20 January 2023

From FOMO to FOGO: More Riverina councils go green with their bins

| Chris Roe
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Green bin FOGO

More Riverina councils will roll out FOGO programs in the coming year. Photo: Wagga City Council.

Green-lidded wheelie bins and the beige, benchtop FOGO caddies with their bright green compostable bags have been a hit in the Wagga LGA and the program is about to expand across the Riverina.

Across the state, 14 more councils have received funding to roll out the food organics and garden organics (FOGO) collection service that enables households to put food waste into green-lidded bins with their garden waste.

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The Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation (RAMJO) which includes Berrigan, Edward River, Federation, Greater Hume Shire and Leeton Councils and Murrumbidgee Council, have received a share of the State Government funds.

“In NSW, more than a third of the waste we send to landfill is food, where it rots and generates damaging greenhouse gasses,” Environment Minister James Griffin said.

“We’re empowering households to take simple and effective action to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill each week and reduce household emissions.”

It’s up to each council to determine how they will proceed and the funding can be used for the purchase of bins and caddies or for trials and education.

FOGO bin

FOGO bins populate benches across the Wagga LGA. Photo: Chris Roe.

Since the three-bin system (red, yellow and green) was introduced in Wagga in 2018, more than 52,000 tonnes of FOGO have been diverted from landfill.

At the Gregadoo Waste Management Centre, the FOGO waste is sorted by hand to remove anything that should not be in there, including nappies, plastics and food packaging.

The team then shreds the material to create compost that is used to enrich the soil by the council, farmers, nurseries and landscapers in the region.

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Wagga’s list of included FOGO items is broad, including things such as teabags, tissues and toilet rolls, but in September last year, the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) indicated that this would change.

The EPA is aiming to have all 128 councils in NSW on board with a food waste recycling program by 2030 and has conducted ongoing research to refine the approach and formalise requirements.

After several years of successful FOGO education programs, many councils were frustrated by the proposed changes that would exclude things like pet poo, food packaging, teabags, coffee filters, vacuum dust, and washing machine lint.

The EPA is concerned that pathogens, chemicals, microplastics and harmful dust will contaminate the FOGO waste.

No date has been set for when the new regulations will be enforced and the EPA says councils will be given time to pivot.

For more information on the statewide FOGO program, you can visit the EPA site here or locally, Wagga City Council has a detailed list of what you can and can’t put in your green bin here.

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