Expanding kerbside in Macedon

Shane Walden, Macedon Ranges Shire Council Director of assets and operations, explains the process that led to council’s 2020 introduction of kerbside glass and organics collections.

Q. What are some of the challenges surrounding collection and recycling in the Macedon Ranges?

A. Macedon Ranges Shire Council has experienced the same challenges faced by many Victorian councils during the current recycling crisis. The reduced capacity for processing of commingled recycling and fluctuating commodities markets have made it difficult to find a long-term, sustainable solution for managing the shire’s kerbside recycling material. Community sentiment towards recycling has been low, which has made it particularly challenging to keep bin contamination down, particularly in the recycling stream. It is more important than ever to continue to educate the community and reinforce the message that, with their help, we can continue to recycle.

Q. How is council going to manage the expansion of its kerbside organics collection to include food organics?

A. Council will be implementing the FOGO service in several stages. The first stage involves expanding the existing garden waste service to include food organics. The service will start in February 2020, and cover the major townships of Gisborne, Kyneton, Romsey, Riddells Creek, Macedon, Woodend and Lancefield.

In January 2020, FOGO bins, kitchen caddies, compostable liners and information packs were delivered to all shire residents receiving the service. The second stage will see the remaining townships of Malmsbury, Tylden, Monegeeta, Bullengarook and Darraweit Guim receive the FOGO service in 2021. The third stage will see the introduction the service to the remaining areas of the shire by 2025.

Q. How will food organics collection improve resource recovery in the shire?

A. Audits of residents’ kerbside bins were conducted and found that almost one third of the content of the general waste bins was food waste. This highlighted a significant improvement opportunity and helped to build a strong case for a full food organics collection service. The new FOGO service will divert more than 2300 tonnes of food waste and 3000 tonnes of garden waste from landfill. Food and garden waste will be composted for use in agriculture and local parks and gardens.

Q. Council is also introducing a separate, glass-only bin collection service: why did you choose to endorse this?

A. Following the 2018 recycling crisis, council began to investigate possible solutions to improve the value and ongoing stability of its commingled recycling service. A major opportunity highlighted by council was the potential separation of glass from the commingled recycling.

The closure of SKM’s recycling facilities in 2019 put further pressure on council to take action to ensure the long-term sustainability of its recycling service. Discussions were held with council’s collection contractor Four Seasons Waste and recycling company Australian Paper Recovery (APR), which operates a glassless materials recovery facility in Truganina, Melbourne. APR’s materials recovery process separates commingled recycling into separate materials streams for reprocessing locally in Victoria; however, they do not accept glass.

A glass collection trial was also undertaken in the town of Lancefield between August 2019 and January 2020 to assess the viability of a separate, glass-only collection service. Council staff audited both the recycling and glass-only material at regular intervals throughout the trial to assess the uptake of the glass-only bin and to track the progress of the trial. The audit results showed that the provision of a kerbside glass service in Lancefield saw 98.8 per cent of glass diverted from the commingled recycling bin into the glass-only bin. Consequently, the glass content of the commingled recycling bins reduced from more than 30 per cent down to approximately one per cent by weight over the six-month trial. Council conducted an options analysis and impact assessment informed by the successful findings from the trial and market capability analysis, and the decision was confirmed to introduce a shire-wide glass-only collection service.

Q. How will glass kerbside collections be rolled out?

A. Glass-only bins (purple lid) were delivered to shire residents in January 2020, concurrently with FOGO bin deliveries. There will be a collection every four weeks from February 2020.

A continued communication and education campaign has been a key part of the rollout, to ensure the community is aware of the service changes and understands the reasons for the changes. The reaction of the community to the glass-only and FOGO services has been largely positive, with many residents pleased that council is taking positive steps to address the recycling issues we are currently facing.

This article was published in the March edition of Waste Management Review. 

Related stories:

Out and about with Costa: Penrith City Council

International Compost Awareness Week is coming up in the first week of May and Costa is excited, writes Mia Ecob, Resource Recovery Education Officer at Penrith City Council. 

Penrith City Council had the privilege of giving Costa and his team from Gardening Australia a sneak peek into what makes Penrith a recognised leader in sustainable waste management.

