Industry News, New South Wales, News, WARR Awards

Macquarie City FOGO service diverts 111kg of waste from landfill per person

In the first year of Lake Macquarie City Council’s Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) service, the council reduced the amount of waste landfilled from its domestic waste collection service by 22,380 tonnes – a 26 per cent decrease compared to the year before.

The city’s per capita waste to landfill fell to 309kg per person in 2018/19 – a decrease of 111kg per person compared to 2017/18 before the FOGO service commenced.

As well as this, the council collected and processed about 35,000 tonnes of FOGO material from kerbside in the first 12 months of the service – an increase of 15,600 tonnes (80 per cent) over the previous year.

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These achievements highlight the success of the program, which in its infancy gained the Lake Macquarie City Council a 2018 Inside Waste Award.

As this year’s WARR Awards celebrations edge closer, it is a timely opportunity to highlight some of the projects that have succeeded in minimising waste to landfill.

In 2018, Lake Macquarie City Council won the Outstanding Local Government Award for best metro, sponsored by Suez.

The council implemented a FOGO project to encourage householders to separate their food and organics waste from their general waste. The drive came from a 2010 waste audit that showed domestic kerbside garbage bins contained up to 50 per cent food and garden waste and other compostable organic material.

The council started the journey by undertaking extensive community engagement to raise awareness and seek community input. This resulted in a waste strategy that culminated with a decision to implement the phased introduction of a three-bin system. Phase one, which started in 2013, involved collection of kerbside garden organics followed by Phase two, implemented in 2018, to collect combined FOGO.

Eventually the collection was rolled out city-wide, with a transition to a weekly FOGO collection service and a fortnightly garbage collection service.

Bin inspections during the first two weeks of the FOGO service showed that, on average, 97 per cent of green bins were being used correctly, with no visible contamination. Green waste bin use also increased by 14 per cent, with an average of 43,247 green bins placed out for collection in the first two weeks – up from 31,900 the previous fortnight.

Lake Macquarie City Council waste strategy co-ordinator Hal Dobbins added that in the first 12 months of operation, contamination levels were low at an average of 1.2 per cent.

“Landfill was filling up and we wanted to achieve higher resource recovery rates. Our low contamination rate and the high participation rate has seen it be a successful transition,” Dobbins said.

“Everything is going great with the system, but there’s a minority of people out there that are struggling with it.”

Dobbins explained that the success of the programs is clear from the data that has been collected, however the council definitely learned a few things along the way.

There were certain residents that didn’t cope well with the transition to a fortnightly red bin collection service, such as households with young children who used nappies and people who used incontinence pads.

“The lesson we learned is we’ve got to go through all the motions of targeting the significant users that are affected.”

Dobbins explained that the council needed to engage more with these groups as people often don’t read their mail or think the change will not affect them.

“The problems didn’t really become apparent until people said, ‘hang on, something has changed here’.”

To help people cope with the change, the council made a weekly collection systems available for an additional $250 a year.

“The majority of the public is embracing this system, but that option has been well received by people who wanted it.

“We didn’t know how much of a demand there would be for it. If I was to do it again, I would be marketing the weekly solutions upfront for people that need it,” Dobbins said.

Despite the demand, many households have embraced the new system and the council has even helped residents, in areas such as multi dwelling units, to reconfigure their bin set up to get maximum use out of the FOGO bins.

Dobbins said a dozen councils had reached out to the Lake Macquarie City Council once they heard about this project.

“When the awards were out it was great to get the media attention to celebrate the success of the project.”

Dobbins is more than happy to share the council’s experience with other councils wanting to make a similar change. He suggested that councils going down that route, consistently check in with stakeholders and community members that are going to be affected more than others.

WARR Awards 2019

Lake Macquarie City Council was one of several winners of the 2018 Inside Waste Awards that worked to improve the waste sector with various innovations and programs.

To celebrate with us and find out where to purchase tickets for this year’s WARR Awards click here. And to nominate your company or an organisation, council or business that should be recognised for their achievements in the industry click here to find out more.

TO SUBMIT A WARR AWARDS NOMINATION CLICK HERE >>

The nine awards categories are:

  • Outstanding WARR Project: Metro and Regional/Rural
  • Operational Excellence
  • Innovation Award
  • Outstanding Facility Award
  • Young Professional of the Year
  • Woman of Waste Award
  • Community Engagement Success of the Year
  • WARR Workplace of the Year
  • Leader of the Year

The WARR Awards and gala dinner will take place at Sydney’s Maritime Museum on November 14, 2019.

The awards are a collaborative awards program between Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) and Inside Waste.