• May 28, 2020
Those compostable cups can cause methane issues if not disposed of properly. Photo: Rosa Garcia-Knight
Compostable packaging can be harmful to the environment when dumped the wrong way.
The packaging is only commercially compostable and can’t go in the organics bin or the compost pile at home, says Mikaila Ceelen-Thomas.
Ms Ceelen-Thomas said people needed to be aware of the methane produced, an issue she discovered in her business and university research.
“A lot of people are unaware that when you pick packaging that is compostable or made out of plant materials, it goes to landfill and produces methane which is actually worse for the environment than carbon emissions.”
Ms Ceelen-Thomas learned about the issue when she co-founded KLEPN an award-winning plastic packaging alternative made from kelp.
She also helps run -social media and communications for the University of Canterbury Sustainability.
In the landfill environment the compostable products decompose faster than the other waste.
However, without much oxygen they produce methane, a gas which contributes to the climate crisis.
The compost pile at home does not get above the 55C threshold to break down these products and the organics bin collection can only take products that decompose in the 12 week processing time frame.
When the packaging is disposed of correctly it has a much ‘greener’ result .
The commercial compost process is oxygenated and slower it does not produce methane and can be used as fertiliser.
Cost and a lack of knowledge is the issue, says Peter Rabbidge of Revital Group.
Mr Rabbidge, general manager of composting operations at Revital Group, said commercial composting should be more accessible and integrated into household bin collections but recognizes it is far too expensive a process at this stage.
“It is a very costly but effective method of solving a problem that has occurred for hundreds of years.”
Mr Rabbidge said education is needed on the importance of segregating this category of packaging.
“The biggest concern we have is there is still a number of well-meaning people who become environmental delinquents because in amongst their green waste you still find contaminates.
It is a great amount of labour and costs more than $1000 a week for two individuals to come in just to segregate the delinquent materials from the waste we are processing.”
To get your compostable packaging waste to Revital use a service such as JJ Richards who take the waste directly to one of the Revital facilities or to a transfer station where it is segregated, and then sent to the Revital sites.
There are 15 facilities in New Zealand which accept compostable packaging, each with their own criteria and transport methods.