For over 10 years, Penrith City Council has diverted a significant amount of organic material from being sent to landfill, resulting in great environmental benefits and financial savings. In ensuring all residents are sorting their waste correctly, Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team engages with residents daily to educate on the importance of sorting waste.

Costa, Penrith’s Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy Ambassador, is very enthusiastic about the positive sustainability and environmental behaviours Penrith has instilled into its management of waste over the years. One of these practices includes council’s implementation the food and garden organics (FOGO) service back in 2009. 

As Costa loves composting, he wanted to see how it can be done on a large scale. Two members from Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team, Kate Bradshaw and Drew Turner, detailed to Costa how this could be achieved, while also educating residents on how to minimise the amount of contamination found within the organics bin. The benefits of having our field officers out and about in the community demonstrates the friendly and helpful education approach to waste.

Having a holistic approach to getting everyone across the community involved in composting through the FOGO bin service enables positive results to be achieved. Simple things such as placing food waste into the council provided green compostable bags and removing food waste from packaging are just some of the ways to improve sorting behaviours.

The commitment Penrith’s Waste and Resource Recovery Department has in achieving 70 per cent diversion of waste from landfill by 2021 is well on track. By continuing to focus on educating and supporting the community with their sorting habits, highlights the benefits of providing long-term social, economic and environmental value in moving towards a circular economy of reducing waste.

Catch Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team talking all things waste with Costa on ABC’s Gardening Australia 1 May. 

Related stories:

NSW injects $24M into kerbside FOGO

The NSW Government will provide $24 million in funding to support local councils and the alternative waste industry improve food and garden waste kerbside separation.

The financial injection follows the NSW EPA’s controversial October 2019 reaffirmation of its 2018 mixed waste organic output revocation, which saw the material banned from agricultural land applications.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said the funding will help local councils and industry adopt and improve sustainable organic waste management, while the government undertakes consultation for its NSW 20 Year Waste Strategy.

“We know from the $105 million investment currently provided under the Waste Less Recycle More initiative that recycling food and garden waste through a dedicated kerbside bin works. Already more than 40 councils across NSW have food and garden kerbside collections with good results,” he said.

“To help make this change, we’re investing $24 million to support local councils and industry operators that were putting organic waste in red bins to produce mixed waste organic outputs.”

According to Mr Kean, the initiative is financial viable and will create a beneficial product that helps improve soil health.

“That’s why we are providing this type of support for the alternative waste industry and councils. The $24 million will help councils implement or improve kerbside organic waste collections, purchase new equipment and upgrade facilities,” Mr Kean said.

The EPA and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will also undertake organics research to improve investor confidence in collection and processing.

“This funding boost will support local government and industry while we develop the best long-term solutions for waste management and resource recovery through the NSW 20 Year Waste Strategy,” Mr Kean said.

Related stories: 

SMRC to launch bin tagging program

Western Australia’s Southern Metropolitan Regional Council (SMRC) authority is launching a new bin tagging program in select households across the region.

SMRC is undertaking the education program on behalf of three councils, with funding support from the state government, administered by the Waste Authority.

According to SMRC Chairperson Doug Thompson, bin tagging is part of the rollout of the new three-bin FOGO system that was implemented in 2019 in the City of Melville, City of Fremantle and Town of East Fremantle.

Mr Thompson said the program aims to educate residents about how to use the new system and provide individual feedback to improve their efforts at home.

“Recycling is a shared responsibility,” he said.

“By everyone working together to ensure they put the right thing in the right bin, we can help create a less contaminated waste stream.”

Community Waste Education Officers will work in pairs to make a visual inspection of the bin’s contents prior to collection.

“They will check for contamination, such as recyclables in the general waste bin, or contamination in the FOGO and recycling bins,” Mr Thompson said.

“Following inspection, they will place a ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ tag on the handle of the bin, which provides feedback about how well residents are using the bins or what can be improved.”

Mr Thompson said the program will focus on education rather than enforcement.

“Similar programs in other local government areas have shown most residents are interested in doing the right thing when it comes to separating their waste if they are given the correct information,” Mr Thompson said.

“In a small number of cases where residents’ bins show repeated high contamination following several visits, the bin will not be collected.”

