Council’s Events & Arts Team are targeting the reduction and diversion of waste produced from events in the city by leading the Composting Food Packaging at Events sustainable waste management project.

The project involves getting food vendors at the events to use only Council–approved compostable food packaging.

Since the project started in 2017, 150 tonnes of waste has been diverted away from landfill and into other waste streams. This is 76% of all event waste.

We are encouraging more and more events to take part and reduce their impact on the environment, so please get in touch if you want to hear more and see how you can be involved. 

Contact Rachel Dunford, Events Partnerships & Development Advisor – 

The project

Composting Food Packaging at Events (CFPE) is a Council-led initiative created to support the events industry in diverting waste to our local waste facilities. As the name indicates, the focus sits with the food packaging because at large-scale and/or food-focused events most of the waste comes from food packaging or single use items used at events. Therefore the current concept fits best with any large-scale, or food-focused event rather than smaller community events where food is not a big contributor to waste. 

At a CFPE event we have the three waste streams available for the public to use - green for organics, yellow for recycling and red for landfill.  All food at the event will be served in Council approved compostable packaging so that the food scraps and packaging can all go into the green bin and be composted at the local organics facility in Christchurch. At most of the events we'll also have bin ambassadors at the bin stations to guide and educate the public on which bin the item goes into. 

Behind the scenes, the waste management provider sorts through all waste produced at the event (from all waste streams) to maximise the amount of waste diverted and to eliminate any contamination to compost and recycling. 

Council's role is to lead project, ensure consistency and make advances along the way.  We hold the relationship with the waste facilities, managing approvals of new packaging into the project, training food vendors and supporting event organisers to be more sustainable. 

Approved compostable packaging

Child putting recycling into the bin

Check out the Composting Food Packaging at Events manual [PDF, 745 KB] for the full list of approved products, and the conditions for taking part in the project. 

Although approved composting food packaging for events can be purchased by the public, they must still go in your red bin at home.

The use of these products at events is in a controlled, managed event situation. If they go in your green bin at home, there is no way to distinguish these products from the unacceptable compostable or biodegradable products and it risks having your bin stickered or not collected.

Currently, only events participating in Composting Food Packaging at Events (CFPE) initiative can commercially compost their event waste (food and packaging) in Christchurch. 

More information on what can go in your green bin at home.

Events sustainability partner: Total Waste Solutions

Fireworks above recycling binsPartway through trial two Council made the decision to take on a sustainability partner as a full provider of both infrastructure and waste sorting services at our events.

Total Waste Solutions (external link)came on board and is responsible for all aspects of composting food packaging at Council events, as well as a number of other events.

They have also invested in purpose-built infrastructure to support composting food packaging at events, helping the initiative to not only be environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable for both Council-produced and other major events taking place in Christchurch. 

Composting food packaging at events: Trial 1.0

Infographic showing the 61% of waste bing recycledThe first trial took place across three large public events in February 2017. The three events included two Council-produced public events - Sparks and Christchurch Lantern Festival - and one partnership trial event with Christchurch Night Noodle Markets.

Before this initiative, all waste from events was most likely sent to landfill. There was no composting stream available citywide for events and even if there were yellow bins at an event, the recycling was too contaminated to be accepted unless hand-sorted.

The three events had an estimated 190,000 attendees between them and diverted 12 tonnes of waste, which amounted to a total of 61% of all the waste generated from the three trial events.

Composting Food Packaging at Events (CFPE) – Trial 1.0 summary [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Composting food packaging at events: Trial 2.0

Donut chart showing 75% recycling waste divertedAfter a successful first trial, the Council then extended the range of compostable food packaging to four suppliers, increasing the range of packaging for the food vendors.

We also went from three events to 43 Council and non-Council events between April 2017 to May 2019. The Council worked hard to assist and advise events on how to participate in the composting food packaging guidelines.

All of the organic compostable food packaging products at these events were hand-sorted and sent to the Living Earth composting facility.

In total, this trial diverted 87 tonnes from landfill to compost and recycling, which was 75% of the total waste from these events.

Composting Food Packaging at Events (CFPE) – Trial 2.0 summary [PDF, 941 KB]

What’s next

Row of binsThe CFPE initiative has been viewed as a success by food vendors, event organisers, and the wider public. This has changed the landscape of how we produce events in our city.

The CFPE initiative is growing rapidly. More and more events internally and externally want to participate and now facilities and other communities in Christchurch are also wanting to make more sustainable choices.

Council is now working on how the initiative will be made permanently available to events and become more accessible to a wider range of events.