Breaking down compost - Innocent Compost Series Part 2
At Innocent Packaging, we design compostable packaging products to fit right in with the organics waste stream - meaning your bagasse bowl with leftover salad can all go to the same place. No separating, no cleaning or rinsing, just all in one bin.
Where are these bins you ask? There are a whole host of organics collection services nationwide, you can find one close to you here. It’s a complicated scene at the moment in New Zealand, some regions take all compostable packaging, some only take select products and not any bioplastics, some only take food and garden waste, and some don’t take food waste at all. It’s important to remember that just because in some places food waste and packaging aren’t being composted, that it doesn’t mean they can’t be composted. For the sake of our climate and soils we need to start composting as much as possible, right now.
While there isn’t commercial waste infrastructure nationwide yet, our hope is that as more people learn about and are exposed to composting, this increased knowledge will empower us all to ask for more from our local councils and to get inspired and build community composts ourselves so that we can get all organic waste out of landfills and actually composted.
Composting is nature’s waste-free recycling system; as old as time, happening all around us in nature, and actually dead simple. Below, we break down compost further:
By definition, compost is both the process of recycling organic matter as well as the output of this process - an amazing fertile humus which is wonderful for restoring nutrients to the soil and growing plants.
Organic matter is, broadly speaking, anything that is from nature and capable of decay, including food scraps, garden waste, and a multitude of fibrous everyday products like paper and certified compostable packaging.
Composting starts with collecting organic matter and mixing it to gain a good ratio of carbon rich “brown” material and nitrogen rich “green” material. Moisture and oxygen are required in the mix too, so that the microbial decomposers (special bacteria and fungi) can thrive. With the right conditions and some time, the end result is a nutrient dense compost.
Fun fact: the perfect carbon to nitrogen ratio (20:1) is based on how much nitrogen bacteria can ‘eat’ - they only need small amounts of nitrogen, so if the compost has more nitrogen than the bacteria can get through, it will build up and form ammonia - which is smelly, and not ideal!
To guide your composting at home, or to easily understand the principles of composts large and small, there is a simple equation:
Green (nitrogen rich) including: vegetable waste, coffee grounds and grass clippings.
Brown (carbon rich) including: hay, fallen leaves, sawdust, paper, and fibre based compostable packaging.
Get your mix going by following the 20:1 rule for carbon to nitrogen. This translates to roughly 70:30 brown to green mass, and if your compost gets smelly, you easily know to add more brown inputs. Roughly shred packaging and cardboard and make sure everything is well mixed.
Your compost mix should be moist to touch, but not dripping wet. You can balance moisture by adjusting your inputs as above, or adding water if your mix is too dry.
Make sure your bin has loads of ventilation holes and also make sure that oxygen can get within the layers (i.e it is porous). In commercial composts they will often add lots of bulk like wood chips to aerate the pile, you can match this at home by adding bulky large shreds of cardboard or bagasse, even fallen leaves will give you a less dense pile with lots of oxygen for the microbes to do their mahi. Lastly, turn your compost pile frequently to even out aeration.
These handy little microbes are already there, just look after them and they will get to work decomposing your scraps. If you have the balance right, these little guys will thrive and produce lots of heat, this heat helps the decomposition of anything dense. In fact, heat of 60 degrees is all that is needed to break down PLA, and a healthy medium sized compost can easily get to this temperature.
Once your bin is full it needs to be set aside for curing, or if the material at the bottom of your bin has composted simply leave it, it can take many months to cure but you will know it is ready to use when it is a beautiful dark brown with an earthy smell.
Plants love compost, get your black-gold and give it to all of your plants, full circle baby.
At Innocent, our packaging is certified compostable, meaning it has been tested and is guaranteed to fully break down back into organic matter. Our bagasse range is certified home compostable to the TUV Okay Compost home compostability standard, while the rest of our range is certified to international standards EN13432 or D6400/D6868 which means it is certified to compost fully within 12 weeks at a commercial compost plant. The key reason some of our range needs to be commercially composted is because PLA, the corn derived bioplastic many of our products are made from or lined with, requires 60 degree heat to start breaking down.
This means the best place to get the full range of used Innocent Packaging products to is a commercial compost operation, such as Envirofert in Auckland and Awapuni Resource Recovery Park in Palmerston North. However, the key factors of both heat and time can and have been replicated in small scale compost solutions, such as those set up by NZ Box - a small hot compost which easily breaks down all Innocent Packaging certified compostable packaging, which can be a great solution for small towns or community projects such as existing projects at Eden Park and on Waiheke Island. Find a community compost near you at The Compost Collective. If you have a home compost, you can add our certified home compostable bagasse range with confidence as well as our bleach free napkins and paper bags, this is a great way to both keep the mix in your compost happy and have a great end of life solution for some of the food packaging that comes home with you.
Together we can all work to get food waste and packaging out of landfills.
Where do I put my Innocent Packaging?
End of life solutions near you.