Hepburn Shire Council will introduce a weekly kerbside collection of food organics and garden organics (FOGO) for township residents early next year in a move aimed at diverting thousands of tonnes of organic material from landfill.

Many local governments have already introduced a FOGO service, including Macedon Ranges Shire, City of Greater Bendigo, Melton City Council, Central Goldfields, Campaspe and Southern Grampians and more. As of May 2023, 234 of Australia’s 537 councils offered FOGO services.

Mayor Cr Brian Hood stressed the environmental benefits of the new kerbside service whereby organics would be treated as a valuable resource.

“Our bin audits show that around half of the contents of red-lidded landfill bins are made up of items that can go into FOGO. This includes food scraps and leftovers, meat, bones, dairy products, garden clippings, leaves and weeds,” said Cr Hood.

“The audits also show a further 12 percent of the contents of red-lidded bins should have been placed in the yellow-lidded recycling bins. By separating items carefully, it may be possible to reduce the volume of waste going to landfill by around 60 percent,” he said.

“By changing the way residents sort their waste at home, food scraps and garden clippings will be transformed into compost right here in our Shire, which will be used locally to improve gardens, soil and farmland.

“In the development of our four-year Council Plan, the community told us that sustainability and protecting the environment is the highest priority. Since then we have developed our Sustainable Hepburn strategy in partnership with the community. Introducing a FOGO collection is a key action in this strategy.”

The roll-out cost and first few months of the service will be funded by Council’s Waste Reserve Fund. Ratepayers won’t see any change to the waste charge this financial year, but costs will be incurred from 1 July 2024.

“We will have greater clarity on the actual cost of the service to households when we consider the budget next year. However, processing FOGO locally will help to minimise the cost to ratepayers,” said Cr Hood.

Cr Hood said he was confident the FOGO roll-out would be successful based on the results of the FOGO trial currently underway in Clunes since 2021.

“Due to the collective efforts of Clunes residents, more than 300 tonnes of food and organics have been diverted from landfill and processed into compost in our two in-vessel composting units at the Creswick Transfer Station,” said Cr Hood.

“Contamination is low thanks to the efforts of the Clunes community and the compost is very high quality,” he said.

With the introduction of weekly FOGO collection for townships, red-lidded (general rubbish/landfill) bins will move to fortnightly collection, with no changes to the fortnightly yellow-lidded recycling collection.

Once the service is rolled out all households will also be able to drop off food organics for free at transfer stations during the 2023/24 financial year.

Households will receive a caddy for kitchen scraps and a 120L lime green-lidded FOGO bin.

“We understand that some households may be concerned that a fortnightly general waste bin won’t be sufficient for their needs. Households will have the option to purchase additional collection services. However, most importantly, Council’s Waste Team will work on a thorough education campaign to help households to separate waste correctly and reduce the amount of general waste that goes to landfill,” said Cr Hood.

When organic matter breaks down in landfill it creates methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Composting organics emits about one-tenth of the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to when it is sent to landfill.

“We have noticed a sharp increase in the cost of sending waste to landfill in recent years. A FOGO service will significantly reduce the amount of waste that our Shire sends to landfill, benefitting the environment while reducing costs in both landfill fees and overall transport costs,” said Cr Hood.

Households won’t have the option to opt-out of FOGO collection.

The initial FOGO roll out will not include kerbside FOGO bins for properties that currently receive a fortnightly red-lidded landfill collection, but Council has committed to reviewing a FOGO service for rural areas next financial year. Council has also committed to investigate options to divert soft plastics from landfill, which will greatly reduce landfill waste.

The initial roll-out will not include businesses (other than those participating in the Clunes trial). However, businesses will be able to opt-in to FOGO collection from July 2024, as they do for Council-managed general rubbish and recycling collection.

“We will be working with the community to clearly explain what can go into FOGO bins and lead them through this change well before we deliver the bins early next year,” said Cr Hood.

“Until then, households should keep using the current waste and recycling system as normal,” he said.

“Don’t forget, the Container Deposit Scheme will begin on 1 November in Victoria, which will also help to improve recycling habits, with a 10-cent refund for every eligible can, carton and bottle returned.”

Under the state government’s Recycling Victoria legislation, all local governments must implement kerbside FOGO collection by 2030. Residents wanting to find out more about the upcoming changes can visit Council’s website for more details at www.hepburn.vic.gov.au/FOGO.

Change in collection – current township versus post FOGO implementation

Current Post-FOGO implementation (2024)
Collection Collections per year Collection Collections per year
Red-lidded landfill collection Weekly 52 Fortnightly 26
Yellow-lidded recycling collection Fortnightly 26 Fortnightly 26
Lime-green lidded FOGO collection N/A* 0 Weekly 52
Total collections 78 104

*Excluding Clunes FOGO trial