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Where reusable isn’t possible, choose certified compostable packaging

Where reusable isn’t possible, choose certified compostable packaging.

The problems caused by petroleum-based conventional plastics are evident—high energy and resource consumption, environmental pollution and climate change acceleration. Human-made materials now outweigh Earth's entire biomass, and the situation is even more difficult when we consider that we have not yet developed efficient reuse and recycling systems. Aotearoa, New Zealand, is one of the world’s most wasteful countries, landfilling an estimated 159g of plastic waste per person daily. 

As a result, multinational and local businesses signed the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration and or New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, pledging to use 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in local operations by 2025. In response, the Government announced in June 2021 that it would phase out selected single-use plastics between 2022 and 2025. This July, the second tranche of plastic bans come into force with an intent focus on reuse.

READ: What’s the difference between biodegradable and compostable?

We must also understand that after decades of conditioning that developing a sustainable society requires not only the redesign of products, processes and services that encourage widespread sustainable behaviour, it requires that we redesign human habits, lifestyles, and practices. And this is what makes reuse challenging.  

Manufacturers and retailers play a vital role in reuse programmes. Consider the recent deferral of the Container Return Scheme, a programme, rather than funded by the brands producing the packaging, would cost the average household $325 to $351 each year according to financial modelling. Consider your local food court; if the cost of hiring a dishwasher is greater than the cost of offering disposable packaging, you will see businesses prioritise profits. At this point, when we consider 99% of plastics are made from oil, we must continue to raise awareness for the human and environmental impacts of plastics and prioritise the use of safe and renewable plant materials.

The packaging industry is in need of reform

Inevitably, there will be situations where washing reusable products is challenging or not accessible. Consider stadiums and food truck festivals or hospitals and food trade shows. People need to be able to enjoy food and beverages in a variety of contexts safely. Major events and venues do not allow glass or other hard materials for safety reasons.  

Compostable packaging products were designed to tackle the vast amounts of plastic packaging used in takeaway food deliveries, minimising the environmental impact of convenience culture. In situations where an event organiser or building has control of its waste ecosystem, efficient material recovery strategies can be achieved through closed-loop collection systems.

EXPLORE: Find a compost collection partner

The role of certified compostable products in a circular economy

When we look at the growth rate of takeaways in Aotearoa, according to current Research and Markets, the Fast Food and Takeaway Food Services industry is worth $3.2 billion with a projected CAGR of 3.92% during the forecast period (2022 - 2027). The trajectory is for an increase. 

Brands and governments must adopt policies that reduce plastics' production, usage, and disposal. Legislation, standards, or commonly adopted criteria and certifications can accelerate the shift toward a circular economy where recovery makes economic sense. Still, suppose we are to accelerate a low-waste future, we must increase our capacity to recover, transform and produce new materials and/or energy as part of a circular economy which includes investing further in composting. 

The government passed its Zero Carbon amendment to the Climate Change Response Act in 2019, which sets a target for all greenhouse gases except biogenic methane to reach net zero by 2050. Methane from agriculture and waste has a separate target - a reduction of 10 per cent by 2030, yet to be covered by significant policies. 

At a time when cities are slowly beginning to take responsibility for their waste (the July single-use plastic bans signal promising change), it’s crucial that we support composters and councils financially fund existing infrastructure if we are to divert organic matter from landfill-9 per cent of Aotearoa, New Zealand's biogenic methane emissions are from food and organic waste. 

With 10 facilities and 9 collection partners across Aotearoa, New Zealand, we have effective, reliable and ecological ways of recovering food scraps and packaging for composting. SKYCITY, Farro and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare are taking responsibility for their waste, thinking beyond recycling to systems that operate in the waste-to-value space and material responsibility—supporting composters in diverting organic matter, including compostables, from landfill. 

READ: The case for council support for commercial composters featuring Greenwaste to Zero

Waste is no longer a liability but an asset

We believe that by investing in diversion from landfills and incinerators, we’re investing and reinvesting those resources in the local economy which is where we must focus our efforts if we want to reach the ambitious targets set last week by our government that commits Aotearoa, New Zealand, to becoming a low-emissions, low-waste circular economy by 2050. 

What is required is a complex holistic approach. Beyond replacing fossil fuel-based materials with a better alternative, we need collaborative approaches between experts on the circular economy, councils and people working in waste management to collect and process compostable materials at scale. This offers new possibilities for regenerating waste. 

Being “circular” is about remedying the inefficient use of natural resources, products and materials. It is a question of clearing away the concept of “waste” and recognising that everything has value. The choice of materials, therefore, must be oriented towards identifying the most “uncomfortable”, most difficult and most expensive waste to dispose of, to reinterpret and regenerate it while also increasing its value so as to make the process sustainable and convenient. 

We’ve been here for over a decade, developing industry-leading, compostable packaging that works towards accelerating the circular economy in Aotearoa. Local solutions exist with the capacity to recover, transform and produce new materials as part of a circular economy. We believe it is our responsibility to drive the industry forward, advancing the diversion of organic materials from landfill. 

Business owners, those in positions of procurement, can be agents of change. If your business uses single-use plastic products, get in touch to discuss certified compostable options.