A new era for organics in NSW: DPIE

Through the Net Zero Emissions Plan and upcoming 20-year waste strategy, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is planning for the next phase of organics recovery in NSW.

The NSW Government’s recently released Net Zero Emissions Plan signalled a paradigm shift in state emissions policy.

With a plan to hit net zero by 2050 and 35 per cent reductions on 2005 by 2030, the NSW and Federal Governments will invest almost $10 billion over 10 years to reduce emissions in the state.

For the organics recycling sector, the headline target is net zero emissions from organics waste by 2030.

As organics waste comprises around 40 per cent of the red-lidded kerbside bin, the next steps for statewide recovery will focus on lifting recovery rates.

This is being explored through consultation on the NSW 20 Year Waste Strategy, looking at regulatory settings, infrastructure needs, end uses and renewable energy.

Amanda Kane, Manager Organics at the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), heralds it as an exciting step forward for organics recovery in NSW.

“The plan aligns waste with a major climate action program for the first time, while also recognising that there are multiple benefits for organics recovery,” Amanda says.

She says the net zero emissions organics target links in well with the National Food Waste Strategy target to halve food waste by 2030, supported by the National Waste Strategy Action Plan.

Action points to meet net zero emissions will align with the 20-Year Waste Strategy, which closed for consultation on 8 May. The Cleaning Up Our Act Issues Paper, which was a key part of the consultation, canvassed options for the management of organics in the future.

This may include mandating source separation at a generator level and standardising household and business collections – supported by critical infrastructure and concepts such as joint procurement.

In the meantime, the NSW Government is providing $24 million in funding to support local councils and the alternative waste industry.

Last year DPIE awarded almost $3 million to FOGO collection projects, with services now planned or up and running in 50 local government areas.

The funding package, which opened in mid-May, aims to help affected councils and the industry to implement or improve kerbside organics waste collections, purchase new equipment and upgrade facilities.

It includes $5 million in Local Council Transition grants to support councils impacted by Mixed Waste Organics Outputs (MWOO) regulatory changes with a range of project options, including strategic planning, options assessment, community engagement, rolling out new organics collection services or improving their existing organics services.

Amanda says with the bulk of funding for Waste Less, Recycle More coming to a close, a new round of collection grants will help to continue to support councils upgrading to food and garden organics (FOGO) collection in NSW.

On the commercial side, organics infrastructure funding for onsite systems was awarded last year to major institutions such as AMP Capital Investors, the City of Sydney, David Jones Food Hall and Taronga Zoo.

“Our goal has always been to increase processing capacity to match the increased supply where it’s needed, and we will continue to need to do that as we work towards the Net Zero Emissions goal,” Amanda says.

The infrastructure investment in the last round of Organics Infrastructure grants funding included $6.5 million for infrastructure announced last December – helping to build organics capacity in metropolitan Sydney.

One recipient was Australian Native Landscapes, which received $2.9 million to expand the capacity of its Badgerys Creek facility to process 45,000 tonnes more food waste into compost each year.

BetterGROW was also the recipient of a $1.5 million grant towards a 30,000 tonne per annum organics resource recovery facility at Wetherill Park.

Late last year, DPIE also awarded almost $3 million to five more collection projects, with FOGO services planned or up and running in 50 local government areas in NSW.

The funding boost aims to support local government while the 20-Year Waste Strategy remains in development. DPIE, with the EPA, will continue to undertake research into organics to improve investor confidence in collection and processing.

As part of this, a series of new datasets have been released that will inform the next steps for resource recovery and organics diversion.

This comprises an analysis of the performance of food and garden organics collections in NSW.

DPIE engaged consultants Rawtec to independently review and analyse kerbside red and green lid bin audits undertaken by councils across NSW.

Released in April 2020, the Analysis of NSW Kerbside Green Lid Bin Audit Data Report audited 38 areas/councils to understand the performance of kerbside residual waste and organics services.

Performance was measured at an individual household level by audited area/council and according to the bin size/frequency of collection.

Across all audited councils, the average proportion of available food and garden organics diverted from landfill was 85 per cent.

