Features, Queensland

Pilot scheme launched for free food waste recycling

Brisbane City Council has launched a new free food waste recycling service pilot.

The program, which rolled out to approximately 6000 residents across the city in early March 2022, is the largest waste program change introduced in Brisbane over the last decade.

Residents who are existing green waste recycling customers have been invited to throw out their food scraps – excluding meat and dairy – into their green bin. To make this easier, participating households received a free six-litre bench-top kitchen caddy to collect their food scraps for disposal.

To come full circle from food and garden waste to high quality mulch and compost, Brisbane City Council works with a range of suppliers. These include Suez who collect residents’ bins and deliver the caddies, SULO who manufacture and repair Council’s bins and made the custom caddies for this pilot, plus Cleanaway who deliver the food and green waste to Phoenix Power Recyclers in Yatala, who specialise in turning the waste into quality compost and mulch.

The food scraps and green waste collected from participating residents goes to Council’s Willawong Resource and Recovery Centre (RRC), where it’s loaded onto a larger truck for distribution out to Phoenix Power Recyclers. Phoenix then turn the food and green waste into quality compost and mulch, to be provided to a range of organisations, from local farmers, landscapers to government bodies for large scale projects across southeast Queensland.

At Phoenix, the waste is received into a large shed, which is a controlled negative pressure environment to ensure odours are contained. Machines work through the product to shred it, and it’s then mixed with liquid and pasteurized for 11 days in a fully enclosed concrete tunnel. This computer-controlled process destroys any pathogens, weed seeds and eliminates nearly all odour.

The material – which is not yet classified as compost at this stage – is moved outside to a maturation pad, where it matures over the course of four weeks. A wind row turner aerates it over time, maximising oxygen ingress into the product for it to become quality compost. The product is then transferred and screened and moved to a completed compost pile for future agriculture purposes. The highly controlled process takes 42 to 50 days in total.

As this final compost product is utilised for landscaping and soil conditioning in an agricultural environment it’s important for residents to remove any contamination that is discarded into the green waste and food waste bins. This includes items like non-compostable bags, rocks, rubber bands, ties, tape and wooden items like chopsticks and icy pole sticks.

Council’s food waste recycling pilot will aim to reduce 2000 tonnes of food waste from going to landfill each year, reducing harmful methane emissions in our environment. The initial roll out of the program will provide valuable insights and feedback from residents to help inform how a food waste recycling service could be rolled out more widely across the city.

When the program is in its maturity, rolled out to households across 1.2 million Brisbane residents, it will reduce an impressive estimated 50,000 tonnes of food waste from going to landfill.

For households outside the initial pilot area that are keen to be more sustainable, there are a number of other initiatives. There’s a $70 rebate for households that purchase composting equipment. Or you can register online at one of Brisbane’s 28 community composting hubs to access a free kitchen caddy to transport your food scraps.