Waiheke Island trials Zero-Waste concerts with Fat Freddy’s Drop.
While there has been plenty of recent discussion about our disposable culture adding to our countries’ landfill, here is a story about an innovative kiwi packaging company and a community organization getting together to turn packaging into the perfect nutrient for a vegetable garden.
The problem with the vast majority of takeaway packaging is this – traditional plastic material is derived from oil, the world’s most scarce and non-renewable resource. So – unless someone is prepared to sort and wash recyclable plastics after they are contaminated with food and beverage, their destination once you have finished with them, is the landfill.
Leading New Zealand packaging business Ecoware identified this issue almost a decade ago and decided that there had to be a more sustainable approach to the single-use culture we have developed as consumers.
They partnered with US-based company, NatureWorks six years ago, and started using alternative raw materials in the production of their packaging. Using Naturework’s Ingeo bioplastic also results in 75% fewer greenhouse gases emissions in production compared to the oil-based PET or PS plastic it replaces.
Essentially, the products used to manufacture the Ecoware food packaging is derived from naturally-occurring plant starch. In more detailed terms – the Ingeo biopolymer is made up of long molecular chains of the polymer polylactide, known as PLA, which are derived from annually renewable resources (plants).
So – what are the advantages of having disposable packaging made from plant starch. A growing partnership between Ecoware and the Waiheke Resources Trust demonstrates what is possible through using packaging made from natural, biodegradable & compostable materials.
The Waiheke Resources Trust has the goal of ‘zero waste events’ on the island. With food and beverage in high demand at Waiheke’s summer events and concerts, having disposable food packaging that can be turned into compost is critical to achieving this goal.
The Waiheke Resources Trust works with Richard Wallis from the Home Grown Waiheke Trust on various sustainable solutions. Wallis has designed a composting system specifically for community composting.
In Richard’s words – “the bins I have designed have a capacity for about 1.5 cubic metres, and they connect in a line, so you could have 5 or 6 bins joined together. The design makes it very easy to turn the compost, and keep it aerobic, which enables you to keep the temperature up. We can keep the temperature in the bins between 60 and 75 degrees which ensures an efficient and quick composting process.”
Richard Wallis’ composting system was put to the test earlier this year at a couple of Fat Freddy’s Drop concerts at Cable Bay. Cable Bay Vineyard used the full range of EcoCup’sô to serve concertgoers’ beer, wine & water, as they enjoyed one of New Zealand’s best bands. The back to back concerts saw close to 4000 EcoCups being sent to compost, that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.
Richard Wallis was able to successfully compost the thousands of disposable EcoCups through his high heat system as “they are made from Polylactic acid which is corn starch, which you can get to compost at approximately 65 degrees.”
From the two Fat Freddy’s Drop concerts, eighty sacks of waste were collected. Thirty-eight of these sacks, which included Ecoware’s packaging were able to be composted, thirty-six sacks ended up in mixed recycling and only six sacks had to be sent to landfill.
Through the use of Ecoware’s biogradegrable & compostable packaging, almost half of all waste from these summer concerts was able to be composted. The result says Richard Wallis - “the cups from the concerts are now compost and we have put it into the community garden at the Living Waters site. It is now growing shallots, garlic, broad beans and about to be potatoes.”
So – with the right products and a focus on sustainability, disposable packaging can be turned into nutrient for the garden. The collaboration between the Waiheke Resources Trust and Ecoware demonstrates what is possible using packaging made from plants, and a shared vision for a sustainable future. A solution which surely can be replicated around New Zealand.
Fat Freddy’s Drop Concerts - Waste Summary
Total Volume of Waste = 11,400 litres