Can FOGO work in MUDs?

By Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting Group

Household food waste

More than 12 million tonnes of our 21.7 million tonnes of landfilled waste is organic. Of that, close to 7 million tonnes is food waste and garden organics.

Diverting that from landfill is critical to achieving our waste targets and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions. Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) collections are expanding across Australia.

One regular comment is that FOGO won’t work in Multi Unit Dwellings (MUDs).

Why?

  1. MUDS don’t generate very much Garden Organics (GO)
  2. The FOGO will be heavily contaminated
  3. Nowhere to store the FOGO bin
  4. There are no markets

MUDs don’t generate very much Garden Organics

Many MUDs have gardening services and that GO waste is taken away by the service provider or via a GO bin serviced by Council.

Adding Food Organics (FO) to the GO bin has been done by many Councils across Australia. The resulting FOGO generally attracts over 60% of the available food and over 80% of the available GO.

In Albury the FOGO bin is achieving 70% capture of the Food and over 90% of the available GO.

If the MUD does not generate GO then the FOGO bin will be dominated by FO. That doesn’t matter. It will be blended with GO and other waste streams by the Composter.

Put simply a FOGO bin will capture the organics that are available. It doesn’t matter much about the blend or mix, since the Composters can blend with other material on a needs basis.

The FOGO will be heavily contaminated

That is possibly true for some Councils. Best practice FOGO services are achieving contamination rates below 1%. That compares incredibly favourably to the 10% average contamination rate in kerbside recycling bins. Targeted education will help.

The other aspect of contamination is that composters can actively manage their inputs to remove contamination before it is composted. Many are prepared to set up MUD processing lines or MUD/Single Unit Dwelling flow that separates out the more contaminated flow to low contamination flows. That is, process low and highly contaminated streams separately and apply more clean up equipment, processes and costs to the heavily contaminated streams.

Most MRFs have a contamination schedule so that the gate fee rises with higher contamination rates. The same should be true for composting facilities taking in GO, FO and FOGO.

Our composters are very skilled. They will work it out.

Nowhere to store the FOGO bin

A recent study by MRA showed that less than 3% of MUDs have limited room for a new FOGO bin. That figure also ignores that fact that the number of red bins can be reduced because over 50% of their contents will be transferred to the FOGO bin.

There are no markets

Commercial compost spreader

There are virtually unlimited markets for FOGO compost in Australia. Composters are gagging to build new kit and process more FOGO at costs that are generally lower than the costs of landfill. They sell the compost into urban and enormous agricultural markets.

The more FOGO that is available the more composting facilities and the more markets will be developed. It is not chicken and egg. It is all chicken. They need more Councils to specify FOGO collections before they can invest with certainty and only then can they expand into new markets. The markets are there but the composters need product to sell to them.

Summary:

  1. It doesn’t matter if the MUD only generates FO, it will be blended by the composter.
  2. There is validity in the concerns about higher contamination rates, but these problems can be solved by composters and assisted by targeted education.
  3. Most MUDs have room to store the FOGO bins.
  4. There are huge markets for FOGO compost and often the costs of processing FOGO into compost are now lower than the costs of landfill.

Getting Food and Garden waste out of our household and commercial waste streams will reduce waste to landfill by 50% or more. It will save up to 2.7% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and it will produce millions of tonnes of compost for Australian farmers.

As always, we welcome your feedback on this, or any other topic on ‘The Tipping Point’.


This article has been published by the following media outlets:

Inside Waste, 26 May 2020