Rubbish & recycling  |  29 Jul 2019

Nearly 100 tonnes of waste has been diverted from the landfill thanks to Christchurch City Council-led efforts to ensure compostable food packaging is used at public events in the city.

Over the past three years the Council’s Events Team has run two trials focused on reducing the amount of waste produced from events in the city like Sparks, the South Island Lantern Festival, and the South Island Wine and Food Festival.

The trials have involved getting food vendors attending the events to sign-up to using only Council–approved compostable food packaging.

The first, small scale trial involved three major events in the city and resulted in more than 12 tonnes of waste being diverted from landfill.

The second, bigger trial involved 43 public events – some produced by the Council and some by external event organisers - and resulted in a further 87 tonnes of waste being diverted from landfill.

That means about 75 per cent of the total waste produced at those 43 events ended up either being composted or recycled.

The key to the success of these waste diversions is the food vendor’s packaging is audited on site and then hand sorted at the event into the correct waste streams.

“We love bringing events to life but we were very conscious of the volume of waste that is often produced as a result of them. We felt we could make a positive change by making our events more sustainable and minimising the effect they have on the natural environment,’’ says Council Events and Arts Manager Lucy Blackmore.

“The majority of events waste is made up of food and disposable packaging. The team felt that if we worked with food vendors to ensure the disposable food packaging and cutlery they were using at events could be composted, then we could greatly reduce the amount of rubbish being sent to landfill.

“Over the course of the two Composting Food Packaging at Events trials 99 tonnes of waste have been diverted away from landfill and into other waste streams. Given an estimated 905,000 people attended those events, that is an excellent result,’’ Ms Blackmore says.

Throughout the trials the Events Team has worked closely with its sustainability partner, Total Waste Solutions, to find efficiencies and develop purpose-built infrastructure to support the initiative.

 “This initiative has been a learning curve for us all, so it’s been great to have a trusted sustainability partner on board to help us through this process and charter new ground,” Ms Blackmore says.

“More and more events are wanting to participate in the initiative and it has changed the landscape of how we produce events in our city. Other event organisers, venue and facility operators, and communities are looking at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it because they too want to make sustainable choices.’’

Ms Blackmore says due to the success of the trial, the Events Team is now looking at how it can make the compostable food packaging initiative a permanent feature of events in Christchurch.