Food recycling set to shake up Wollongong households' bin system - Illawarra Greens

Food recycling set to shake up Wollongong households' bin system

From this November, if councillors support the move next Monday, all residents except those living in multi-unit dwellings will have their green bin picked up weekly under the new Food Organics Garden Organics system. Food scraps will go in with garden waste, helping households to dramatically cut their landfill contributions.

Greens councillor Cath Blakey has been a driving force behind this initiative. She  said the program would help create A-grade commercial compost, green jobs in the processing plants and reduce leachate, odour and methane emissions in the Lake Illawarra catchment.

Read the article by Kate McIlwain in The Illawarra Mercury, 14 July 2020

Food recycling set to shake up Wollongong households' bin system

New system: Cordeaux Heights residents Blair Stanton and Emma Stanton with their grandma Elizabeth Horscroft have been part of the FOGO trial. Picture: Sylvia Liber
 New system: Cordeaux Heights residents Blair Stanton and Emma Stanton with their grandma Elizabeth Horscroft have been part of the FOGO trial. Picture: Sylvia Liber

From this November, if councillors support the move next Monday, all residents except those living in multi-unit dwellings will have their green bin picked up weekly under the new Food Organics Garden Organics system.

Food scraps - or as one councillor put it, "anything that used to be alive" - will go in with garden waste, helping households to dramatically cut their landfill contributions.

As the program is rolled out, each participating household will receive a kitchen bench caddy and a roll of compostable bin liners to help make the adjustment to a new rubbish system easier.

And - to help reduce teething problems as the city gets used to a new way of recycling food - the landfill-bound red bin will continue to be picked up weekly, along with the green bins, for at least the first two years of the program.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he expected other councillors to support the introduction of FOGO, as it had been a push from councillors which prompted the council to begin a trial of the program in the first place.

He said FOGO would help to reduce the council's landfill tax bill, and help it meet its obligations towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

With green and red bins both to be collected weekly, there will be some weeks when householders put out three bins.

 With green and red bins both to be collected weekly, there will be some weeks when householders put out three bins.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is one more step in separating out material that can be recycled, in this case food scraps," he said.

"It's taking away from landfill materials that are likely to generate methane and it also means we don't have to pay as much of a waste levy."

He said the program could divert an extra 6900 tonnes of food waste out of landfill each year, which would also mean the city's spend on building new tip facilities could be cut back.

Greens councillor Cath Blakey said the program would help create A-grade commercial compost, green jobs in the processing plants and reduce leachate, odour and methane emissions in the Lake Illawarra catchment.

"You also won't have bin juice from 80,000 household percolating through the tip," she said. "This will require quite a big behavioural change - but it's an opt in system and we've seen that the people have participated have been able to do so really successfully.

"One of the possible issues is that there will be some weeks that there will be three bins on the kerb - but I hope that people might not need to put out their red bin weekly. I think we can learn from what other councils have done to try to minimise any teething issues."

Unfortunately for unit dwellers, the wait for FOGO will be a bit longer, as the council seeks grant funding from the NSW Government to help meet the extra costs of delivering the service.

Cr Bradbery said this was mainly because the council would need to investigate practical ways of making FOGO work for blocks with a large number of units.

"On the fortnight that recycling is put out, you'd have three bins out, so if you've got 50 units in one complex, you'd possible have 150 bins out - so we have to look how that is going to work in unit blocks," he said.

For the first two years of the program, ratepayers will not be changed any extra for the FOGO collection - but the council has flagged a possible $40 contribution in the third year of the service.

This means it will cost the council just under $6 million to implement the program in its first two years.

However, these costs will reduce year on year following introduction, the council said.

"It is anticipated the additional annual cost in the third year without adjustment to services would be in the vicinity of $1.8M," a report to councillors detailed.

"While a breakeven position at no extra cost could be achieved with a reduction to the residual waste (red-lidded bin) services to fortnightly and self-purchased liners, it is considered more reasonable that an additional cost in the order of $40 per annum offset by any other efficiencies achieved could be applied from year three.

"Based on council's currently low pricing compared to neighbouring councils and a superior service this is considered a reasonable outcome."

Shellharbour introduced the FOGO system more than four years ago, and Wollongong has been trialling it for 1500 households in Cordeaux Heights, Warrawong and Austinmer since last year.