Bega Valley Shire Council’s FOGO service highlights the role of stakeholder engagement in building community support for resource recovery.
In August 2019, Local Government NSW held its annual awards ceremony to highlight outstanding achievements across local government. For its FOGOmentary and premier, the RH Dougherty Award for Innovation in Special Events award went to Bega Valley Shire Council.
The event, organised in conjunction with council’s FOGO service commencement, saw over 500 people in attendance, including service ambassador Costa Georgiadis.
According to Local Government NSW judges, the project demonstrated the value of getting children involved and allowing the community to take ownership of the FOGO program in a creative way.
“[It was] an innovative and progressive event which was a credit to all involved,” the judges said.
With the aim of transforming anything once living into nutrient rich compost, Bega Valley’s FOGO service was launched in 2018. As a result of the service, Joley Vidau, Bega Valley Shire Council Waste Strategy Coordinator, says council is now achieving 33 per cent diversion, with a contamination rate less than 0.4 per cent.
“Our landfill was originally designed to last at least 30 years, however at the current rate of filling, council identified that it was going to last 20 years, which meant we needed to take progressive action,” she says.
While on one hand the service was born out of necessity, Joley explains that when Bega Valley Shire Council consulted with the community on its new waste strategy, better environmental outcomes were a top priority.
To successfully implement the FOGO service, and with funding from the NSW Government’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, Joley and the Bega Valley team developed an extensive communications and engagement plan.
“Two weeks before we rolled out the kitchen caddies, we used every media platform available, including radio, print and social media,” Joley says.
“We also ran TV ads featuring local kids from across the whole shire. We had around 20 different schools involved, and they became our champions by proxy and helped us get the message across.”
The key to engagement, Joley says, is delivering messages in a way that allows the community to understand what council is trying to achieve.
“My approach was to look at the FOGO service through two lenses, environmental and economic,” she says.
“On one hand we can’t afford to keep building landfills, they are expensive, and on the other, diverting organics from landfill has significant environmental benefits.”
While community acceptance is key to the success of any new waste and resource recovery service, Joley says Bega Valley Shire Council also worked hard to develop their processing capacity on the back end.
She adds that the Bega Valley compost team were recently recognised by AORA, taking out the outstanding local government initiative in organics collection award at the association’s 2018 NSW industry awards.
With support from composting specialists C-Wise and their mobile aerated floor system (MAF), the council operate an organics recovery facility in Merimbula.
“Our Merimbula Organics Processing Facility has some limitations in regard to space, so C-Wise’s MAF system was a good solution for us,” Joley says.
As a compost aeration system, MAF uses fans with a unique impeller design to push air through movable perforated pipes underneath the compost pile.
According to Mick Yarra, Bega Valley Shire Council Organics Processing Coordinator, aerated static pile systems using perforated pipes and aerobic composting are an effective way to emulate mother nature.
“On average, it takes mother nature 500 years to process decaying and composting organic matter on the forest floor to make just one inch of topsoil.
“At our Organics Processing Facility we have a similar goal of producing a high-quality soil amendment, just a little bit quicker.”
Using a controlled environment to accelerate the composting process, Mick says the Merimbula facility can produce a batch of pasteurised composted product in 10 weeks.
“All our composts go through a curing stage for many months and must meet all the required testing parameters before being released for sale,” he says.
Andy Gulliver, C-Wise Director, says with the vast majority of organic waste still sent to landfill, organics are a greatly underutilised resource.
“C-Wise supports businesses, government and communities by supplying complete composting solutions based around building the capacity of the local community through training and support,” Andy says.
“Our systems provide a viable entry into composting for new operations and allow existing composters to increase production efficiency and the quality of their products.”
Successful composting requires know how and experience, Andy says, and C-Wise are committed to supporting their partners through technical guidance and development.
“There is a significant amount of knowledge required to get the process right before ever unleashing a microbe. As such, we prioritise ongoing communications and the provision of technical know-how,” he says.
Joley says C-Wise are always available to provide input when processing questions or issues arise. She adds that the service from C-Wise has been exceptional.
“When we were setting up the FOGO service and facility, C-Wise sent a team over to provide technical support and train staff, which was very beneficial. We have a great relationship,” she says.
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