On average 44 per cent of available food waste was diverted from landfill, though this varied across the areas from five to 78 per cent. Garden organics rated higher in diversion rates, with 98 per cent of available garden organics diverted.

Contamination news was highly positive, with only a 2.2 per cent contamination rate by weight in the FOGO bin.

The research concluded that FOGO services were performing well in organics diversion. However, there are opportunities to improve diversion rates through food waste education.

It showed that reducing access to landfill disposal options through smaller residual waste bins and user selected services led to higher food waste diversion.

The best configuration was a small 120/140 litre residual waste bin, collected fortnightly and a large 240-litre FOGO bin collected weekly.

Amanda says the new report reaffirms that most people are doing the right thing and targeted education would improve results.

As part of ongoing education, DPIE has launched the FOGO Education Deep Dive – a project involving 24 FOGO council educators from around NSW.

The project will explore household behaviour in the kitchen and kerbside and test various interventions to further reduce contamination and increase recovery.

“Everything is aligning to recognise the value of organics as a waste stream and the opportunities for recovery, valorisation and beneficiation,” Amanda says.

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Waste 2020: the urban potential for FOGO

According to NSW red bin audit data, 41 per cent of red lid bin waste has the potential to be recycled as food and garden (FOGO) waste each week.

Amanda Kane, Organics Manager at NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) said regional NSW has embraced FOGO and inner city councils are on the rise to strengthen their FOGO services.

In March 2020, a green lid bin update of the 2018 NSW FOGO bin audit was released and Kane said the results were similar, highlighting the need for further FOGO projects.

Kane virtually presented findings at the Waste 2020 webinar series, organics and FOGO.

“Since the first audit in 2018, contamination has gone down to 2.2 per cent and we’re seeing some great figures in this area,” she told webinar attendees.

However, Kane said according to the audit update report, there are significant changes and service variations by region.

“Where effective FOGO services are in place in NSW, there are actual changes to the way all waste services operate, including household,” she said.

“FOGO services seem to reduce the total amount of waste generated, increase dry recycling, recover more resources and divert more from landfill.”

Kane said there are a variety of factors that require further exploration, including changes in broader behaviours and attitudes due to changes in services, education around FOGO extending to other waste issues, and how strategic waste management leads to ongoing improvements.

The FOGO Education Deep Dive Project is now underway across 24 FOGO councils and DPIE is hoping this program will drive increased efficiency.

“Social research will indicate how people use the bin, what they think about it and why they do particular behaviour,” she said.

“It’s in the field now and we expect draft findings by the end of the month. We will also be working with the FOGO council to test education interventions.”

Kane said the Net Zero Emissions plan released in March, that includes Net Zero Emissions of Organics Waste by 2030 is a game-changer for organics in NSW.

“With organics, there are opportunities through diversion, plus carbon benefits in soils, increased yields, improved water retention that builds drought resilience and improved soil health,” she said.

In NSW, organic waste has only been measured through tonnes diversion from landfill.

“Now, we will be looking at measuring through emission reductions, and are aligned with the emissions and climate policy,” Kane said.

In the meantime, Kane said DPIE is working through refining the organics policy direction through the 20 year waste strategy.

“We are also seeking funding post 2021, to get that extra 41 per cent of organics out of the bin and meeting those emission targets,” she said.

The next instalment of Waste 2020’s webinar series will explore the role of social enterprise in the circular economy. To register click here

Image credit: Katherine Griffiths / City of Sydney

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Food waste diversion grants available

The NSW Environment Department is offering grants worth $100,000 to help food rescue organisations collect donated food and divert the material from landfill.

Environment Department Acting Director Waste and Resource Recovery Amanda Kane said Food Donation Grants are open to not-for-profit organisations and local councils, and designed to provide food relief agencies with extra resources to sign up more donors, work collaboratively and collect more surplus food for redistribution.

“Donating food is a great way to avoid food waste. Every year in NSW, almost a million tonnes of food waste ends up in landfill – 200,000 tonnes of this comes from businesses,” Ms Kane said.

“This funding will support projects that redirect surplus foods to places where it can be put to use, preventing it ever becoming waste at all.”