Related stories:

Next generation AORA

AORA’s new Executive Officer Peter Olah speaks with Waste Management Review about the association’s plans to support and strengthen the Australian organics industry. 

The organics industry is in interesting times. While awareness over the importance of sustainable organics management has never been higher, compliance costs, regulatory changes and disrupted end markets are causing problems for small and medium enterprises.

How to effectively manage and process food waste is gaining traction though, with Infrastructure Victoria’s Recycling and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Evidence Base Report suggesting consistent approaches to FOGO are critical to achieving greater overall resource recovery rates.

Though this is likely welcome news to the Victorian arm of the organics sector, across the border in NSW, the situation is murkier.

In October, the NSW EPA reaffirmed its 2018 Mixed Waste Organics Output decision, stating the authority had no intention of amending its revocation of the material’s resource recovery exemption order.

For Peter Olah, the Australian Organics Recycling Association’s (AORA) new Executive Officer, the organics industry’s current challenges present an opportunity for growth.

“While I’m entering my new role at AORA in a challenging time for not just the organics industry, but the recycling industry at large, I’m excited to face those challenges head on and support the organics industry as it advances,” Peter says.

Peter, who currently serves as the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute’s Chief Executive Officer, has an extensive background in politics and public administration.

He previously worked on the private staff of a NSW Premier, and served as a Policy Advisor to Ministers for Justice and Police.

Furthermore, Peter served as a Hurstville City Council Councillor in Sydney for 12 years, including three terms as Hurstville Mayor and three as Deputy Mayor.

“I also worked with NSW State Transit for seven years, fulfilling a number of management functions for the organisation’s board and CEO, including projects in government and customer relations, public affairs, industrial advocacy, internal communications and cost efficiency,” he says.

Drawing on this leadership experience, Peter intends to help AORA deliver the objectives laid out in its 2019-2022 National Strategy.

“The strategy’s mission statement is to work with stakeholders to facilitate the conditions through which surplus organic material can be sustainably and cost-effectively recycled.” Peter says.

“Furthermore, we intent to promote the beneficial use of compost  and mulches in primary industries.”

In addition to the overall mission, Peter says AORA have three key objectives, including strengthening AORA as the peak body for the organics recycling industry and championing a pathway to optimise closed loop organics recycling.

Additionally, he says, AORA intends to establish and participate in knowledge hubs for recycled organics research, development, extension and communication.

“I will use my experience in stakeholder management and knowledge of political processes to ensure our member’s voices are heard and continue the advocacy and industry support role of AORA,” he says.

“As the central body for organics in Australia, I also intend to ensure the sustainable growth of the association.”

To achieve this, Peter says he will take time to speak with members about their concerns and ensure those concerns are further discussed with the AORA board.

One of AORA’s next steps, he says, is collaborating with members to establish standards and best practice certifications programs.

“AORA’s members are leaders in the organics space, and drawing on their expertise, I hope to use my position to identify, communicate and celebrate best practice strategies, technologies, performance and products,” he says.

“By working together, AORA can help create an environment where the work of individuals and organisations in the organics industry leads the way to a more sustainable Australian future.”

Related stories:

Compost by the river: SOILCO

Charlie Emery, SOILCO General Manager, speaks to Waste Management Review about SOILCO’s plans to build the largest organics recycling facility in the NSW Northern Rivers region.

The NSW Northern Rivers region is perhaps best known for its Pacific beaches, scenic drives and dramatic valleys surrounded by rivers and wildlife. Home to tourist hubs such as Tweed Head, Byron Bay and Minyon Falls, by 2021 the coastal region will also be home to one of Australia’s latest organic recycling facilities.

As early adopters of the NSW Government’s Love Food Hate Waste program, Tweed Shire Council is committed to proactive food waste reduction and recycling initiatives.

As part of this commitment, the council has commissioned a state-of-the-art organics recycling facility in Stotts Creek. The composting facility will be the largest of its kind in the Northern Rivers, processing nearly 25,000 tonnes of organic waste each year.

SOILCO, a NSW organics recycling business, has been tasked with facility design, construction and operations.

