14 January 2022

Some Belconnen residents say FOGO trial isn't going 'wheelie' well

| Lottie Twyford
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FOGO composting truck in ACT

A Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) trial is underway in Belconnen, but some residents say they have been left behind. Photo: Chris Steel Facebook.

It was much anticipated by many, but the food organics and garden organics (FOGO) trial has hit a bump in the road for many Belconnen residents who say there are elements of it that haven’t been well thought out.

In particular, the reduced usual rubbish collection is causing issues for larger families, people with disabilities or medical needs, and households with young children who all produce more waste than the ‘average’ household.

The FOGO trial, which began in November 2021, is currently taking place in Belconnen, Bruce, Macquarie and Cook, and has been welcomed by many, including environmental groups.

The ACT Government expects that when FOGO is implemented citywide, waste emissions will be reduced by up to 30 per cent.

Food scraps and garden waste go into the FOGO bin – which is collected weekly – while the normal rubbish bin is collected fortnightly.

FOGO Kitchen Caddy

Households are provided with a free FOGO Kitchen Caddy as part of the pilot. Photo: Chris Steel Facebook.

However, it’s not all bad news with some residents thrilled with the trial.

A resident who wished to remain anonymous said her household had “previously barely managed to squeeze all [their] rubbish in the red bin each week and there was certainly no space left over for a spring clean throw out”.

“Now the red bin is only half to three-quarters full each fortnight.”

But several people who have spoken to Region Media say it’s the fortnightly bin collection that is causing the problem.

One resident, who also wished to remain anonymous, said her family is only able to produce about “half of a FOGO bag per week, which is not sufficient to move to fortnightly [rubbish collection]”.

The household already composts so most of their organic waste goes into that, she explained.

“Plastics and packaging is a real issue, but we also have medical waste.”

“I couldn’t imagine how impossible this would be if we were still a family of four.”

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Another resident shared similar concerns. Sally (last name withheld) said her family also composts, and has done for nine years.

Now she feels as though they are “swimming in the trash each week”.

“It’s embarrassing keeping rubbish in our home as the bins are full and we don’t want birds and other animals getting into the bags and making a mess,” explained Sally.

The ACT Government is encouraging people to apply for an additional bin or upgraded rubbish or recycling bin, but residents say this simply isn’t fair because it comes at a cost to them.

“It’s unclear to me why the burden always has to fall on the household,” said one user.

For people living with a disability – many who say they produce additional medical waste – these problems are exacerbated.

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A spokesperson for the ACT Government said it’s recently been made aware of these concerns and is “reaching out to disability groups to discuss specific needs of households in this situation”.

“There may be a number of options available which are tailored to the individual household’s needs,” said the spokesperson.

“For example, people with disability may be eligible for sanitary and medical bins, and bespoke services to collect waste under the NDIS [National Disability Insurance Scheme].

“ACT Residents who live on a property where no-one is physically able to take their bins to the kerbside can also get assistance from the ACT Government.

“The government is open to making changes and adjustments as needed during the trial.”

It is expected the FOGO pilot will be rolled out to more Canberra suburbs in 2023.

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bruceresident7:31 am 29 Mar 22

You can see on our street many households are struggling with the fortnightly rubbish pick up. Bins are overflowing and the crows are ripping rubbish apart on the street. We recycle and Fogo everything possible and still have to collect overflow garbage in the backyard which stinks and is now full of flies. For my $4000 rates, please come take my rubbish. Please don’t limit my flushes next.

We have two large grey-black recycled-plastic worm farms.

Much less work than composting, no turning, effectively zero smells.

Even coffee grinds? YES!! and they help suppress the little flying insects (not mozzies).

Diluted worm castings are the best fertiliser for our eleven 1.2M Sq veggie beds. We’ve been using them for ~ a decade and won’t go back.

Makes lazy gardening made an obvious approach.

We have very few veggie-pest-attack problems, and don’t put a lot of food-waste in the bins. Excepting bones and waste meat / fats.

Capital Retro4:48 pm 18 Jan 22

Do you feel good about enslaving those poor worms?

Capital Retro8:25 am 18 Jan 22

The smell at MLRMC where it ends up has certainly increased.

Ocumus Prime4:45 am 18 Jan 22

There is no way 30% of my homes garbage is food waste (we compost).
I am all for trials but also curious if they are trialing anything to treat the cause of so much rubbish?
Packaging, single use items, non recyclable materials etc.

Food should never be thrown away -except in very very rare circumstances !

You haven’t tasted my mother in law’s cooking!

Agree completely with the complaints. I live in Cook and have composted all our organic waste for 40 years without the need for a diesel polluting truck to come and pick it up. We don’t need a FOGO bin at all. We have extended family staying and the red top is full every week. Why we don’t get a cut to our rates now that the red top is only collected fortnightly, I can’t understand. The change has meant we are now paying for less service, not more. It is a stupid idea, but not the first one from this government.

bruceresident7:34 am 29 Mar 22

100% agree. We have two large compost bins and like many on our street our red bin is overflowing and picked apart by currawongs.

HiddenDragon6:36 pm 16 Jan 22

“In particular, the reduced usual rubbish collection is causing issues for larger families, people with disabilities or medical needs, and households with young children who all produce more waste than the ‘average’ household.”

The government response to these entirely predictable problems is absolutely typical of how things get done in this town – waffle on with clunky, half-baked solutions to a part of the (self-inflicted) problem and then plough on obstinately to the pre-determined outcome, while pretending to “listen to the community”.

In pushing our weekly “rubbish” bin service back to fortnightly, the Government obviously believed that our “rubbish” bins were half full of compostable food scraps.
Turns out, they are full of “rubbish”.

I’ve always been dubious of the government’s claim that 30% of your average rubbish bin is food, but maybe we’re different to the average Canberran family.

I just can’t fathom how the average family can throw away so much food.

Those government claims also assigned a dollar value to the 30% food waste. When I calculated back the “average” weekly food bill to arrive at the value of this waste, I concluded that either most Canberrians eat substantially better than our family do or the whole thing was nothing more than marketing rubbish.

Capital Retro3:39 pm 16 Jan 22

Maybe they need “smart meters” to be fitted to the bins to give the government more control.

Some councils kinda do. The trucks weigh bins and take pictures/video of what’s going into the truck from that bin and link all that back to that address.


Capital Retro will go off his Nana when they start charging rubbish removals by weight. It’s only OK if the costs can be spread across all residents and no one ever has to pay more.

bruceresident7:38 am 29 Mar 22

Yep they do it in Cbr. I got a nasty letter with a photo from inside the Fogo truck with a “contaminated” item that shouldn’t have been there. Glad my $4000 rates is going towards a camera monitoring system and someone to process that and send me a letter. I stead of just picking up my rubbish.

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