution. Enhancing our environment and making zero waste possible.
When the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane, there were no airports. However airports are now absolutely key to a functioning city.
Similarly we are in transition where choosing compostable packaging will drive change and better infrastructure.
Compostable packaging is relatively new, so collection infrastructure and commercial composting sites are not available everywhere yet. Commercial composting facilities are becoming established around New Zealand. As at the last count in 2018 there were 11.
Envirofert is an Auckland based composting facility, were they have been commercially composting our packaging for more than a decade.
- What does compostable even mean?
Compostable claims can be made if the material has passed very strict independent international testing procedures. A material is allowed to be called Compostable if it decomposes back to the earth within 6 months when exposed to water, heat and micro-organisms. It is important to note that while Compostable and Biodegradable both refer to the same process, biodegradation has no conditions, time control or accountability so anything can effectively claim to be biodegrade. For this reason the word ‘biodegradable’ should not be used to promote materials or products. It has been banned in some countries due to deceptive use. There are a number of compostable product certifications that are similar, but were developed by different countries.
- What do you recommend for those without a home compost?
While many compostable products are ‘home’ compostable there is a demand for more durable and higher performance products. A home compost (often cold and dry) is not sufficient to compost these more durable items within the 6 months required by the international compostable product standards. However a properly constructed and managed compost, like a ‘commercial’ compost will easily return these higher performance products and materials (like PLA) to the earth within the 6 month time limit.
For those without a home compost, or a properly managed compost, most waste collection companies offer an organics collection service at a cost.
What we would like to see is pressure put on councils and government to apply the increase the Waste Levy and apply it to all landfills.
The Waste Levy on landfill is still only $10 per ton which is meaningless, remaining the same for 12 years and only applied to a few landfills. This levy is approx. $175 in the UK, $130 in Australia and $300 in Europe. We estimate that this puts us 20 years behind these countries in waste management.
This increase levy can be used to:
- Fund more compost sites, collection services and infrastructure.
- Incentivise innovation and solutions.
- Create a disincentive to landfill. This cost will make people consider separating waste into other streams like organic materials, timber, food scraps and green waste which are all very bad in landfills.
Millions are spent every year on recycling collection, promotion and projects and most of it still ends up in landfill. Compostable packaging is the solution but needs collection systems, infrastructure and promotion. Currently only the private sector is showing that commercial compost sites are crucial for the diversion of waste from landfill and the only solution to solving the plastics waste, pollution, litter and recycling crisis.
Currently (2018) there are 11 such sites in NZ.