Ahead of the expansion of the government’s food organics garden organics (FOGO) program across Canberra, a new large-scale composting facility will be built in Hume to process collected organic waste and turn it into compost for sale to the public.
The trial has involved 5000 households across four Belconnen suburbs since November last year but has faced criticism from some households.
Large families, people with disabilities, and those with additional medical needs say the main issue is that the scheme has reduced general waste collection from weekly to fortnightly.
Sally (last name withheld) told Region Media in January she now feels as though she and her family are “swimming in trash” each week and it’s “embarrassing”.
And while residents are able to order a second or bigger rubbish bin at an extra annual cost to them, affected families say the additional charge isn’t fair.
Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel noted that the point of the pilot was to understand how households would adapt to the new service and undertake a significant education campaign.
He said the ACT FOGO model was similar to others schemes around the country where the green bin is collected weekly and the rubbish bin is collected fortnightly.
Mr Steel said the government would continue to survey participants in the current FOGO trial in Belconnen – via letterbox drop and email – to understand their experiences and views and this would be taken into consideration before the scheme is further expanded.
Despite the criticism, Mr Steel said the trial had been very successful and received lots of support, demonstrated by the fact that the organic waste collected in the first three months of the scheme had a contamination rate of less than 0.1 per cent.
“This is fantastic and means that material can go on to be composted and will be really valued by those that purchase those products,” he said.
When asked if there would be an option to have the rubbish bin collected more frequently, Mr Steel was unable to provide a definitive response, saying instead the purpose of the scheme was to reduce the amount of waste going into the rubbish bin, thereby reducing the frequency at which it needed to be collected.
“It also causes people to rethink what they are putting in their garbage bin and whether that material can be recycled in the yellow bin.”
Phil Corkhill of Corkhill Bros, which operates the FOGO composting process, said the pilot had so far been a success given the low contamination rates.
If material is contaminated, he said they have to spend extra time and money decontaminating it or risk the final product being of a lesser quality.
The first batch of the finished product has just been completed, Mr Corkhill said, and it will hit the market, although likely not until there are higher volumes of compost ready to sell.
The new composting facility, which will be built at a site earmarked in Hume, will be capable of processing 50,000 tonnes of FOGO material per year and will eventually be updated to handle 70,000 tonnes.
It’s hoped that when the scheme does roll out to cover all of Canberra it will cut local emissions by 30 per cent. There’s still no timeline for when this will happen but the government said it is in the planning stages.
The government will release a tender for the new facility later this year.