Steven Wacher, City of Melville Manager Resource, Recovery and Waste, discusses the council’s latest Food Organics and Garden Organics Collection trial and overall waste strategy.
Q. We understand the City of Melville has recently commenced a Food Organics and Garden Organics Collection (FOGO) trial. What has been the feedback so far on its success?
A. The majority of households so far have been doing the right thing, with only a small amount of contamination being found in the FOGO bins over the first couple of weeks. The feedback from the community has been mostly positive. However, the implementation of the system does present challenges for different types of households and a uniform system isn’t appropriate for everyone. As such, the city is taking into consideration feedback from residents on an ongoing basis and working to provide solutions to try and meet the needs of all residents.
Q. What was the reasoning behind establishing a FOGO system? What sort of benefit does the council believe it has when compared to having food waste separated on site?
A. The City of Melville is a member council of the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council (SMRC), which provides waste management and resource recovery solutions for five member councils in Perth’s southern suburbs. The establishment of a FOGO system is part of the SMRC’s Strategic Waste Management Plan adopted in 2016. The SMRC currently composts the contents of the city’s general waste bins through an alternative waste treatment facility at the Regional Resource Recovery Centre (RRRC), which at present creates compost suitable for use in agriculture. The alternative waste treatment facility is nearing the end of its expected lifespan and the transition to FOGO will allow better source separation from households in the long term with the aim of producing less contaminated, higher quality compost, reducing processing costs and minimising waste being sent to landfill.
Q. What do you look for in a collections contract tender and how do you go about it?
A. We currently operate our kerbside collections in-house and regularly benchmark the service against other councils to measure its performance. Key benchmarking indicators include bin lifts per day, cost per service, cost per household, percentage of missed services and service satisfaction ratings. The city’s latest community satisfaction rate for its waste and recycling collection services is 99 per cent.
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Q. What has been working particularly well over recent years for the council in terms of waste management/recycling services?
A. By having the kerbside materials processed at the RRRC, the city has been able to achieve some of the best recovery rates in the state, currently achieving 64 per cent diversion from landfill. Approximately 50 per cent of the general waste is recovered through the process at the RRRC facility. The city also recovers metals, green waste and mattresses from our verge side pickups for recycling and reprocessing.
Q. What are some of the more challenging waste streams in Perth and how does the council deal with them?
A. Household hazardous waste, e-waste and single-use batteries continue to present challenges for WA councils. The city offers a twice yearly drop off for e-waste and once yearly for household hazardous waste. We also provide drop off single-use battery and mobile phone recycling bins at our offices and libraries.
Q. Can you explain some of the waste management roles that exist at the council and how they work with each other?
A. In terms of waste management roles the city has me as the manager of resource recovery and waste, responsible for strategic and operational planning, and a waste supervisor responsible for day-to-day collection operations. Waste education programs are developed in collaboration with SMRC, which provides the education resources and materials. The current focus of the education programs is contamination management of kerbside recycling and FOGO bins. This includes a bin tagging program to educate households on how to dispose of their waste, organics and recyclables in the correct bins.
Q. What are the main opportunities for the city for increasing diversion of materials from landfill/increased resource recovery?
A. Pending the outcome of the trial, the city aims to achieve a substantial increase in landfill diversion through rolling out the FOGO system across the whole of the City of Melville. The SMRC is also pursuing waste to energy solutions to treat the residual waste generated from the recovery process which will in turn achieve an even higher diversion rate.
Q. How does the council manage to keep costs down while meeting waste management targets?
A. Transitioning to the FOGO system should result in reduced processing costs over time and achieve higher recovery rates. The city has also secured grant funding for the FOGO rollout through the Waste Authorities’ Better Bins Program. As a member of the SMRC, the city achieves low processing costs for its kerbside recycling stream. In the long term, the city is committed to exploring waste-to-energy technologies to process the waste residuals from the recycling and composting processes.
Q. What are the challenges for the council in managing waste in the future?
A. Society is discarding more material than ever before, partly due to increased consumption as our economy grows, and because of more rapid turnover and disposal of products. Influencing consumer behaviour and changing perceptions of waste are major challenges moving forward. There is also increased pressure for councils to find sustainable and economically viable solutions to manage the varying types of waste products being generated. A whole-of-government approach is essential to achieving sustainable waste management outcomes into the future.
Q. Does the City of Melville incorporate or have plans to incorporate digital technologies such as real-time data monitoring and telematics?
A. The City’s waste fleet has recently been fitted with GPS on-board monitoring systems integrating route optimisation software. The system provides a range of real time data used to manage performance of the service. This includes live vehicle positions, bin lift counts, bin presentation issues, speed and idling reports, vehicle work summaries and daily utilisation. The system enables consistent and instantaneous reporting, without needing drivers or administration staff to manually enter data.