Sparrow and Finch Gardening Sooner than you might think, your kitchen will have recycling bins

Sooner than you might think, your kitchen will have recycling bins

The majority of food waste is currently disposed of in red bins, which are mixed wastes destined for landfills. By 2030, all residents of New South Wales, Victoria, and metropolitan residents of South Australia, Western Australia, and Canberra will receive kerbside organic waste collection as a standard service.

In order to achieve these goals, councils and private waste management companies will need to implement effective policies and incentives. The councils or private waste management companies will need to invest in the infrastructure required to process FOGO and recoup those costs.

This waste is a valuable source of both biogas and high-quality compost, which can also be used as natural gas. Gas prices are on the rise, and this should encourage widespread adoption of these products before 2030.

Read more: Four bins might help, but to solve our waste crisis, we need a strong market for recycled products.

Why separate this waste?

It is obvious why organic waste should be diverted from ever-shrinking landfills. Separating organic waste from other waste reduces landfill costs and impacts, as well as delivering environmental benefits.

It will eventually turn into biogas, which is methane and CO2. It can also produce acids that disperse and mobilize heavy metals. This creates a toxic risk.

Modern landfills have operated for decades. The landfill is filled with soil and covered as the waste is placed. Even though multi-layer liners are used and final covers that are impermeable, they eventually degrade. Landfills leave behind harmful environmental effects on a local level, but they also emit methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Returning clean organic material to soils, on the other hand, is beneficial. The soils of Australia are usually low in organic matter and must be added on a regular basis.

Read more: We need more carbon in our soil to help Australian farmers get through the drought.

Food waste in landfills emits methane, but it can instead be used to produce valuable compost and biogas. Shutterstock

To produce compost of high quality, FOGO should be collected separately to prevent contamination. You can extract organic materials from mixed waste (red bin). The waste is ground and then sorted using air, water, magnets, and eddy currents.

The red bin is not monitored closely. Batteries, electrical items, paints, and other heavy metals can be found in fine or dissolved form.

NSW banned the use of compost made from mixed waste on land in 2019. The NSW EPA reviewed this compost and found that cadmium, zinc, and copper were metals of concern. The report also revealed that household pollutants, such as persistent organic pollutants, were a result of chemicals like disinfectants and flame retardants.

What is the amount of waste we are talking about?

If Australia meets the UN Sustainable Development Goal to reduce food waste per person from 2015 by half, the size and composition will change. This goal was adopted by the National Waste Policy and Action Plan for 2019.

The estimates of food waste vary in Australia. The most comprehensive audit was conducted in 2020 by the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre. The survey showed that the average weekly food waste per person was 0.79kg, which included 0.34kg of inedible peels and bones and expired food. The same amount of food was disposed of in these households by composting it, feeding it to pets, or flushing it down the drain.

The estimate by the United Nations Environment Programme for 2021 is 1.5-1.7kg of food waste per week. The National Waste Database estimates for Australia are higher, at 2.37kg.

According to the database, 31% of NSW food waste was collected separately and digested or composted during 2018-19. In all states, the figure was lower than 10%, except for Western Australia, where it was 13 %.

2.01kg per person each week is the amount of garden waste that goes in the bins at the curbside. In all mainland states, over 50% of garden waste is collected separately (85% in South Australia).

Read more: Why ‘best before’ food labeling is not best for the planet or your budget.

How can collection costs be covered?

FOGO compost cannot meet the demand for organic Carbon that is found in Australian soils. To tap into this market, the compost must be of consistent quality.

To produce consistently high-quality compost, it is important to have a clear definition of what constitutes acceptable FOGO. Government advice and the waste-management industry both call for FOGO bins that are limited to garden and food waste. They do not accept cardboard, paper, or animal waste.

Some councils compost their garden waste in open pads. To control the temperature and moisture, machinery is used to shred or turn over the piles.

FOGO must control this process. The smell of food waste is often unpleasant, especially if it’s composted in an open environment without adequate aeration.

Composting in vessels can help to control odors better. These are usually concrete tubes.

Composts of high quality for agriculture can fetch A$50 up to $80 per cubic foot. This makes the collection and processing separately of bio-waste financially more attractive.

The rising gas and electricity costs and the resurgence in renewable energy credits have increased the viability to firstly anaerobically digest FOGO for biogas and then composting digested material. FOGO can also be digested using sealed tunnels, similar to composting.

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