10 August 2020

Labor pledges to establish food recycling service, free green bins by 2023

| Dominic Giannini
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Minister for City Services Chris Steel says all ACT residents will have a free green bin by the end of 2023. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

ACT Labor has pledged to create a city-wide food waste collection service which will reduce carbon emissions and create 200 jobs across the collection, construction and management services.

The $42.5 million scheme will allow Canberrans to place food scraps in their green bins along with other garden waste, stopping food scraps from going to landfill and reducing emissions in the waste sector by 30 per cent, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said at the policy’s launch this morning (10 August).

“More than a third of ACT residential garbage bin contents are food waste (37 per cent) which currently goes to landfill and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Barr said.

“To roll out this new service effectively, a re-elected ACT Labor Government will pilot the collection service in 2021 before a full city-wide scheme is put in place.

“This will include a mix of households including apartments and townhouses.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr unveiled another part of Labor’s election policy this morning (10 August). Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The scheme will be rolled out in 2023 to allow time for the construction of the $30 million compost facility in Canberra. A further $12.5 million will be spent on collection over the next four years.

Around 5000 households will be chosen for a trial, although there are no details on which suburbs will be taking part.

Minister for City Services Chris Steel reiterated that this was a free collection for Canberrans when asked if the costs would be indexed in a rates rise.

“Canberrans will pay no extra in terms of the cost of this service. This will be funded through consolidated revenue and we will be outlining that before the election,” he said.

READ ALSO: ‘A borderless community’: how ACT could run Ginninderry’s policing, waste

At this stage, it is not known whether the service will be extended to NSW residents of Ginninderry.

The Government has already pledged to reduce food waste by the end of 2023 by stopping 15,000 tonnes of food waste from local hospitality and food retail businesses going to landfill as a part of its ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-2025.

Mr Barr says the universal green bin scheme will also be expanded in the same timeframe. The current scheme is an opt-in service with a $50 registration fee for those without a concession card.

“Kitchen caddies and compostable liners will be provided to all homes,” he said.

“Apartment complexes will also be part of the scheme and we will work with body corporates on the best way to include them through the pilot.

“We will also fund the construction of a new large scale in-vessel processing facility to turn Canberra’s food and garden waste into valuable compost.”

READ MORE Food waste the latest front in the ACT’s war on emissions

The policy has been welcomed by the Greens although they said the policy was nothing new as a motion from Caroline Le Couteur was passed in the Assembly last year which committed the Government to start planning for a new food waste collection service for green bins before 2023.

“Canberrans want to do our bit in the ‘War on Waste’. It is certainly well and truly time we had a food waste collection system in the Territory,” Ms Le Couteur said.

Mr Steel defended the policy saying it was a recommendation of the 2018 Waste Feasibility Study Roadmap, which was adopted by Labor.

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Leon Arundell4:31 pm 25 Aug 20

The Government has still not corrected the following two errors on its “Love Food Hate Waste” web page, and is still actively promoting the erroneous claims on that web page.

1. “ACT households waste up to $3,800 every year by throwing away food that could have been eaten.”
The National Food Waste strategy report clarifies that:
* In addition to “food that could have been eaten,” the $3,800 figure includes “inedible food, the parts of food that are not consumed because they are either unable to be consumed or are considered undesirable”;
* in addition to food that consumers throw away, the $3,800 includes “food that does not reach the consumer;” and
* the $3,800 figure applies to Australia as a whole, rather than specifically to any state or territory.

Also, $3,800 appears to be not a maximum figure (as implied on your web page), but rather an upper estimate of average food wastage. The National Food Waste strategy report says,”Food waste costs to households vary from $2,200 to $3,800.” Many households waste far less than $2,200 worth of food per year. $2,200 appears to be a lower estimate of average food wastage, rather than a minimum figure. Another possible interpretation is that $2,200 is the estimated cost, per household, of the food waste that occurs in the supply chain before food reaches the consumer.

2. “With 1/3 of all edible food produced globally wasted it is a big problem.”
* The claim on the linked Australian government web page does not claim that all of that wasted food is “edible.”
* The United Nations Environment Program web page puts the figure at only “roughly 30 per cent,” and makes it clear that the figure applies to both “wasted” food and “lost” food.

This has been available in Wagga Wagga for the past couple of years now and, apart from the usual whingers, it is working fine.

Leon Arundell5:10 pm 13 Aug 20

The Government’s Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate seems to be supporting Labor’s election campaign, with sponsored Facebook posts making unsubstantiated claims including “Food waste makes up 1/3 of our rubbish bins,” “ACT households waste up to $3,800 every year by throwing away food that could have been eaten” (the TOTAL is more important than the worst offending household), “In Australia, 74% of the food waste in landfill has come from households” (the supplied link suggests that the ACT figure is only 60%) and “1/3 of all edible food produced globally [is] wasted” (but how does the ACT compare?).
Most of these claims are at https://www.cityservices.act.gov.au/recycling-and-waste/love-food-hate-waste

Leon Arundell2:04 pm 14 Aug 20

The Government’s latest factoid is, “1 in 5 bags of groceries end up in the bin.”

