How does composting work?

Composting turns any organic matter back into nutrient-rich sol which contributes to new growth.

The challenge

“Dealing with end-of-life has always been a challenge, because participants in the waste industry have very set methods of taking waste and disposing of it, and unfortunately the majority has been landfill,” BioPak CEO Gary Smith says.

The trick is to finalise some form of last-yard solution. The last-yard solution would be that the waste is created in offices, cafes, restaurants, by caterers in events, stadiums, and function centres, and that the waste has to get to the compost. That has been the challenge BioPak is facing.

Many customers want to divert organics from landfill. However, they find the process of getting it from their kitchen plate down to the loading dock for removal, quite difficult. Providing a complete compostable solution allows BioPak to divert the most waste possible. BioPak feels that their customers have more ability to divert food and other organic waste.

The solution

Compostable material including organics and compostable packaging is collected by BioPak’s collection vehicle, which is designed for collecting food waste. Once collected from the premises, it is delivered to the organics recycling facility, where it is unloaded into an area designated for food waste receival.

Food waste is inspected, and workers look for any materials that don’t conform, such as bits of plastic. Staff are trained to know the difference between compostable and non-compostable packaging. The food waste then goes into tunnels, which is a forced aeration system where BioPak can control the moisture and oxygen content, and importantly the temperature.

The food waste stays in the tunnel as a batch for fourteen days. During this batch process, the material is hydrolysed, or kept above 55 degrees, which cooks off all food materials and ensures the product is safe – without any pathogens or weed seeds. In this fourteen days, compostable packaging is also broken down by the biology in the composting process.

After this period, the homogeneous, hydrolysed product goes out into outdoor rows, where it is windrowed and composted for another five weeks, like a maturation process. This results in a high-quality, Australian standard compost which is ready to be applied to land.

The alternative

Putting organic material into landfill is the opposite to composting. By pressing it into a landfill without any oxygen, it is not allowed to decompose in a constructive way, and instead it contributes methane to the atmosphere – a greenhouse gas about 70 times more potent than CO2. The best use for organic matter is to return it to the land, and the soil. This is a simple, effective, circular economy solution.

 

Information taken from BioPak’s website.

Read about BioPak’s grant win, and the difference between compostable, biodegradable, and degradable, on our blog.

 

Article by Tallis Baker.

Planet Friendly Packaging acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we work.

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