Thumbs Up for FOGO Recycling our Food Waste

I’ve always wanted to do the right thing for recycling our food waste. However, we were repeatedly unsuccessful at home composting, and the poor worms were fried silly in the worm farm. Thank goodness our local council switched to a weekly food and garden-waste organics bin collection in 2018.

I’m reassured and confident knowing our food waste is out of landfill, becoming rich compost instead. We quickly fell into a good rhythm of using the food organics, garden organics (FOGO) bin collection, to become our convenient localised food recycling service.

We put every bit of food waste into the green bin, including foods that never go in our home compost, such as meat, meat bones, dairy products, and post-meal scrapings.

From kitchen caddy to green lid wheelie bin to our local Resource Recovery Facility for processing, our household FOGO (acronym of Food Organics, Garden Organics) system is in full swing. 

Let’s look into why our council FOGO system has the double thumbs up for helping us recycle our food waste well.

What is FOGO?

FOGO is a residential kerbside collection service that allows food waste in the green lid wheelie waste bin. It then gets recycled into top quality compost to a regulated standard.

Only a third of NSW local councils offer the complete FOGO services to our communities. Our local Lake Macquarie City Council is in good stead to support the NSW state government’s aim of halving the amount of organic waste sent to landfills by 2030. NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy, p25.

A FOGO System Help Us Recycle

Food organics, garden organics help us recycle our food scraps and garden waste in the one bin.

There are three terrific reasons why this system is the way forward in thinking more realistically about a closed-loop food recycling system.

#1 The FOGO system is a hassle-free bin collection service, conveniently collected from our front door each week.

All of our food scraps go straight in the kitchen caddy, then to our big green-lid bin, ready for collection. Popping in a layer of garden trimmings and lawn clippings, and it’s good to go.

We love that most food scraps can be accepted – small scraps, large scraps, dog poo (s)craps, meat and meat bones, preparation scraps, post-dinner scraps, and cleaning-out-the-fridge scraps. Our green lid bin is a comprehensive commercial compost service that can process virtually all our food waste!

#2 Food waste and food scraps are valuable resources that are turned into rich compost

The rich compost improves our land’s soil health and boosts drought resilience, increasing yield for farmers. This resource reuse is a huge win for returning to a complete food cycle system.

Remondis operates the Lake Macquarie City Council’s Awaba Organics Resource Recovery Facility to process our commercially made compost. Agricultural farmers and landscape gardeners use this compost for healthy crop and plant production.

#3 Separating food waste from general landfill is better for our planet.

Landfills are filling up. Expanded suburban living and the increased population is pushing up the demand for land. There is limited long term capacity for landfill-only services to keep going. 

In Lake Macquarie City Council, the Awaba Waste Facility – started in 1986 – is now the only place for our local waste. Previous local rubbish tips at Rathmines, Bonnells Bay and Redhead reached capacity in the mid-eighties and -nineties.

Awaba recently closed one mountain of garbage and started two more landfill holes with a two and a half million-tonne capacity. The new digs may extend the landfill lifespan by another twenty years, which is not long in the scheme of time. Your local council may have a similar waste story.

Having food waste and garden waste organics go to landfill is such a wasted resource. Why waste something that we can use? Did you know that food in landfill contains excessive leachate and methane concentrations?

Leachate is the liquid formed when waste breaks down in landfill, and water filters through that waste. This highly toxic liquid can pollute the land, groundwater and our local waterways.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that, when produced from human-related activities, severely disrupts our planet’s natural atmospheric system, creating unnaturally warmer temperatures. Excessive methane production impacts our natural flora, fauna and ultimately increased droughts, floods and fires.

How Governments Help Our Community

Imagine if we had absolutely no government support for ways of disposing of our residential waste? We’d return to disposing of our rubbish literally in our backyard, incinerating our waste with domestic open burning.

Incineration was a common household practice, banned by all local government areas only in 1990. The ban came nineteen years after Sydney’s first photochemical smog. 

It’s great to see our local and NSW state governments helping to provide suitable waste services to our communities. Increasingly, the Australian Government is playing a role in waste management – by developing the National Waste Policy: Less Waste More Resources.

The policy focuses on a more integrated approach to waste management by implementing a circular economy – National Waste Policy Report pg116.

However, this requires a fundamental shift across the Australian economy and is a long-term initiative. Short-term waste management steps include increasing the reuse and recyclability of materials, such as the green lid bin FOGO system.

Newcastle Area FOGO Services

As of July 2021, this is where councils in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Hunter & Central Coast region are up to with their food and garden organics services:

  • Cessnock, Maitland and Singleton Councils have green garden organics waste management only and will commence FOGO in 2024.
  • The City of Newcastle is in the process of building an advanced organics recycling facility at Summerhill Waste Management Centre
  • The Central Coast Council has a green garden organics system.
  • Lake Macquarie City Council has an established FOGO system

An Excellent Solution

Having a food organics and garden organics system is an excellent large-scale solution for recycling our residential food and garden waste.

However, there are alternative, small scale methods of food waste disposal without a FOGO system, such as home composting, feeding surplus food to pets, and reducing our food waste.

The FOGO system is super for our council area. So convenient for our everyday living, the localised FOGO service recognises that our food waste is a valuable resource to create healthier soils, healthier communities and is more thoughtful to our planet. 

Let’s hope the remaining 67% of NSW local councils who are yet to implement a FOGO system can work out how they can provide this service for all of our communities.

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