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Food scraps composting project pioneered in Waitematā

Published: 11 April 2019
From left to right at O.M.G gardens: Levi Brinsdon-Hall (Head Gardener), Rob Thomas (Waitematā Local Board Environment Lead), Denise Roche (Waitematā Local Board Community Lead) and Ella Rose Shnaap (Beekeeper).

Low carbon projects funded and pioneered over the past three years by Waitematā Local Board have led to a food scraps composting initiative at a number of community gardens in the local board area.

As part of their plan to ensure that the natural environment is valued, protected and enhanced, the local board allocated funding to a project over 2017 and 2018 aimed at reducing food scraps from local businesses.

The project saw coffee grounds collected from 11 cafes and composted at seven community gardens in the Waitematā Local Board area. This redirected 7153 kgs. of coffee grounds away from landfill. Food scraps sent to landfill produce methane gas which is 21 times worse for the environment than carbon.

To take the project to the next level, in June 2018 the local board and Auckland Council’s Waste Solutions team broadened the project’s focus to a more sustainable food scraps composting initiative.

Funding for the next phase of the project increased from $12,000 to $20,000 to develop the community gardens’ capacity to compost food scraps from both households and businesses.

Studying composting initiatives

Finn Mackesy of Resilio Studio was contracted to undertake the project work and says he started by conducting multiple case studies looking at community composting initiatives already in place across the Waitematā Local Board area.

“I’ve been cross-mapping infrastructure, sites and spaces, materials and nutrients, and people and entities related to community composting of food scraps across the local board area.

“Through that work, I’ve been able to identify prototyping and trialling opportunities in Waitematā. I’m now working with Gardens4Health, NZ Box, For the Love of Bees and Humming Gardens to support composting efforts at O.M.G. (Organic Market Garden), Highwic Gardens, Te Maara Gardens, and Kelmarna Gardens.  

“A challenge for this project is that many people active within the Waitematā community composting sector are quite stretched and need further support to grow their capacity and take on new initiatives.

“To increase support for the local composting sector, the project held a hui in March, which created space for everyone involved to connect, network, share learning and knowledge, and collaborate.

“As a result of the hui, we’re creating a community composting sector network that is in the process of formally naming itself. The network is made up of practitioners from across the community committed to developing sector capacity and capability,” he said.

Finn Mackesy says the results of cross-mapping to identify nitrogen and carbon sources, as well as existing infrastructure and sites that can support community composting initiatives in Waitematā, will be presented at the For the Love of Bees & Friends Regenerative Supper and Conversations’ event on 12 April at the Ellen Melville Centre.

Educating the community

Waitematā Local Board Environment and Infrastructure Lead Rob Thomas says the project’s new direction is vital to develop community capacity through education, infrastructure and activating the local circular economy for food scraps.

“This approach is timely to support Auckland’s vision of achieving Zero Waste to landfill by 2040 - taking care of people and the environment and turning waste into a resource.

“As a community, we can respond now by supporting composting hubs that are linked to urban farms and create localised employment from collecting food scraps and making compost to enhance local food production,” he said.

Recently the Waitematā Local Board approved a funding increase of $6800 for the project. A portion of the increase will go towards the purchase of a wood chipper, which will increase the presence of high-quality carbon in hot composting systems. The rest will fund the design of a prototype rodent-proof composting system.

O.M.G - Organic Market Garden on Symonds Street is one of the community gardens involved in the next phase of the project. The site was derelict four years ago when it was secured by Waitematā Local Board through the Central Railway Line project, with funding from Phantom Billboards and the UpTown Business Association.

Project lead at O.M.G., Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, says they want to ensure that local food scraps are harvested and transformed into compost that is used locally, keeping a valuable resource within local communities.

Waitematā Local Board Community Development Lead, Denise Roche, says she has hope that this project will provide a model for how communities can localise the waste network and create employment at the same time.

“Our local board is really proud to support this incredibly important work in the community, which could be a prototype for future Auckland,” she said.

Head along to the O.M.G, harvest every Tuesday morning to buy spray-free produce, support local employment, help reduce the city’s carbon footprint, and to find out more about the food scraps composting initiative.