According to Charlie Emery, SOILCO General Manager, once commissioned, the facility will complement council’s recently introduced food and garden organics (FOGO) kerbside collection program.

Since FOGO collections began, Charlie says the region has seen a 20 per cent reduction in organic waste to landfill. This, he says, illustrates that residents are willing, and even motivated, to engage with the closed-loop processes when given the opportunity.

Charlie says collected FOGO is currently transferred for processing at a facility located outside the local government area, meaning council must deal with additional logistics and associated transport costs.

“Once the SOILCO facility is up and running, council will be able to process its own FOGO, right next to the existing resource recovery centre. This will reduce transport and logistics costs and further streamline council services,” he says.

Following a competitive tender process, SOILCO was awarded the Stotts Creek contract in July.

“Like other progressive regions in the state, Tweed Shire Council has a long-term goal of achieving zero waste, which resonates with SOILCO’s overarching mission and current operations in the Illawarra and South Coast regions of NSW,” Charlie says.

The Stotts Creek Organics Recycling Facility will function as an enclosed composting facility, meaning SOILCO will construct a processing building alongside multiple aerated composting tunnels, biofilter and product storage infrastructure.

“The model is based on upgrades to our own facilities in Kembla Grange and Nowra, where we used Waste Treatment Technologies’ technology for positive aeration in an enclosed environment,” Charlie says.

“This allows us to improve processing controls and monitor the material to ensure compost production compliance.”

While organics compliance is a hot topic in NSW, following the EPA’s October reiteration of its controversial 2018 Mixed Waste Organic Outputs decision, Charlie says composting of source-separated materials has been largely unaffected.

That said, the EPA maintains strict regulatory rules for the production and application of compost derived from FOGO, meaning SOILCO’s facility has to consider decontamination and provide rigid process controls.   

Charlie says through the installation of a pre-sort and aerated composting tunnels, SOILCO can produce clean, compliant and nutrient-rich products.

While still in the planning and approval phase, Charlie says SOILCO has already identified existing urban and agricultural end markets for their product.

“There’s a large demand for quality compost in the region, so we’re confident in the facility’s long-term economic viability,” he says.

“As time goes on, and the benefits of food waste diversion receive wider recognition, we are sure to see an increase in facility throughput and additional capacity has been designed for.”

In addition to existing end markets, Charlie says SOILCO is looking to work with local businesses and large generators of food, such as hotels, of which there are many in the heavily visited region.

He says SOILCO operates food waste collection services out of their other NSW facilities, and intends to provide commercial collection to businesses in the Northern Rivers area as well.

“That way we’re not just capturing existing tonnage through the municipal contact but creating further commercial opportunities for food waste diversion through a system we have already established,” Charlie says.

“This provides an opportunity for local businesses to participate in the composting process and creates a real sense of community.”

After lodging its development application in November, Charlie says SOILCO is working towards a two-year design and construction timeline.

“The facility is set to be operational by mid-2021, after which, SOILCO will operate the facility for 10 years, before transferring ownership back to council,” he says.

Related stories:

Yarra City Council: crushing contamination

Waste Management Review speaks with Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council City Works and Assets Director, about the council’s ongoing trial of kerbside glass separation.

In the beginning of June of this year, 1300 Abbottsford households were greeted with new crates for their glass waste.

The crates were delivered to the inner north suburb of Melbourne as part of a kerbside glass collection trial, developed by the Yarra City Council.

The problem of crushed glass and contamination has been discussed at length in the resource recovery sector. However, as Waste Management Review reported in May, government action on the issue has been slow.

With funding from Sustainability Victoria, Yarra City Council is attempting to buck this trend by taking tangible steps to reduce contamination in the densely populated municipality. Another motivating issue is the lack of available landfill space in Victoria, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne.

Chris Leivers, Yarra City Council Director City Works and Assets, says recycling rates across Yarra are high, with the majority of residents being active recyclers. Despite this, Chris says recent changes to the recycling industry have promoted a proactive response from the council in an attempt to get ahead of potential future problems.

“Recent challenges in the waste and recycling industry will have an impact on all councils. A reduction in recycling processing in Melbourne will see additional pressures on the remaining processors,” Chris says.

