Composting questions answered

Q. Does the university have a composting scheme for food waste?

A. Yes, the Food Waste Diversion scheme for commercial kitchens began in late 2016 as a trial and currently runs at four sites across our City Campus, including three Accommodation Halls. During the first year, over 132 tonnes of food waste were diverted from landfill and taken into a composting facility to be turned into soil conditioner.

Q. How does the food waste diversion scheme work?

A. Commercial kitchens at O’Rorke, University and Whitaker Halls have a dedicated collection system whereby kitchen staff and student residents use special bins to collect pre- and post-consumption food waste. A contractor picks up the food waste three times a week and transports it to composting facility in Tuakau. We have also introduced waste-free dining areas in the accommodation halls. This means that only scrape stations are available in the dining room and no other types of wastes or recyclables are accepted.

The Quad Café kitchen at the City Campus has the same system in place for pre-consumption food waste.  

Q. Can we have a food waste collection service for our office, building, or area?

A. The food waste diversion scheme is expected to gradually incorporate new sites. However, this type of collection is not yet available university-wide. Watch this space. If you would like to register interest in a food waste diversion scheme in your building/office please contact Mark Neal, Waste Minimisation Specialist.

Q. Does the university accept compostable packaging in the food waste diversion scheme?

A. No. When the project started, we assessed the possibility of also accepting compostable packaging in the food waste bins. We conducted a packaging inventory of food retailers in our City Campus and found that almost all items were not suitable for composting (serviettes were the only exception). The facility operator considered all items either ‘problematic’ or a ‘contaminant’. None of the items, including those displaying ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘compostable’ messages had visible composting standards printed on them which made it very difficult for the operator to assess whether they would adequately compost.

In New Zealand, some composting plant operators are calling for compostable packaging to comply with Australian standards to ensure they can successfully incorporate those items in their process. At present, there are only a limited number of products in the market which are certified to this standard.

The decision not to include packaging marketed as compostable into our food waste diversion scheme also allows us to have a deeper conversation about whether we want to continue seeking ‘single-use’ solutions.