Composting at UC

approved compostable packaging at UC

Compostable Packaging

The UC Sustainability Office is collaborating with the UCSA, Cleaning Services and other cafes on campus to divert much of our waste from landfill. UC started a trial in 2013 with takeaway coffee cups, and the system was expanded in 2018 to include new compostable packaging. 

Bins with blue hoods have been placed at strategic points around campus (mostly close to cafes) for the UC community to put their compostable service ware in. The material collected through these bins is then sorted to make sure there is no contamination in them. This process can be time consuming and messy, which is why we need your help to ensure there is no contamination.

Sorted compostable packaging is then sent off with our organics waste to be composted.

Please be careful about what you put in these bins, and follow the instructions on the bin stickers. Even some items that say they are compostable are NOT compostable in Christchurch.

Please remember, these are for compostable packaging only and not for any other items (e.g. pie wrappers, bottles or any other contaminant). This helps to keep the sorting processfast and efficient. Please help us keep this project going by telling your colleague and friends about it and not to contaminate the bins!


What difference will this trial make? We are shifting away from plastic packaging to compostable packaging. If we get the system right we can use our waste to restore the earth, rather than further degrade it.

If the compostable packaging is being composted, why can’t I put organic waste in the blue bins? At this stage in our trial, the contents of the blue bins are all being sorted by hand. This is so we can ensure quality control and provide accurate reporting. Sometimes the material sits around for a while before being handled, and it is not pleasant or safe to deal with rotting food.

Why can’t we just put them in the green bins? Compostable packaging must not go in the green organics bins. This is because there is a variety of packaging coming through the UC waste system, and much of it is not approved by our end point composter. For this reason, compostable packaging in green organics bins is regarded as contamination. The entire contents of that contaminated bin is then sent to landfill, which defeats the purpose of the trial.

What about composting them on-site? We have been exploring options to do this for a number of years, including worm farming. We need to get a back end system in place first that works, we need more physical space than is currently available and we may require some capital (which will not be available for some years).

What are the future plans for this project? We are evolving a system to help us deal with a much bigger waste issue than many people realise, in order to create the possibility of treating more of our waste as an environmental resource rather than a contaminant. We want to phase out certain kinds of packaging from campus (like plastic plates, sushi containers, plastic cups etc), but first we need to make it possible for compostable options to actually be composted.

The specific item I have used is not listed in the photo on the bins - what do I do? If you are unsure where to put your rubbish, please use the red landfill bins as your default. One item in the landfill is far better than contaminating an entire bag in the blue bin and then sending that whole bag to landfill.


Location of blue bins

  • Outside Reboot, Erskine – (north entrance)
  • James Hight/Puaka – (by fountain/ponds)
  • James Hight/Puaka/C block lawn – western corner
  • James Hight/Puaka – outside the Berg
  • James Hight/Puaka/C block lawn – eastern corner
  • Undercroft by Café 1894
  • Outside Café 101
  • By Hardhard Café
  • Outside Business and Law
  • Collective Café (Dovedale)
Image describing organics protocol

Recycling food scraps and organic waste into compost significantly reduces the volume of waste sent to landfill, making it an important waste minimisation tool. Compost can then be used by gardeners to improve soil fertility and structure. Food and organic waste generated at UC is taken offsite and made into compost. You can put all food scraps and organic material in the green wheelie organics bins and small bench top containers in staff kitchens. This includes:

  • Fruit and peels
  • Tea bags
  • Sandwiches
  • Cakes
  • Meat
  • Coffee grounds (and filters)
  • Flowers
  • Any other plant material
  • All food waste (both raw and cooked)
  • No Plastic
  • No coffee stirrers
  • No chopsticks
  • No cardboard or paper

Organic waste disposal costs are much cheaper than landfill costs, so putting food scraps and organic waste into the green organics bins is an important way to manage UC's waste disposal costs. Unfortunately, the most recent waste audit (2017) found that a lot of organic waste is being disposed of through the red landfill bins by the UC community. Indeed, around 30% of the contents of landfill bins can comprise of organics. Thanks for doing your part to help reduce contamination in our bins!

Person digging through compost bed