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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NSW EPA recommends business continuity plans

As the COVID-19 situation unfolds, the NSW EPA has assured industry it will continue to fulfil its responsibilities as the state’s primary environmental regulator, while maintaining the health and safety of staff, communities and other partners.

According to an EPA statement, the authority has a business continuity plan in place, which is being reviewed regularly in light of the most up-to-date advice.

“That includes planning to allow staff to work remotely where appropriate so that we maintain our compliance, enforcement and pollution response activities as best we can to prevent environmental and community harm,” the statement reads.

“We will continue to require compliance with licence conditions and issue clean-up notices and prevention notices where necessary. The EPA may however, consider requests for exemptions on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.”

The EPA is strongly recommending waste and environmental management businesses implement their own continuity plans, if one is not already in place.

“That plan should take into account the updated advice being provided by NSW and Commonwealth health officials, including any sector-specific advice,” the statement reads.

“Now is also the right time to check you have everything in place to enact your pollution incident response management plan.”

A continuity plan will help businesses meet responsibilities for any environmental impacts from activities, as according to the EPA, licence conditions and other regulatory responsibilities remain in place.

“These include the priority responsibilities of maintaining and operating pollution control equipment, and storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately,” the statement reads.

Licensees in the waste industry should maintain good communications with clients and the EPA, the statement suggests, particularly around predicted service disruptions.

“Licensees must continue to notify the NSW EPA of pollution incidents and other regulatory or compliance issues or events,” it reads.

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Operation Rubble statewide NSW crackdown

A coordinated statewide multi-agency crackdown in NSW on illegal dumping and waste transportation has disrupted the criminal waste trade.

For the first time, the states five Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) Squads and Programs led a multi-agency unannounced roadside operation to crackdown on illegal operators. The operation brought together the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), the NSW Police and local councils.

During the November 2018 operation, waste transport vehicles were intercepted and checked for waste transport and disposal compliance, as well as vehicle and road safety compliance.

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The month-long operation 468 heavy vehicles saw stopped, with the resulting compliance actions:

  • 130 RMS defect notices and 31 NSW Police infringement notices were issued.
  • 22 penalty notices and 16 official cautions were issued by the RID Squads, totalling $16,447. Notices and cautions were issued to waste transporters for offences including uncovered loads and allowing waste to escape onto the road.
  • Four trucks carrying loads of waste to unlawful sites were redirected to lawful waste facilities.
  • The disposal sites of 45 waste trucks are being inspected by the RID Squads and the EPA to check whether the waste was lawfully disposed. Follow up regulatory action will be taken where necessary.

This operation aligns with other initiatives underway to tackle this scourge, including the EPA’s Waste Crime Taskforce which targets organised criminal activity and disrupts the waste dumping business model.

RID Squads and Programs are regionally-based teams specialising in combating and preventing illegal dumping, co-funded by the EPA and member councils. The RID Officers work for local councils, working across council boundaries using a strategic, coordinated approach to combat and prevent illegal dumping while focusing on particular issues in their region.

They work across 35 local government areas. These include the Western Sydney RID Squad, Sydney RID Squad, Hunter and Central Coast RID Squad, Southern Councils Group RID Program and ACT-NSW Cross Border Program.

NSW EPA’s Local Litter Check goes digital

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has moved its flagship Local Litter Check tool online.

The Local Litter Check has been a key part of the EPA’s litter grant program for five years, enabling grant recipients to detail their specific litter problem and track the effectiveness of their intervention program.

 Local Litter Check is a free tool for people in the community, councils and other land managers. The tool helps understand and design solutions for local litter problems.

The check is a series of steps that guide users to gather evidence about site characteristics and litter behaviour in a local litter hotspot, such as a park, beach or bus stop. Using Salesforce software, users do a physical count of how much litter is in the area, enter the information and a data aggregator then helps them to determine what action should be taken to tackle the local litter problem.

EPA Litter Prevention Unit Head Rupert Saville said the digital move would help more community members join the battle against litter.

“Making a litter prevention tool paperless – it’s a perfect match,” Mr Saville said.

“The format may have changed but the tool stays the same – a physical count of litter, together with a site assessment and community surveys are still the best ways to gather evidence to understand and solve a local litter problem.

“Our system now consolidates this data in the one place to help us know what’s happening with litter across NSW.

“It will enable even more corners of the community to prevent litter and work towards the Premier’s Priority of reducing litter volume by 40 per cent by 2020.”

The online version aims to provide quick and accurate data for before-and-after analyses and is compatible with desktop and mobile devices. The paper form will remain available as a backup.

NSW EPA to develop 20-year waste strategy

The NSW EPA, in partnership with Infrastructure NSW, is developing a 20-year waste strategy for the state.

The strategy aims to set a 20-year vision for reducing waste, driving sustainable recycling markets and identifying and improving the state and regional waste infrastructure network.

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It will also aim to provide the waste industry with certainty and set goals and incentives to ensure the correct infrastructure decisions are made to meet community needs.

Stakeholders, including local government, industry experts and the broader community, will work with the EPA over the next six months to provide an evidence base and address the key priorities for the waste and resource recovery sector.

This will include examining similar waste strategies in Australia and around the world.

A long-term vision and roadmap will include new long-term goals for waste generation and landfill diversion, new policy positions and strategic decisions that aim to avoid waste and improve resource recovery, and a plan for new or enhanced policies to improve waste collection.

A framework for the delivery of an integrated state network will be part of the roadmap, along with aims to align policy and regulation to achieve long term strategic objectives and a plan to strengthen data quality and access.

The strategy is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

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