Kaicycle Trial: Compostable Cups to Community Garden

Kaicycle Trial: Compostable Cups to Community Garden

When Wellington City Council stopped taking compostable cups and lids into their compost, we couldn't just sit back and let that happen, so we collaborated with Mojo Coffee, KaiCycle and The Tiny Plastic Factory to trial a new way to compost in the capital.

We spent a day at Kaicycle to track progress of the trial. Tay-Lann of Mojo Coffee documented our day out.

Just before the holidays, the Mojo team and decent packaging visited the Kaicycle community farm to learn more about how our compostable cups were being turned into compost. When we arrived, the sun was beating down and the warm smell of compost filled the air. The garden and compost facility is located on Hospital Road in Newtown, which seemed to be an unusual spot until Kate from Kaicycle explained that the garden’s location is critical for its success being so accessible to the community.

The central location requires less transport to access, which is crucial for Kaicycle, considering they collect compost by bike. The hard work put in by volunteers and the Kaicycle core team is vital to this experiment working. This made perfect sense. As Kate puts it:

‘Having community-scale Compost Hubs throughout our city is the best solution.’ 

We approached a row of metre square compost bins. Kate showed us the different stages of compost from the time it comes in, to getting mixed with coffee husk and arborist mulch for carbon to balance out the nitrogen-rich food waste. Kaicycle’s customers are a mix of households and offices, and it collects from them and carefully maintains the compost for 3-4 months to help the bacteria and fungi do their thing. Frequent turning of the compost is needed for healthy decomposition to occur.

We learned that through composting, organic waste can be turned back into the soil, sequestering carbon, help grow food, and regenerate our environment. The flipside is sending it to landfill, which degrades our environment, contributes to climate change, and depletes natural resources.

Credit: Kaicycle

Secondly, super-healthy compost is Kaicycle’s bottom line, as their aim is to grow good food for the community. Lots of worms is a good thing. The more, the merrier. Especially if they are the juicy pink ones.

Kate introduced us to Kaicycle’s newest member, a Ferrari-red shredder that is responsible for shredding the used compostable cups into little bite-size pieces so the living things in the food waste can make it into compost. The used coffee cups are paper with a thin PLA (polylactic acid) lining. PLA is made from plant starch, and in the right composting conditions, it breaks down into carbon dioxide and water. Kate explained PLA-lined cups break down well in hot compost. Still, Kaicycle will also test how they go in BAM composting - a new method of composting that has so many benefits, including being practically odourless and climate-positive (taking more CO2 out of the atmosphere than it puts in).

We all left with a better understanding of how composting works but also reinforced that we have a long way to go and that this trial was only the start of the significant work that needs to be done in our industry.

Article written by Tay-Lann Mark of Mojo Coffee.

Thank you to both the Mojo and Kaicycle teams for an amazing day.
And a massive thanks to Tay-Lann, from all of us at decent.

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