The NSW Environment Protection Authority’s latest education campaign is highlighting the power of targeted communications towards boosting the state’s FOGO efficiency.
“The littlest things can often make the biggest different. Good food comes from good land. Good land comes from good soil. Good soil comes from good compost. And good compost starts right here, in your green lid bin.”
This is opening line of the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) latest educational video series, Scrap Together.
Developed to boost FOGO recovery rates across the state, Scrap Together is a series of three 45 second videos and associated collateral.
The first video concludes with a simple yet important message that underscores Scrap Together’s key motivation: “Little scraps of food go a long way. So NSW, let’s get our scrap together.”
According to Amanda Kane, EPA Organics Manager, the campaign comes of the back of a 2020 study, whereby the EPA commissioned Rawtec to undertake an analysis of NSW council kerbside waste audit data.
The aim was to understand the amount of different waste types in kerbside residual waste bins, as well as the performance of FOGO collection services funded under Waste Less Recycle More.
The analysis showed that through best bin configuration – when households have a weekly large FOGO bin and a small fortnightly red bin – a food waste recovery rate of 57 per cent was achieved.
While a 57 per cent recovery rate is encouraging given the relatively new status of the service, Kane explains that the EPA wanted to take it to the next level.
As such, the department formed the FOGO Education Deep Dive Project, whereby FOGO educators from 24 participating councils came together to workshop potential barriers to wider uptake.
From there, EPA commissioned social research.
The research was conducted online with 2654 residents from 26 local government areas who had green lid organics bins for FOGO.
It showed three key barriers towards wider FOGO uptake: residents not knowing what happens to the contents of the bin, not understanding what waste materials can go into the bin and the ever present ‘yuk factor.’
“People didn’t like the idea of a caddy on the kitchen bench, or they were worried about flies,” Kane says.
“The results reinforced our suspicions, but now we had the data to back them up.”
From there, the FOGO Education Deep Dive Working Group concluded that it needed an information campaign that would answer necessary questions and address community concerns.
The EPA then engaged FOTIMedia with a creative brief, who came back with the Scrap Together concept.
“We wanted to connect what is happening at the kerbside with the fact the material goes onto the land, and they came up with the idea of putting a FOGO bin in a field, which I think works very well,” Kane says.
Video one, Every Scrap Matters, introduces viewers to the series’ narrator, an Akubra clad farmer who reinforces the connection between food waste, soil, and the food we eat.
The second video, Scrap Sorted, highlights the difference between the FOGO bin and standard household composting – showing viewers that it’s not just fruits and vegetables that can go into the bin, but meat, seafood, and dairy as well.
The final video, Scrap-load Better, takes views to Scrap Street – addressing the ‘yuk factor’ by illustrating a range of strategies to avoid odours, such as freezing seafood scraps until bin day, putting kitchen caddies in the dishwasher and lining kitchen caddies with newspaper.
“We then tested the videos across three councils – Clarence Valley, Forbes and Kempsey – from September to December last year,” Kane says.
“We evaluated the campaign through pre and post bin audits. We audited 220 bins per council or 660 in total – identifying food waste recovery rates before and after.
“We also conducted a post-campaign social attitudes evaluation.”
The bin audit results showed an average 10 per cent increase in recovery in the green bin, while the social attitudes evaluation showed that the campaign resonated with communities.
“The more people saw it the more likely they were to act,” Kane says.
“It’s shown us that good education can improve performance and that this campaign can work alongside existing council communications to reinforce their messaging.”
The bin audits also revealed an overall reduction in food waste, Kane explains, which could highlight a correlation between the campaign and people’s awareness of what are they putting in their bin.
“Contamination also halved across the three council areas, which we weren’t targeting at all,” she says.
“I think it indicates that the campaign made people think about what is happening with the contents of the bin.”
The plan now, Kane adds, is to refine those findings, with the EPA now working with Lake Macquarie Council to produce a fourth video looking at caddy liners and contamination.
“We tried to keep the first three videos as generic as possible, but are now adapting them to individual council needs, such as with Lake Macquarie which uses caddy liners,” Kane says.
She adds that the EPA is looking to provide funding next year to help councils roll the campaign out in their communities.
“It’s about taking FOGO to the next step. We have 43 councils providing a FOGO service and we want to see continuous improvements,” Kane says.
“Ensuring maximum efficiency helps councils and households increase recovery, it helps processors with material input quantity and quality, and it helps the environment through emissions reduction and getting more organics out of landfill.”
Kane highlights NSW’s Net Zero mission plan, which is targeting net zero emissions from organic waste by 2030.
“We are going to need to get 100 per cent of food out of landfill to support that goal, and campaigns like Scrap Together are all contributing to that,” she says.
“If we can combine this education which was geared towards recovery with other components like contamination and avoidance, then we’ve got even more opportunities.”