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The three keys for FOGO

The three keys for FOGO

Food Organics, Garden Organics has been a fixture of many communities for some time. Source Separation Systems shares three key learnings for those still implementing a program.

Food Organics, Garden Organics (FOGO) programs continue to expand in Australia with both the environmental and financial benefits now well understood.

However, as anyone with experience implementing FOGO knows, behavioural change can be challenging.

A recent study by the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority confirmed what those in the industry already know, the performance of food diversion can be partially explained by the length of time the FOGO program has been in place. Programs longer in place generally perform better.

The team at Source Separation Systems has experienced this first-hand. The team has spent almost 15 years involved in FOGO programs, distributing more than 50 million FOGO liners in the past 12 months.

Peter Cruwys, Source Separation Systems Managing Director says communities really do embrace FOGO once they understand the program, and work though the ‘perceived’ challenges.

“However, there are certainly a few strategies successful councils, collection contractors and organic processors utilise to fast-track this process,” Peter says.

Three keys to FOGO
Source Separation Systems says that education is essential when implementing a FOGO program.

Education is key

Peter says education is key to a successful FOGO implementation, however, particularly during COVID-19, the ability to talk directly to communities has been limited.

He says that consistent, simple messaging across multiple channels is most effective, particularly when this can be reinforced in the household through in-mould label technology on kitchen caddies.

The label technology allows educational information, in a full colour format, to be moulded into the lid of a kitchen caddie during its production, providing households with a visual guide at the point where they divert their food waste.

“It’s the most powerful moment to be able to educate about correct diversion and contamination risks,” Peter says. “By utilising pictures, it also ensures information can cross cultural and language barriers.”

He says reinforcing the program with customised educational messages on both individual liners and the liner packaging, as occurs on Compost-A-Pak® FOGO Bags, also helps to ensure people understand the value and importance of using only Australian Certified Compostables liners.

Having knowledgeable support available to answer questions, including on social media, can support consumers during the implementation phase of FOGO programs. As can an inspection program which highlights great diversion and educates those households with contamination.

Make it convenient

Convenience is really important, particularly during the first year of a FOGO program, as communities get into the ‘habit’ of food diversion.

Peter says no matter what caddy is used, providing Australian Certified Compostable liners in the implementation phase improves convenience and so improves both adoption and contamination rates.  In fact, some of the programs Peter has been involved in have reported contamination rates as low as 1.2 per cent within the first 12 months.

Once the program is embedded and embraced by the community, Peter works with many councils to determine the best model for them.

“Source Separation Systems manage a diverse range of alternative opt-in models which provide councils the flexibility to either target liners to households with particular requirements only or even part subsidise their distribution,” he says.

Three keys to FOGO
Convenience is also key to encourage participation in FOGO programs, Source Separation Systems says.

Reduce cycles

Peter says shifting to a smaller general waste bin collected fortnightly drives better results, although can initially be unpopular with some residents.

“It’s a powerful symbolic change which drives compliance, and when implemented alongside the provision of a new household kitchen caddy and Compost-A-Pak Liners, it’s one most households understand,” he says.

This strategy was recognised by the NSW EPA’s 2020 report which concluded that in general, councils providing a fortnightly residual waste collection achieved higher food waste diversions compared to those on a weekly service. In addition, councils providing smaller residual waste bins achieved higher food waste diversion efficiencies. 

“It should be acknowledged that there are certain instances in which a more regular landfill bin may be required by a resident, such as during those crazy few years when families are in the nappy phase, if choosing disposable options,” Peter says.

“In this case however, many councils have shifted to a user pays option, which allows households to make a choice on options.

“Often, once households understand the FOGO program, they are surprised by just how little residual waste there is.”

Peter says managing his own FOGO waste has allowed him to see the benefits of the program first-hand.

“Being lucky enough to live in beautiful Lake Macquarie, where our progressive council embraced FOGO four years ago, and by making a regular trip to recycle our soft plastics, our families’ landfill bin is lucky to be filled once a year,” he says. 

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