BioPak discusses the importance of reducing food and beverage waste and how its Compost Connect online platform is connecting the hospitality industry to industrial composters nationwide.
Compost Connect board member and BioPak CEO Gary Smith happened to be sitting at a local café in Bondi, New South Wales, in late 2017, when a drive-by organic recycling truck made him realise how simple it was to collect waste from cafés and restaurants and divert it from landfill to compost, and that he needed to change business waste disposal behaviour.
This encounter sparked Gary’s idea to not only provide waste collection services for cafés and restaurants but educate the broader public about composting.
“As a business we are committed to growing the local composting infrastructure. That is why we started a non-profit organisation Compost Connect, which aims to reduce the one million tonnes of organic waste created by Australia’s hospitality industry every year,” says Gary.
Sustainable packaging business BioPak launched its first Compost Service in 2017 to help make composting more accessible for its customers. Composting bins were set up at various venues, and BioPak partnered with waste collection providers to collect and transport waste to an industrial compost facility.
Due to the success of the program, BioPak received a government grant in 2020 to open the service to all businesses that provide compostable packaging, thus launching the Compost Connect initiative.
“The Compost Connect website makes composting far more accessible by providing users with a directory of companies that supply certified compostable packaging, alongside a simple search to find your local compost collection partner,” Gary says.
Through the website, individuals can also find local councils that provide food and garden organics collection services with detailed information on what is being accepted, to further help divert these materials from landfills. This is especially useful for takeaway packaging.
According to BioPak, so far there are 80 councils across Australia that accept compostable packaging in their residential Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) collections.
Compost Connect provides education and resources about compostable packaging and only lists distributors providing packaging certified compostable by the Australasian Bioplastic Association, which is the certification body for Australian home and industrial composting standards.
It provides an industrial seedling and home compost logo that can then be applied to packaging to give consumers and composters confidence that these products will completely biodegrade within a defined timeframe, without any adverse impact on the final quality of the compost.
Composting plant-based packaging is a closed loop solution. Compostable packaging like BioPak’s is made from plants that require quality soil to grow. When its packaging is composted along with food and beverage scraps, it breaks down through the composting process and returns nutrients back to the soil to grow more plants.
Gary says BioPak could not continue to simply accept that its products were ending up in landfill when there was a more sustainable option available.
“We accept responsibility for all stages in the lifecycle of our products,” Gary says.
“We’re not about being ‘less bad’. Instead, we’re creating products that reflect a cradle-to-cradle life cycle rather than a cradle-to-grave life cycle.”
Gary says reducing food and beverage waste is one of the most important strategies to combat global warming, and an opportunity to divert organic waste from landfill.
“Composting is hyper local, utilises natural processes and does not require significant energy to operate. You put all your compostable packaging and food and beverage scraps into one bin, and it all gets converted into compost.”
Individuals can also choose to support cafés and restaurants who are using compostable packaging and composting on the Compost Club Map. Venues include Neil Perry’s new restaurant Margaret and Matt Whiley’s Re bar in Sydney, and vegan delight Smith + Daughters in Melbourne.
The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) was an early adopter of Compost Connect and composting. Across its three Sydney offices, CBA feed 10,000 people a day, generating more than 10 tonnes of organic waste a month.
Now that CBA is composting, it has turned its waste into enough compost to fill more than 8400 10-kilograms bags of compost. Composting also enables CBA to avoid the release of 61,200 kilograms of carbon emission, which is equal to driving a new car 230,322 kilometres, or nine laps around Australia.
Gary explains how composting can also help to fight climate change.
“When organic matter, such as food and beverage scraps, is disposed of into landfill, it releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. That means waste sent to landfill is a huge contributor to climate change,” Gary says.
“Composting diverts organic waste from landfill, and subsequently helps fight the climate emergency while also producing a useful new resource – compost – that improves soil quality and water retention.”
Gary says composting is also a low-tech, low-cost solution for waste management in the hospitality industry.
“It offers a means to divert large volumes of food and beverage scraps and organic waste from landfill. In Australia and New Zealand, the infrastructure already exists and is rapidly becoming more widely available in different councils and constituencies,” he says.
Gary adds that more than 250 businesses are already participating in the Compost Connect initiative, which is collectively diverting an estimated 2000 tonnes of food and beverage waste and packaging from landfills annually. This material is then transformed into 1400 tonnes of compost, reducing potential landfill greenhouse gas emissions by 1300 tonnes.
“Compost Connect eliminates the need for consumers to dispose of food and packaging in separate bins and reduces contamination of high-value materials, which simultaneously lessens the environmental impacts of organic materials in landfills,” he says.
“The good news is that it’s an easy system to implement. There is no change to your back-of-house set-up. The general waste bin becomes the organics bin, which is emptied into the compost wheelie bin instead of the general waste one. Just remember to use compostable bin liners. Cardboard and plastic recycling can continue to be collected as normal.”
By connecting packaging and hospitality businesses with the organic waste industry, Compost Connect is helping to grow access to organic recycling and instigate widespread change at a local and global level.
“It’s been an amazing accomplishment, especially when I see the thousands of tonnes we’ve avoided from landfill and the number of people that are educated through the Compost Connect network, who are then able to educate others,” Gary says.
“It makes us immensely proud that we’ve been able to play a small part in creating solutions that will help us achieve zero waste as a nation.”
This article appears in the June 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.