Food recycling diverts the weight of 44 truckloads of waste a month from landfill

THANKS to the efforts of Wollongong residents taking on the FOGO challenge, more than 1600 tonnes of food waste has been diverted from landfill between January and April.

Wollongong City Council’s Food Organics/Garden Organics or FOGO, provides residents the opportunity to place household waste such as raw and cooked meat, fruit and vegetable scraps and bread into their green-lidded bin along with their normal garden waste.

The FOGO summer figures are in, and while it’s still too early for the data to show long-term changes to the behaviour of residents, early results show a significant reduction in waste headed to the tip.

In July 2020, four months prior to the launch of FOGO, the community was sending on average 3540 tonnes of red bin waste per month to landfill. During the first four months of 2021, this dropped to an average of 3120 tonnes per month – equating to the diversion of more than 1600 tonnes of FOGO from landfill between January and April.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the volume is significant.

“To put it in perspective, over summer, we were diverting the weight of nearly 44 truckloads of waste each month out of landfill,” he said.

“The data shows the significant effort our community has put into moving their food waste from their red general waste bins, into their green FOGO bins. I want to congratulate and thank our residents for their enthusiasm and continued support to make FOGO a success here in Wollongong.”

One of the challenges Council has faced in interpreting the data is accounting for the type of organic waste collected as it’s known to change depending on the season.

“We know that in a wet summer, like the one we had this year, we’re likely to see an increase in the amount of garden organics collected,” Cr Bradbery said.

“And in winter, as cooler weather means plants don’t grow as fast and people garden and mow less, the volume of garden organics in FOGO bins naturally decreases.

“However, since the roll-out of FOGO, we’ve recorded a substantial increase in the amount of material collected from green-lidded bins. We believe we can attribute this to FOGO and the increase in collection services of green-lidded organics from fortnightly to weekly.

“This is the very first time that we’ve seen the volume of material collected in green-lidded organics bins overtake waste collected in red-lidded bins. This is a great achievement.”

Council will continue to collect data as well as undertake audits of the contents of bins over the longer term to get a better understanding of how the community is using FOGO.

In April 2021, Council was awarded funding from the NSW Government to boost food and garden organics collections. This 12-month trial will start soon and will investigate different ways we can incorporate FOGO collection across 1,500 different types of multi-unit homes, from large, high-rise units to smaller unit dwellings.

The trial will help Council determine how best to expand FOGO recycling services to residents in units so that they can eventually join the rest of the community with FOGO. See story: Trial will assess food and garden waste recycling service for units and apartments

“Diverting food waste out of landfill is an important way we can reduce our city’s environmental impact and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted into our atmosphere,” Cr Bradbery said.

“Landfills such as Whytes Gully have a life span and space is a precious commodity. Reducing the amount of food waste that enters our system, is not only good for the environment but also lengthens the amount of time a landfill site can be used by our community.”

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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