BioCycle Magazine

Australia : Maximizing Compostables At The Olympics

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 Maximizing Compostables At The Olympics

THE GOVERNMENT of New South Wales, Australia passed the Waste Minimization and Management Act in 1995, setting a reduction target of 60 percent. One indicator of how much commitment and infrastructure are available to reach this goal will be the success of the overall organics recycling achievements at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney (see “Olympian Effort To Use Recycled Organics,” June, 2000). Events for the games will take place during September and October, 2000.

An estimated 13 million meals will be served during the 60 days of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, with an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 metric tons of waste generated from Olympic venues alone. The projected breakdown for this material is 50 percent compostables, 20 percent recyclable containers, ten percent paper and cardboard, and 20 percent waste. Color-coded containers for eight waste streams include pictograms of packaging and individual items used at the Olympic Games. Dark red bins will be available for food residuals, paper and cardboard.

To control inputs into the waste management system, packaging and foodware specifications have been included in all supply contracts. Preference is given to compostable materials. Packaging and foodware will be color-coded through the manufacturing process or adhesive labeling to match bin colors. Spectators who bring their own food are encouraged to use greaseproof paper and paper bags since these can be composted.

Compostable Foodware And Packaging Products

For the first time, there will be a large-scale introduction of recyclable and compostable foodware and packaging products. Compostable items will include paper coffee cups, plates and bowls made from sugarcane fiber, paper and cardboard food packaging, and biodegradable BioCorp cutlery and bin liners. Based in Redondo Beach, California, Biocorp, Inc. uses a manufacturing process that combines cornstarch with other natural materials to produce a plastic that is biodegradable and compostable.

The first step in their recovery will be placement in a pink biodegradable bag, one of several color-coded bin liners in the system. Differentiation makes it easier for the clean up crews and waste handlers to sort the bags for collection, storage, transporting and processing.

Processors can reject loads of recyclables or compostables if there are too many contaminants. According to Geoff Gerard, special events manager for the waste management firm Visy, “In the test events, we have found without fail that the “back-of-house” areas, kitchens, media, merchandisers, are the worst performers. We understand that all staff are busy; however, a quick training session to use the system can save processors a lot of grief when having to sort through it all.”

Composting Procedures

The compostables will be stored in a biodegradable bin liner in a compactor until they are transported to the Waste Service NSW composting facility at Eastern Creek, on the western outskirts of Sydney. The bags will be fed through a tub grinder and composted with residential yard trimmings in open windrows by Australian Native Landscapes, the composting contractor.

Located in Terrey Hills, New South Wales, Australian Native Landscapes (ANL) has been operating for 27 years (see “25 Years Before The Ban,” June, 1997). Annual feedstock volumes include 220 metric tons of yard trimmings, 100 metric tons of “forest residues” and 80,000 metric tons of biosolids. Vegetative and woody materials come from curbside collection in Sydney, haulers, timber companies, transfer stations, tree trimming companies, dropoff sites and landscapers. Customers include landscape contractors, municipalities, schools, retirement villages, retail chain outlets, wholesale and retail nurseries, and resellers.

It is estimated that it will take 12 to 14 weeks to process the 20- to 30-cubic meter piles. Although testing has shown that the biodegradable bin liners break down quickly, the corn starch cutlery generally takes longer to break down, so it may need to go through a second round of composting. Finished compost will be screened to three particle sizes: a fine material of soil consistency, a medium-grade mulch, and a third grade to be used as remediation material or clean fill.

A small quantity of kitchen scraps from the Olympics organizing committee’s headquarters, the International Broadcast Centre, the Main Press Centre and the Homebush Hotel will be diverted to vermicomposting operations at each site.

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