Compost: A $30 million benefit

A Putaruru trial has found the key to composting success: separating food waste from green waste.

Forty tonnes of kitchen scraps have been collected in the first six months of the Putaruru food waste trial. Instead of heading to a landfill, Putaruru residents’ food leftovers, bones and tea-bags have been converted to commercial compost production, where they will boost production in the horticultural sector.

The Putaruru food waste trial is a joint initiative between South Waikato District Council and Earthcare Environmental. It follows a 2010 cost-benefit analysis of New Zealand household organic waste undertaken by Eunomia Research, which showed that diverting household food waste from landfill could result in an average of more than  $20 million per annum in social, economic and environmental benefits for the country.

The study found that the separation of food waste from green waste was central to success. Without food scraps in the household rubbish, waste volumes become substantially smaller with less smell, allowing for less frequent collections.

The 12-month trial was launched in April when all 1,400 households in the Putaruru township were delivered a vented kitchen caddy with a supply of compostable bin liners and a larger, lockable bin for storage and weekly kerbside collection.

“The results to date have been extremely encouraging,” says South Waikato district mayor Neil Sinclair.

”Around two-thirds of residents are participating – which is remarkable given that it’s entirely voluntary and we haven’t provided any incentive other than communicating that it’s a good thing to do.”

In addition to reducing the weight of kitchen waste in the general household collection by some 43 percent there has been a noticeable increase in the volume of other recycling. The end-result is that Putaruru’s total household rubbish going to landfill has already decreased by a quarter.

Mike Jones, managing director of Earthcare Environmental, says he’s delighted with the results. He said that higher rates of participation will be achieved with more community education.

“Once people start separating out their kitchen scraps, it raises a whole process of waste awareness.”

Organic waste makes up approximately half of the household rubbish sent to landfills in New Zealand. Of this, by far the largest proportion is food waste. 

Food waste collection is found overseas but not in New Zealand.

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