25 March 2022

New compost facility flagged before FOGO expansion but concerns remain unaddressed

| Lottie Twyford
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Composting truck

A new compost facility will be built in Hume ahead of the expansion of the Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) program. Photo: Supplied.

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.

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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 and Chris Steel look at a pile of compost

Phil Corkhill from Corkhill Bros with Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel look at the first batch of ‘finished’ product. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

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.

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I thought governments experimenting on its peoples involuntary was illegal under international law.
Why would anyone want the FOGO plant in their backyard?
These are the sort of thing that breed superbugs, human waste recycled into compost for food to be grown and fed back to people. Sounds too much like Bovine spongiform encephalopathy to me.

Living in a 6 person home, we REALLY NEED a weekly rubbish pick up. FOGO should go to fortnightly. Causing major problems for us.

Undoubtedly, some weeks will be a challenge for our 5 person share household butI like a challenge- it will help us to think more carefully about purchasing items with unrecyclable packaging. We already try to minimise our waste and this will be an additional incentive. I have seen comments in other forums about issues with disposable nappies- I can understand that these would make a bin pretty putrid- but modern reusable nappies are surely a better option anyway in most circumstances and are so much cheaper long-term. Also a great incentive for people to cut down on meat and fish consumption or take their own container to a butcher or fresh fish shop so they don’t have packaging to put in the bin that will make it smelly.

Vegan Labor government needs more dirt to bury the stuff they don’t want you to see.
How many of the partner and no kids labor political actually understand the suburban family? Its easy to cut buses with no kids in the family. Its easy to cut rubbish when you eat out in civic every night as they don’t have room in the shoebox for food or cooking.

Really they are attacking us and wondering why we don’t do the same as our apartment dwelling binary families, whom don’t put trash in the waste bin but have it collected on mass and don’t have to deal the a bin full of maggoty food.

Where is the health advice that this is food safe and not going to lead to mass outbreaks of disease?
Would imagine many false reports of foul smelling dead body coming from anyone with 2 week old meat based food.
In real world terms every family in suburbia will be forced to get take away for week 1 to avoid creating any waste that has to sit for two weeks.

They can shove their waste pit on the north side thanks.

More rates, less service, and they hate us?

No use to us. WE use a compost bin and want weekly rubbish pickups retained

Let me get this right. Currently my red lid general waste bin has a small football sized package in it each week and you want to collect that once a fortnight (two football sized packages). No problem there for the two of us except I keep paying increasing rates for a reduced service. Our compost feeds three compost bins and in turn our vegetable gardens, so no need for your FOGO green bin. The recycling bin collected fortnightly are usually 25 to 50% full ( I blame my wife’s drinking for that ? ) So the only people benefiting are the composting contractor who gets to sell the free green waste we contribute and the City Council who pay less in fuel for the reduced truck collections while increasing our rates to cover the supposed reduced stamp duties over the next hundred years. How about some free compost to sweeten the deal? I am not giving you extra money for something I do not need like the FOGO bin. Another City Council screw over.

Hi Earthdog,
All of these types of schemes are about promoting the Government’s “environmental” image. The truth is they are just smoke and mirrors and nothing more.

For example, the ACT Government is continually telling us how many cans and bottles are now being recycled through the Container Deposit Scheme and how good that is for the environment.
I say it’s a con.

The cost of bottled and canned beverages increased by 15 cents and for the effort of us taking them to a recycling site, we get back 10 cents. (The other 5 cents goes to admin the scheme). So, immediately, we our if pocket 5 cents per item. Then we need to get in our ICE cars and drive to recycle cans and bottles that we otherwise could have placed in our Yellow bins. You know, the Yellow bins that we are still paying Rates on, that are now only half full.

So yes, this scheme won’t be any different.

You have it partially right, but by the same token your post kinda proves what they are trying to achieve.

You are doing exactly what the government wants other people to do. Recycle, compost and reduce waste and your experience of a very small amount of waste and your own compost shows it works.

Core issue is vast majority of people don’t and won’t do that. Hence why the government will do it for them.

Ps no fuel savings for government either. For one garbage collection is contracted out, but secondly with garbage collection going down to once a fortnight and recycling to weekly the nullify each other. Plus of course now have a more regular green bin collection so fuel use is actually up.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the recycling bin contamination rate if they switch rubbish to fortnightly with recycling weekly.

Have they released any information on impacts from the trial?

Just checking JC. So the yellow bin recycling will increase to weekly. The red bin general waste to fortnightly. A FOGO bin collected weekly? Sounds fine to me. Our neighbour ( two adults and two kids) has two red bins and two yellow bins which are constantly full. They are going to find the new arrangements a problem. What about an educational campaign, what do you think?

Earthdog, my bad. Recycling remains fortnightly. Rubbish changes to fortnightly and FOGO weekly.

And chewy, think that will be the issue long term, far too many lazy people (and to an extent I am one of them) who doesn’t separate properly. Not that I’m in the FOGO area, but even now I know we don’t separate as well as we should. I shouldn’t make excuses but thing for me is finding somewhere in the house to put separate bins so for most part only large recycling items go direct to the bin.

Capital Retro7:11 am 28 Mar 22

And the smell remains, daily, 24/7.

Perhaps you should check your sewerage pipes CR, sounds like you’ve got a blockage.

Well I suppose the pong aroma from this venture will join in well with the other aromas we get in Tuggers.
I think it was Tuesday and Wednesday that we copped a good nose fill.

Capital Retro4:51 pm 26 Mar 22

I know a lot of people who complained about that and Access Canberra tried to tell them it was a temporary problem caused by an excavation at the landfill to tap some more methane for the “green” electric generators.

That is nonsense – the now 24/7 smell comes from the green compost factory which is now importing fish offal from Merimbula to mix with pinebark to make potting mix. This was approved by the NSW EPA. Does the ACT EPA even know about this or do we even have an EPA?

The whole composting operation should be moved to Ginninderry or enclosed in a shed.

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