Biodegradable Waste

If your event sells or supplies food to participants and if food is sold in takeaway disposable packaging, biodegradable waste could potential make up a significant proportion of event waste.

Significant reductions in solid waste quantity can be achieved by diverting this waste and sending it for composting. Look at the following options for your event.

  • Search out a composting service provider. Ask your recycling service if they can offer a pickup.
  • Find out whether the composting facility can take only food scraps or other compostable materials such as paper plates, cups, wooden cutlery, serviettes, coffee cups etc. Also check if they will take cooked and raw meat.
  • Put a system in place to capture compostable waste from kitchens (back of house). Ensure you manage the process so that the compostable waste is not contaminated with plastic, metal or other non-compostable items.
  • Put a system in place to capture the audience’s compostable waste. At large festivals with eating precincts this would include a separate bin, next to the general and recycling bins, for compostable waste. You may need to have staff at the bins to ensure no contamination.
  • Make sure someone is delegated to manage the system. This should be someone from your waste contractor charged with the role of ‘compostable waste management and compliance’.
  • Train, check and double check that all catering and waste staff understand what they can and can’t put in the compost bin, and importantly, repeat this process for the bulk storage skips.
  • For larger festivals with land and high volume, consider undertaking composting onsite if council and Environment Agency regulations allow.

Processing Biodegradable Waste
Sending biodegradable waste to landfill or for incineration should be prevented.

If sent to landfill it will rot down and create methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The optimum end for biodegradable waste is to be composted and used to replace chemical fertilizer, or to be placed into anaerobic digestion to produce biogas.

Biodegradable vs Degradable and Compostable vs Biodegradable 

Biodegradable means that the metabolic conversion of the material to carbon dioxide is at least 90% in less than six months.

Degradable means the material will disintegrate into small pieces of the same material in the presence of sunlight.

Compostable means the material is biodegradable in one compost cycle and that the material disintegrates with the mass of residues larger than 2mm must be less than 10% of the original mass. The final compost must also be absent of ‘negative effects’ including a plant growth test and chemical analysis.

Claims around Compostable and Biodegradable are regulated by standard such as US Standard ASTM D6400-99, European Standard EN13432 and Australian Standard AS4736-2006.  The Australian standard adds a worm eco-toxicity test. There are also other requirement such as the pH, salinity, and other elements existence (potassium, magnesium, etc)

Biodegradable waste

  • Food packaging & drink cups
  • Food scraps and uneaten food
  • Napkins
  • Pizza boxes(not heavily inked)
  • Burger cartons (not heavily inked)
  • Timber or starch (potato/corn) based cutlery
  • Wooden coffee stirrers.
  • Kitchen scraps (need to determine if meat or bones can go in)
  • Uneaten food
  • Food or beverage soiled paper or cardboard packaging which has no plastic coating, and with low ink content
  • Excess prepared food
  • Excess perishable food ingredients