“Making sure we minimise the amount of waste we send to landfill and improve the quality of recycling will ensure we continue to have a sustainable waste collection service into the future.”

The Yarra trial will run for 12 months and builds on a successful 2018 food and garden organics (FOGO) separation trial.

“The initial FOGO trial provided extremely useful data and information about the collection process and user behaviour, and identified that Yarra residents were willing to trial new ways and methods for kerbside recycling,” Chris says.

“This was very heartening for us and encouraged us to combine FOGO and glass separation in a larger trial area.”

Chris says results from the FOGO trial saw a 40 per cent diversion of waste from landfill, with current FOGO contamination rates now averaging less than one per cent.

The trial has been named the Yarra Waste Revolution and includes a targeted education and communications program.

“Recycling contamination is an ongoing issue for all councils, partly because, generally speaking, people do not have a good grasp on what is considered contamination when it comes to the kerbside recycling bin,” Chris says.

“We saw a great opportunity to make our recycled materials cleaner and more valuable, which ensures they get a new life, while also sending less waste to landfill.

“The improved quality of the material will lead to higher value, increased market demand, market diversity and the development of domestic markets for recycled products.”

According to Chris, public response to the trial has been positive, with most residents supportive of the new service and the city’s efforts to reduce waste sent to landfill.

“In only a few short weeks, there has already been a dramatic improvement in the quality of the material being presented in glass recycling bins,” he says.

“The Yarra Waste Revolution is a major change for residents, so this is a phenomenal achievement by the community in a very short amount of time.”

To implement the trial, Yarra City Council has enlisted the support of the state government, Sustainability Victoria, RMIT University, Australian Paper Recovery, Four Seasons Waste and the Alex Fraser Group.   

“Partnerships with industry and government agencies are critical to the success of this trial. We all need to work together to find solutions to the current recycling crisis,” Chris says.

“Our collection contractors, processors and industry partners share our vision to find solutions to the recycling crisis, and are helping us collect and sort the materials here in Victoria.”

Chris says research partners have also helped council understand the lifecycle analysis of the city’s new collection model, and what that will mean for environmental outcomes.

“We couldn’t implement a trial without their participation and of course, the financial and technical support provided by our government partners,” he says.

“We are actively seeking out opportunities to work with all levels of government, and the waste industry, to deliver on a new circular economy approach to waste management.”

Following the trial, Chris says Yarra will consider expanding the service throughout the city.

“We have had the courage to explore alternative methods and innovate in order to develop a more sustainable kerbside model that transitions away from the current system which relies heavily on export markets,” Chris says.

“Our long-term ambition is to move our community towards producing zero waste by supporting circular economies and minimising the amount of waste produced.”

Chris adds that making sure Yarra residents are confident in the sustainability of their waste and recycling service is key to achieving viable and environmental outcomes.

“We recognise the changes we are implementing at a local level require buy-in and commitment from our residents, but are confident that we have the support of our community, who are very focused on sustainability,” he says.

“Our Yarra Waste Revolution trial to separate glass and food and organic waste only started in June this year, and while it is a bit premature to provide solid data or analysis, the early signs are very positive.”

Related stories:

International specialist to help fight food waste

The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has partnered with Woolworths and Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) to bring international sustainable food systems specialist Mark Barthel to Australia.

Mark Barthel has 25 years of experience fighting food waste with brands such as Tesco, Amazon, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Nestle, and international organisations such as WRAP, the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the FAO.

“It is an exciting time to be working with Woolworths, CRC and FIAL to develop a food waste reduction roadmap,” Mr Barthel said.

“Although only three per cent of national food waste is attributed to supermarkets, they still have a critical role to play in engaging with their customers about how they can make the most of the food they buy.”

Mr Barthel said Woolworths was at the forefront in educating customers to minimising food waste via their Food Savers program.

“They have also made commitments themselves, with 100 per cent of their stores now having a food waste diversion program in place,” Mr Barthel said.

“I am excited to be working closely with Woolworths to develop a roadmap that will see them engaging with suppliers, customers and community partners to work together to tackle this issue.”

According to the Australian National Food Waste Baseline report, 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted each year, half of which ends up in landfill.

