Tuesday 18 June
Following recent media stories around what’s compostable and what’s not, Wellington City Council wanted to get the facts
straight and clear up any confusion.
Council’s Waste Operations Manager Emily Taylor-Hall explains why the changes have been made to what will soon be
accepted by Capital Compost – and what will go to Southern Landfill.
“We have for a long time been pursuing a BioGro organic certification for our Capital Compost. Now that we have achieved
this and to meet continuing certification criteria we can no longer accept compostable bags and compostable coffee
cups,” says Ms Taylor-Hall.
Currently the compost industry is largely unregulated in New Zealand, and key players are turning to BioGro to gain
credibility and acceptability of product. This is important nationally if Wellington City Council is going to apply
diverted waste products to our land in order to grow food.
“However, we continue to accept a number of compostable products including unlined paper and cardboard; potato starch;
pine, sugarcane or bagasse, soft-thin bamboo materials and cutlery, and vegetable wax coated paper,” says Ms
Councillor Iona Pannett, Portfolio Leader for Waste says “while corn starch and PLA (Polylactic acid or polylactide)
compostable bags and compostable take away cups are very convenient, inclusion with other organic material will prevent
certification and diminish the value of the product we are trying to make. We need to find alternatives such as more
regular cleaning of bins and keep cups.
“Like phasing out of single-use plastic bags, this will take some getting used to, but it will be worth the effort.
“There are already some good alternatives to single use cups, some of which Wellington City Council support via funding
from our Waste Minimisation seed funding like Again Again reusable cup initiative,” says Cr Pannett.
The volume of coffee cups and bin liners coming into the Capital Compost operation is currently minimal, although still
not allowed under the BioGro certification.
“We expect that the number of businesses that this will impact will be small, and knowing that there are alternatives to
single use items, we would hope that they would be able to adjust over time,” she adds.
Ms Taylor-Hall continues: “We understand that at least one of the collection service providers is willing to separate
out the liners from the rest of the organic waste, but we recommend businesses contact their service provider for more
“Regardless of whether packaging is compostable or not, it is still a ‘use once and throw away’ product,” continues Cr
Pannett. “Businesses should look at this as an opportunity to find new solutions that aren’t single use. Looking ahead,
those that can, will gain a competitive advantage over those that persist with single use items. Consumers are more
environmentally aware or interested in waste than ever before – the support for phasing out single use plastic bags
supports this. We see this more and more with the amount of ‘keep cup’ coffee cups being used across the streets of
Wellington, and we would expect to see demand for single use coffee cups reduce over time because of this.
“There are no easy outs with ‘compostable’ cups or liners, and we must resist easy options that don’t actually make a
difference. Convenience is part of the issue as to why we generate so much waste in the first place,” says Cr Pannett.
“Wellington City Council fully supports home compostable packaging, as this can be managed by consumers in their home
composts, providing the packaging complies with NZ home composting standards. To make it work, it’s recommended to have
no more than 10% of volume of compostable packaging,” adds Cr Pannett.
Home compostable products are not able to be composted at Capital Compost if they contain PLA or corn starch like coffee
cups or corn starch bin liners.