Kerbside FOGO needs a national standard
By: Virginia Brunton, MRA Consulting Group
On 20 June 2022 the NSW EPA released a position statement that clearly stated what should and should not go into FOGO bins. Details are available on the FOGO information for households website.
Acceptable materials only include:
- Food waste;
- Garden organics;
- Paper caddy liners; or
- Certified compostable (AS4736) caddy liners.
This is consistent with the Compost Order 2016. The position statement merely clarifies the meaning of the food waste and includes the acceptance of compostable caddy liners.
This standardising of FOGO collections provides a uniform and consistent approach, keeps the messaging simple and reduces risks associated with contamination. It avoids the mistakes and the confusion of the yellow top bin, where virtually every Council has different acceptable items.
For Councils that already only accept these materials it is business as usual. For Councils that promote the FOGO bin for the capture of dog poo, pizza boxes, tissues, paper towels etc., the messaging to the community will need to change over time.
With this clear acceptance list, the only contamination risk comes from the potential use of incorrect non-compostable caddy liners; which can be combated by Council providing residents with caddy liners.
Compostable food packaging is also specifically excluded. PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are found in food packaging including compostable packaging and if included in the FOGO bin, the end product (compost) can be harmful to the environment including humans. Its not just the NSW EPA concerned about this. PFAS is concerning environmental regulators the world over.
Processors also cannot legally accept paper, cardboard, compostable packaging in FOGO bins. They are governed by the Compost Order 2016 which lists only 5 materials acceptable in compost (food waste, garden organics, paunch, manure and mulch). Unless processors have a specific exemption, these are the only materials they can accept into a composting process.
The lid says ‘FOGO’, not ‘FOGO + pizza box + dog poo+ tissues+ kitty litter+ etc etc’.
Anything other than food and garden waste would increase overall diversion by 1% or so but increase the risk of contamination by 100%.
Consistency in acceptable materials across jurisdictions is key. Take the yellow lid recycling bin in NSW as an example. There is no unified list of acceptable materials, so you see inconsistencies across Council areas. This creates confusion for residents and often leads to contamination as an item may be accepted in one council’s yellow bin but not another’s. It also makes residents think or wish an item is recyclable when it is not. FOGO consistency also allows for regional education programs and sharing of collateral.
If the yellow bin experience has taught us anything is that clear, consistent and simple messaging is the key to a successful FOGO bin roll out nationally.
Food waste, garden organics and caddy liners…simple messaging. Couple that with a bin/lid colour combination that is consistent across Australia and we are ready to go.
Virginia is the Principal Consultant of the Organics & Education team at MRA Consulting Group.
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