“Preventing food waste entering landfill in Australia would be the equivalent of taking over 1 million cars off the road in terms of its environmental impact,” Mr Barthel said.

“There is a huge role for businesses to play in reducing food waste along the supply chain, and in addition to working on a roadmap for Woolworths, I’m also going to be working with FIAL to establish a voluntary agreement program with Australian businesses as part of the National Food Waste Strategy.”

FIAL Managing Director Mirjana Prica said the organisation was thrilled to have Mr Barthel working on the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy.

“His experience in setting up the UK’s Cortauld Agreement, and understanding of sustainable food systems, will provide invaluable insights that will help shape Australia’s efforts to reduce food waste,” Ms Prica said.

Related stories:

Coles donates unsold food waste

Food charity SecondBite has received a $500,000 grant from the Coles Nurture Fund, facilitating the purchase of four new refrigerated trucks.

The grant follows a new five-year agreement between Coles and SecondBite that will increase food collections from Coles’ metropolitan supermarkets from three to five days a week.

The trucks will collect unsold, edible food in bulk from Coles’ distribution centres and redistribute it to charities.

Coles CEO Steven Cain said food donations to SecondBite rose 25 per cent in 2018-19, with Coles expecting those volumes to increase further this year.

“We have an opportunity and responsibility to help fight hunger in Australia by donating our unsold, edible food to people who are vulnerable and facing tough times,” Mr Cain said.

“Everyone deserves to have regular meals and our SecondBite partnership is one of the ways in which we hope to sustainably feed Australians to lead healthier, happier lives.”

Coles diverted 36,392 tonnes of food waste from landfill in 2018-19 through donations to food charities, farmers for animal feed and to be recycled for compost, organic waste and energy.

SecondBite CEO Jim Mullan said the new trucks would allow SecondBite to significantly increase the volume and range of food that could be delivered to charities.

“These trucks – each with a 4.5 tonne capacity and space for eight pallets of food – will make a huge difference to SecondBite’s efficiencies,” Mr Mullan said.

“Rather than making several trips in a van, we will now be able to collect bulk amounts of stock in a single visit.”

According to Mr Mullan, the trucks will also allow SecondBite to transport a greater variety of stock.

“Historically we have been largely confined to collecting fruit and vegetables from Coles distribution centres, but the new refrigerated trucks allow bulk collections of yoghurts, cheese, butter, milk, juice, and other high-risk foods, as well as frozen products.”

Related stories:

Applications open for $13 million NSW EPA grants

A total of $13.3 million in grants is now available to councils, waste companies and not-for-profit organisations to divert food and garden waste from landfill.

NSW EPA Head of Organics Amanda Kane said the Organics Infrastructure grants fall under the EPA’s $802 million Waste Less Recycle More initiative, which aims to establish wider organics recovery infrastructure.

“The grants support the purchase of a broad range of infrastructure and equipment to recycle food and garden waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill,” Ms Kane said.

“Through the grant program, $43 million has already been provided to fund 89 projects that have made a positive impact on local communities.”

Environmental Trust Director Grants Tina Bidese said funding would be delivered through a partnership between the EPA and the NSW Environmental Trust.

“Working together, the Environmental Trust and EPA are offering a major opportunity for matched investment in infrastructure to recover more food and garden waste,” Ms Bidese said.

“In doing so, we’re reducing the environmental impacts of organics waste in landfill and making the most of a valuable resource that can be recycled into compost, where it benefits soils and helps crops grow.”

Applications for five grant streams are available:

— Organics Processing Infrastructure: up to $3 million for new organics facilities or facility upgrades to process more food and garden waste.

— Onsite Business Recycling: up to $500,000 for infrastructure and equipment for on-site processing or pre-processing of source separated food and garden waste.

— Food Donation Infrastructure: up to $500,000 to not-for-profit organisations for equipment to collect, store and redistribute quality surplus food.

— Product Quality: up to $500,000 for equipment to improve recycled organics product quality.

— Transfer Stations: up to $500,000 for infrastructure to establish new or upgrade existing transfer stations to receive food and garden waste

The EPA is hosting two webinars 17 July 2019 to assist potential applicants.

Applications close 29 August 2019.

Related stories:

X