Capital Retro9:43 am 12 Aug 20

Complaints about the odour from the MLRMC referred to Access Canberra always get the response “the source of the odour was undetermined” yet two ACT Rangers who have spoken to me about the odour have both said it is from the composing but it isn’t worth losing their jobs to report it as such.

Have you ever been to the compost operation at MLRMC?

Capital Retro8:32 am 12 Aug 20

CSC, this is a brilliant initative.

Capital Retro9:24 am 11 Aug 20

In 2012, the Labor/Green government purchased land to the north and east of the MLRMC which has ensured Canberra (and other towns in the region) will have another 30 years for landfill and recycling activities which all contribute odour, dust, fugitive emissions and other pollutants to the closest residents to the place.

The establishment of giant compost facility as outlined in this article at MLRMC (or anywhere else) will deliver more odours for kilometres. The Veolia landfill/bio-reactor at Tarago is 10kms from the Tarago village but they still cop the smell as outlined in Veolia’s 2019 report.

Are you sure this what Canberrans want, Mr Barr?

They may get the smell from the other elements of the facility at Tarago, but the main part of the food organics processing is pretty well contained up there – I have a colleague that has toured the place and said it was actually the least smelly element of it which suprised me somewhat.

Capital Retro7:47 pm 11 Aug 20

Data on page 68 of this audit would appear to be at odds with what your colleague concluded:


I suggest you visit the composting operation at the MLRMC and famialrise yourself with the odour which will be what we will get in much larger quantities if this election folly proceeds.

That is for the entire facility CR….

Her observation was in regards to the specific part of the facility that deals with food and organics waste – one of several elements of the site with different purposes.

But gee, I guess that’s a tough distinction for you to understand right?

Capital Retro,
Your link doesn’t say what you think it does.

Firstly, your link is about an audit and it specifically says that the source of the odour was undetermined, so why do you somehow know better and can link it specifically to food waste recycling similar to what is proposed here?

Secondly, odour complaints in and of themselves don’t actually mean there is a real odour problem.

Humans have a variable sensitivity to odours and there are numerous psychological factors that can influence perceptions and complaints over time.

Your claims don’t really stack up and would require more evidence. Attempting to pick one page out of a document doesn’t give you a “gotcha”.

Capital Retro9:45 am 12 Aug 20

Not being an expert like you and your colleague does put me at a disadvantage, I concede.

Have you checked out the composting operation at MLRMC yet?

Capital Retro,
So you are basing your opinion of a future facility’s operation on your personal experience with a completely different site and type of facility?

And one cherry picked page of a report from another completely different site?

I’m not telling you the new facility won’t potentially have odour concerns, there’s no detail available at present.

Which is entirely the point.

How could you possibly prejudge such a thing when there are numerous examples of similar facilities operating across Australia and the world that have no major issues.

And you don’t need to be an expert to understand that, just reasonable.

Crikey! I feel sorry for the residents of Macarthur…they will cop more stink!

Can someone explain to me why precisely we need a facility to process this stuff in Canberra, beyond some ridiuclous idea that regional solutions should be ruled out. There is a perfectly suitable facility up the train line at Woodlawn that would jump at taking food and organics waste – what a waste of money it would be to replicate the same service 50 kms away here.


Its about time we start working properly as a region on waste related matters, not as some pretend island.

Biggest issue with Woodlawn is you need to get it there. Just look to the furore over the proposed waste to rail facility in Fyshwick.

No pleasing everyone. Cannot do it here. People complain. Cannot do it there because people will complain about trucks and smell during transfer. Too expensive to just drive It there. Basically a no win.

Better to compost it. Particularly if you live in a house.

Not all food waste can be composted at home, in particular meat, yet those things can be placed in the green bins for large scale composting in places such as Wagga Wagga.

Capital Retro7:45 pm 10 Aug 20

That ILSR report is highly qualified like: “Composting jobs based on one-third tonnage composted at small facilities, one-third at medium-sized facilities, and one-third at large facilities. Compost use jobs based on data from 13 companies using compost for soil erosion control, storm-water management, and other green infrastructure applications.”

We all know every political initiative is about “jobs” or “jobs and growth” which rarely come to fruition. This is just another one of those.

russianafroman3:42 pm 10 Aug 20

Slightly off-topic, but if Canberra Labor makes any mistake when dealing with the COVID-19 situation, there’s a high chance they’ll be voted out in October. They should be very protectionist when approaching this issue.

Capital Retro2:28 pm 10 Aug 20

I suggest voters find out where this large scale in-vessel processing facility is to be located because they generate the most offensive odours imaginable.

It doesn’t matter which suburbs are chosen for the trial but is matters to the residents in the suburbs that are going to be next door to wherever it is established. The government hasn’t volunteered this for obvious reasons so I would suggest voters demand to know now via their local MLAs.

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