Compost Connect is Australia’s first national composting network, connecting businesses and individuals to places that can compost their food waste and compostable packaging.
While reusables should be used where and when possible, they are not always practical or will take some time to become widespread. In the meantime, with only 9% of the globe’s plastic waste being recycled due to contamination or improper disposal, compostable packaging and composting shows circularity at scale and provides a viable solution to single-use plastic products in the food service industry. Compostable packaging used in the foodservice industry can be reclaimed and turned into nutrient soil and acts as a vessel to help divert food waste from landfill. Indeed, the packaging and the food scraps it contains can be disposed of together in a single bin.
Below, Compost Connect’s Operation Manager Celine Garcia, explains how the program works and shares plans to make composting accessible for businesses and individuals across Australia and New Zealand.
"Initially developed by BioPak and backed by Australian Chef and restaurateur Neil Perry, the Compost Connect network is one of the first product stewardship schemes of its kind to help reduce the one million tonnes of organic waste created by Australia’s foodservice industry every year. The program is supported by the Australian government and has received some funding as part of the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund."
"At Compost Connect, we recognise that reducing food waste and diverting organic waste from landfill is one of the most critical strategies to combat global warming. Food production and waste account for 26 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and when food waste breaks down in landfills, it emits methane, which is 28 times more potent than CO2. Furthermore, less than 8 percent of the 1,000,000 tonnes of organic waste generated by the food service and hospitality sector is recycled."
"With 25 percent of Australian councils offering FOGO (Food Organics Garden Organics) collection to their communities, and 10 percent accepting compostable packaging in their organics bin, many consumers don’t have other options than sending it to landfills."
Without an easy way for businesses to organise specific organics collections, it was clear that we needed to work together and connect the dots between local waste providers, food venues, packaging distributors, and end users to increase food waste and packaging recovery and instigate widespread change. We can make a global impact, all by making changes at the local level.
"While other organic waste collection initiatives focus more on household organic waste, Compost Connect’s initiative targets the hospitality and foodservice industry, the second-largest organic waste producer."
"We are set up as a brand-agnostic initiative that aims to connect communities and provide circular solutions in the foodservice packaging industry. Anyone who is certified to Australian composability standards can become a Compost Connect member to ensure their products are being recovered correctly."
"The Compost Connect platform provides connections between all players in the industry with three major functions:
FIND YOUR LOCAL COMPOSTER: Foodservice businesses who want to divert their waste from landfill to organic recycling can use the platform to find and send inquiries to their local composters/waste collectors. Once a business has signed up for a collection service with one of our Compost Partners, they can be listed on our 'Compost Club Map'.
FIND COMPOSTABLE PACKAGING: Businesses can look for certified compostable foodservice packaging suppliers to help them with the transition and elimination of plastic single-use packaging.
LOCATE RESPONSIBLE BUSINESSES: The 'Compost Club Map' helps end users in finding responsible businesses that choose to compost and allows customers to recover compostable packaging in the same venue where they purchased their takeaway food."
"A wide range of education pieces, case studies, blogs, and partner profiles are also available on our resources page. Another function helps end users check if their council provides FOGO (Food Organics Garden Organics) collection in their area on the Australian Councils Composting page."
"The Compost Connect platform has been gaining credibility and visibility from industry support and the input from sustainability think-tanks like the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), Boomerang Alliance, and material certification bodies like the Australasian Bioplastic Association (ABA)."
"We want consumers to get to know us better and understand the benefits of composting. Compost Connect works with top chefs such as Neil Perry and Nic Watt to show how easy it can be to compost organics and compostable packaging. We have been sponsoring food venues such as Akarana Eatery, Margaret, and Re Bar (a Sydney venue built on waste) to get them composting their organics and are proud to provide a sustainable solution to cafes and restaurants to help them divert waste from landfill."
"Compost Connect currently has nearly 300 businesses who progressively joined the initiative, and have helped divert over 2,000 tonnes of organic waste and compostable packaging from landfills each year, the equivalent to the weight of 1,500 cars. This has contributed to creating 1,460 Tonnes of compost and avoided the emission of 1,060 Tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. We also have a strong social media presence with over 9,000 followers, allowing educational content to be shared with a widespread audience."
"According to the most recent economic report commissioned by AORA (the Australian Organics Recycling Association), titled The Economic Contribution of the Australian Organics Recycling Industry, one job is supported for every 1,550 tonnes of organic material recycled in Australia. With over 2000 tonnes of organic material already recycled via the Compost Connect platform, we anticipate this number will grow exponentially and support the creation of new jobs in the waste and recycling sector."
"We want to eventually service all postcodes and suburbs in Australia and New Zealand. To achieve this, we need to keep collaborating with the waste and packaging industry and continue to work closely with governments to build a unified, national approach that embraces circularity."
"The waste industry is concerned about false compostable packaging claims and single-use plastics that pollute their feedstocks. If all foodservice venues were using compostable packaging certified to Australian standards instead of plastics, we would gain confidence from the waste industry to service in more locations and build the right infrastructure for the future."
"With the ongoing plastic bans in Australia, we see an opportunity to increase awareness of the benefits of composting packaging. We need more organic waste processing facilities accepting Australian-certified compostable packaging and regulations supporting this transition. We also would like to see more councils implementing Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) bins that accept compostable packaging. All the efforts are correlated, and we need a lot of collaboration to achieve circularity across the country."
"Ask your favourite food venue and local council to start composting, and be part of the solution that leaves nothing to waste. Find out more about Compost Connect and how to get involved at https://www.compostconnect.org/."