According to Ms Kane, the grants complement infrastructure funding provided by the NSW Government to food relief agencies for equipment such as fridges, freezers and refrigerated vans.

“Two rounds of the Food Donation Grants have already been successfully completed, with $1.7 million directed to support 21 food rescue projects,” Ms Kane said.

Grants between $5000 to $100,000 are available, with funding from the NSW Government’s $802 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

Applications close on 21 November 2018.

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Funding awarded for regional NSW landfills

The NSW Government has allocated $3.4 million to assist rural and regional landfill upgrades and closures in Western NSW, the Central West Murray and Northern Tablelands.

Environment Department Acting Director of Resource Recovery Amanda Kane said the Landfill Consolidation and Environmental Improvements Program aims to support environmental outcomes in regional councils, including closing down and consolidating landfills.

“The grants provide up to $200,000 to rural and regional councils who manage licensed and unlicensed landfills,” Ms Kane said.

“The funding supports projects that improve landfills to better protect the environment, such as installing signage, litter and security fencing or infrastructure to sort and recycle materials.”

According to Ms Kane, the grants also support the closure of landfills that have long term legacy issues, while ensuring residents still have access to services.

Projects include landfill closures in Lithgow, Parkes, Hilltops, Bellingen, Upper Hunter and Mid Coast, and improvement works in Bourke, Gilgandra, Walgett, Richmond Valley, Bland, Tenterfield, Leeton, Parkes, Tamworth and Dungog.

The program is delivered through a partnership between the Environmental Trust and the NSW EPA, as part of the state’s $802 million Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

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Applications open for NSW FOGO funding

Applications are open for round seven of the NSW EPA organics collections grant program.

$2.6 million is available for local councils and businesses wanting to introduce, or further develop, food and garden waste collection services, with funding provided by the NSW Environmental Trust.

EPA Organics Manager Amanda Kane said the grants would provide funding for household collection services, trials for food waste collections in unit blocks and new food waste collection services for businesses looking to improve their waste practice.

“Councils that have previously received these grants have been able to divert thousands of tonnes of waste by introducing regular organic collections services,” Ms Kane said.

“Councils like Bega, Byron and Shellharbour combined funding with great education programs to teach people how to use the service, while councils like Sydney and Randwick are trialling food-only collections to transform waste into electricity.”

Ms Kane said funding would help recipients make a real difference in the reduction of organic waste sent to landfill.

“Previous projects have supported new or improved green lid bins for 600,000 homes in NSW, diverting an extra 160,000 tonnes of food and garden waste from landfill, turning it into high quality compost,” Ms Kane said.

“With funding support, residents in 42 council areas across NSW are now able to recycle their food and garden waste at the kerbside each week.”

Grants will be delivered through a partnership between the EPA and the NSW Environmental Trust.

Applications close 27 June 2019.

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Organics market development grants open: EPA NSW

The Tasmanian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is considering a proposal for an organics processing facility at Mowbray in Launceston.

NSW businesses, councils, agricultural associations and project communicators can now apply for the second round of grants to promote the benefits of compost into new markets.

Grants worth up to $300,000 are available to provide funding for projects that will build markets for compost made from household food and garden waste, including material collected from kerbside bins.

Example projects that are eligible for funding include showcasing compost benefits to farmers, demonstrating benefits to soil health, or improving market confidence by promoting the high standard of modern compost quality.

Previous rounds of grants have already funded projects that have demonstrated how compost builds resilient turf on sporting fields and improves soil health on farms in Sydney and the Riverina.

EPA Unit Head Organics Amanda Kane said the grants gave business, councils and agricultural associations the chance to deliver projects that could make a real difference when it came to organic waste.

“From saving good food from being wasted and addressing food insecurity in our state, to increasing NSW capacity to process more collected green waste, we’re tackling organics waste from every angle,” Ms Kane said.

“This funding is helping to build strong, viable markets for a quality recycled product and supports other programs to increase supply through more collections and infrastructure to build the capacity of the industry in NSW to process more.”

The grants are being delivered through the NSW EPA’s Waste Less Recycle More initiative.

Applications close 28 March, 2018.

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