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Spark Arena rolls out zero waste strategy

Auckland’s Spark Arena has switched to 100% compostable serve ware for public events.

This week, the New Zealand venue is implementing stage one of its Zero Waste Strategy, replacing all single-use cups and hot food packaging with carefully sourced plant-based alternatives.

Compostable waste, which now includes cups, lids, straws, cutlery, napkins, food boxes as well as food waste, will be delivered directly to specialist local composting plant Envirofert, where it will be transformed into quality compost in just three months.

Spark Arena hosts over 500,000 customers each year, using well over a million disposable cups annually.

A well-documented crisis in the recycling industry has seen reduced tolerance for contamination of recycling material, which has led to a substantial proportion of the venue’s recyclable material ending up in landfill.

Spark Arena design strategist Judith Clumpas says that despite best efforts at the arena, cross-contamination of event waste combined with a reliance on concert-goers to understand which bin to use for waste such as coffee cups, napkins and discarded food is adding to the crisis.

It made absolute sense to make a change. If you could see the volume of mess that is left after a concert, you would be truly horrified to realise just how much ends up in landfill.

When the house lights go up at the end of a show, the mixture of rubbish on the floors has proved almost impossible to sort through, with the large waste compactor outside working hard to cope. This downside to the entertainment industry has spurred the venue’s management team to thoroughly research the issues and find a new way to manage its environmental impact.

Designing a robust new system for waste management at Spark Arena has included sourcing ethical products from reputable local suppliers Innocent Packaging and Ecoware, creating bespoke bins with Method to promote behavioural change, and working closely with environmentally focused companies Green Gorilla and Envirofert to ensure products are disposed of in the right way.

The result is a simplification of the experience for concert goers. All plastic, glass and tin recycling will be kept behind the bars, and customers only have compostable products in their hands.

The unfortunate exception is lolly bags, snack packets and ice cream wrappers, which should still be placed in landfill bins to avoid contamination of the compost material. Greener Arena ambassadors will be on hand to keep it sweet, and the compost clean, and it is hoped that by stage two of the Zero Waste strategy, snack suppliers will have found a way to provide treats in compostable packaging.

Brendan Hines, general manager, Spark Arena, added:

People come to Spark Arena for a good time, and I see it as our responsibility not only to deliver a great experience, but to go further by doing the right thing as a good host.

I’m looking forward to seeing a positive shift across the events industry in the years ahead. I see more changes ahead, but we are taking it one step at a time, and trying to get it right.

The venue team includes catering staff, cleaning, operations, admin, events and facility staff, who have been thoroughly involved in the planning and implementation of the changes.

Catering & hospitality manager, Mike Swan said:

My team are thrilled to implement this new strategy for the record-breaking run of six P!NK concerts this week. We estimate that for these shows alone 150,000 cups will be used, and it’s good to know for sure they’ll all be leaving here in the compost truck, not the landfill one.

It’s good news too for the arena’s bees, which have been busily making honey from nectar collected from the arena’s backstage gardens and the Quay St Pohutukawa trees, and will be first to benefit from the creation of compost.

@PanStadiaArena