SkyCity Auckland has successfully tackled a huge food waste problem, diverting nearly 500 tonnes – the equivalent weight of 142 buses – from landfill to become compost for kiwifruit orchards and landscaping companies.
Operating one of the largest commercial catering operations in New Zealand, with more than 20 kitchens servicing its hospitality, hotel and convention operations, SkyCity Auckland required a daily service to pick-up the more than one tonne of food waste generated at the precinct.
A signatory of the Climate Leaders Coalition, SkyCity has set a target of eliminating its food waste to landfill as part of its environment strategy that works to reduce energy, waste, and carbon emissions.
SkyCity Environmental Manager, Courtney Simpson, says food waste diversion was the single biggest opportunity she identified to reduce waste to landfill when starting with SkyCity in 2016.
“We knew food waste was a big problem and we wanted to find a really good solution for it; one that would benefit our environment and our community. So our food waste programme has three main areas; reducing waste in our kitchens, donating any surplus food we can to KiwiHarvest, and, for everything else, we send it to be commercially composted. ‘’
SkyCity partnered with EnviroNZ, which commercially composts all the precinct’s food waste at the company’s state-of-the-art composting facility in Hampton Downs. Using covered aeration bunkers, the food waste is blended with green waste and composted for eight weeks before being screened, matured and sold to kiwifruit orchards and landscape yards in South Auckland.
To ensure the compost is of a high quality, it was important to ensure that the teams across SkyCity’s kitchens changed the way they did things. EnviroNZ worked closely with SkyCity to deliver training sessions, new signage, 110 new wheelie bins, 10,000 new compostable bin liners and implemented new collection processes.
“There were a number of unique challenges in putting together a food waste programme for an operation the size of SkyCity,’’ says Dave Elder, General Manager Market Development at EnviroNZ.
“They have a huge operation that requires a seven day-a-week service, which we’d never offered before, and a lot of different training and policies needed to be put in place to make the process work across all of their kitchens,” said Elder.
To deliver such a significant diversion, the change needed to be driven from inside SkyCity Auckland’s kitchens, and Fiona Ruane, Executive Chef – Main Kitchen, says that it didn’t take long for the change to become normal practice across the 11 kitchens she oversees.
“Change isn’t easy, and it was the younger generation that drove this change within the kitchen as they are incredibly conscious of the environment. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and soon enough everyone was using the new green food waste bins, but also finding ways to reduce our food waste altogether. Over the past two years, we’ve donated more than 700kgs of food to KiwiHarvest,” said Ruane.
Abbie Reynolds, Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Council welcomed the initiative. “It’s great to see SkyCity looking at the big picture of how they can reduce the amount of food waste going to landfill. This reinforces the importance of good partnerships, and getting staff on board, when trying to make meaningful changes to practices.”
Implementing a food waste stream means that SkyCity can also benefit from commercial composting to reduce single use plastics.
Working with New Zealand packaging company Ecoware, SkyCity is transitioning from traditional plastic to commercially compostable food and beverage packaging, such as takeaway coffee cups and lids, straws, plates, containers and cutlery, that is made from rapidly replenishing plant-based material and can be disposed of in food waste bins.
James Calver, Director of Ecoware, says SkyCity has shown a real commitment to reducing its environmental impact.
“We’ve been working with SkyCity since 2016 when we started producing their compostable coffee cups and lids. Over time our partnership has grown, and we now supply them with a full range of packaging solutions. We couldn’t be prouder to support SkyCity and applaud the efforts made to reach their zero-waste goal,” says Calver.
The changes were driven by SkyCity’s commitment to reduce its environmental footprint; a commitment which also has seen the company commit to the Science-Based Targets Initiative this year. SkyCity is the first hospitality business in Oceania and one of just nine New Zealand companies to commit to the Science Based Targets initiative.
“This is just one way that we are reducing our environmental impact, but it is an important one for us. Not only does our food waste now have a second life, but it also means this food waste no longer contributes to methane production within landfills which contributes to greenhouse gases,” says Simpson.