FOGO bin waste piles up as WA council fights to save organics from landfill

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Up to 25,000 tonnes of food and garden waste collected through Western Australia’s Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) bin system sits unused in huge compost heaps, although households are being urged to separate organic waste.

Bunbury Town was the first council in WA to introduce FOGO bins in 2013, with the aim of turning waste into compost.

But it has emerged that the city’s waste treatment center is struggling with a large stockpile of partially processed compost that no one wants to remove yet – and it is rapidly approaching capacity.

The region’s waste authority said it was “absolutely” not the intention for FOGO waste to be landfilled, but said it had not yet attracted any interest from anyone could recycle them.

The 25,000 tonnes of unused organic waste represents half of the total amount of FOGO waste processed in WA in the 2020-2021 financial year.

The WA Government has been pushing for all local governments in Perth and Peel to provide three-bin collection systems by 2025.

Residents of Bunbury have been encouraged to use the FOGO system since 2013 when it was first introduced.(ABC Southwest: Gian De Poloni)

No solution yet for FOGO waste

Bunbury Harvey Regional Council chief executive Peter Keane said he was dealing with “inherited” issues at the local organic waste management facility.

Mr Keane said the waste was arriving faster than it could be handled by existing equipment.

“We’re trying to find a suitable group or person who will actually take the recycled product and process it further so that it can continue to be recycled as a FOGO product,” he said.

A pile of green organic food waste
Funding has been secured for a new organic compost processing facility in the area, but it is still taking some time.(ABC Southwest: Gian De Poloni)

“With the expression of interest, unfortunately, we did not receive any bids.”

Earlier this year, the council agreed that 10,000 tonnes of treated FOGO waste would instead be taken to the area’s main municipal waste landfill – where it would be used to ‘plug’ the basement, with the aim of rehabilitating it .

Then, in April, it decided to launch a call for expressions of interest to sell an additional 25,000 tonnes of partially transformed waste.

The old lettuce sits inside an organics bin.
Despite the setbacks, the region’s waste authority remains adamant that organic waste will not go to landfill.(ABC Southwest: Gian De Poloni)

Mr Keane said he was adamant the waste would not go to landfill and hoped a solution would be found soon. He said he was in talks with potential users of the product.

“Absolutely not, that’s not the intention,” he said.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that it is a recycled product and that it is consumed by the market, whether it is large farms or small consumers.

He said there was a strong demand for the end product turned into compost.

FOGO still WA’s waste plan

A Department of Water and Environmental Regulation spokesman said around 48,000 tonnes of FOGO waste was treated in WA in 2020-21.

The FOGO system was a central part of the McGowan government’s waste avoidance strategy for 2030, with 23 local governments in WA having implemented or tested the bins.

A medium shot of Reece Whitby standing at a press conference outside wearing a suit and tie.
Reece Whitby said councils that introduce FOGO can significantly increase the amount of waste they collect.(ABC News: James Carmody)

The town of Cottesloe in Perth was the latest council to sign up for the FOGO system in June.

At the time, Environment Minister Reece Whitby said recovering organic waste was a government priority.

“Disposing of organic materials in landfills is a waste of resources and a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

“[FOGO] helps ensure household food and yard waste is turned into compost for farms, parks and gardens. »

a compost heap in hand
Partially processed FOGO compost is kept at the Banksia Road Organic Facility in Dardanup, just outside Bunbury.(ABC Great Southern: Tom Edwards)

The ministry also said it was investigating ongoing odor complaints at the area organics site where the 25,000 tonnes were stored.

He said modeling indicated that moving from a two-bin to three-bin FOGO system could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in urban environments.

Household waste goes “in a secret place”

FOGO’s problems come as the region’s waste authority grapples with another big problem – the storage of household waste.

The Department confirmed it had stopped the storage of general household waste at the council’s main domestic and commercial landfill north of Bunbury, meaning it had to find another place to send the rubbish from thousands of homes across the region.

This decision was due to an ongoing environmental compliance issue.

Bunbury Harvey Regional Council was investigated last year for failing to build lined cells at the site by a set deadline.

Three bins lined up on a porch
Household waste is no longer stored at the Bunbury’s Stanley Road site due to a compliance issue.(ABC Southwest: Gian De Poloni)

Mr Keane said household waste in the area went to an undisclosed location.

“All I’ll say is it’s going somewhere else,” he said.

“Our landfill area expired in March. And we are currently working with our member councils on reviewing a business case for lined cells.”

Mr Keane said he was confident the problems at both sites could be resolved.

“Stanley Road needs to cover its unlined cells to be much more environmentally friendly and move to a more contemporary operation which is lined,” he said.

“The Member Boards have not yet deliberated on this. However, I am quite optimistic about the outcome of this deliberation.”

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