Weekly garbage collection could soon be a thing of the past for Melbourne residents following the release of a report by the state government’s Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group.
The report was commissioned by Melbourne councils that are looking to reduce the amount of food scraps that end up in landfill.
In Victoria alone, food and garden organics accounts for around half of all household garbage, with around 878,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste ending up in landfill between 2016 and 2017. Food makes up about 36 per cent of landfill garbage, while garden organics account for around 8 per cent of all landfill. Many councils across Australia have introduced kerbside food organic and garden organic (FOGO) collection services.
Although these services can vary, some councils currently offer fortnightly FOGO collection and the usual weekly garbage collection. It is believed this costs less per tonne of organics than sending it to landfill due to less frequent collection and lower gate fees at organics reprocessing facilities. The latest report recommends making the regular rubbish collection fortnightly and the organic collection weekly. And, if the stats are anything to go by, it works.
Councils that have introduced weekly FOGO services and fortnightly garbage services have reduced landfilled garbage by up to 50 per cent by weight because of increased organics and mixed recycling. Under the agency recommendation, both food and garden waste would be placed and collected in the same bin weekly to be composted, while all other rubbish would remain in a separate bin. The idea is that residents would get used to minimising waste and separate food so it doesn’t end up in landfill.
While research has shown residents would be happy with a weekly service for both FOGO and garbage collection, the report pointed out this would be a high-cost option and it’s unlikely there would be an increase in people separating their food from regular rubbish. It also said people probably wouldn’t use a FOGO bin if it was collected every other week, and that many fear that odour and pests could become a problem if their bins were collected fortnightly.
It is recommended that all food products including dairy, bones and meat could be put into the organic bin and residents could adjust to the threat of vermin, pests and smells by lining bins with newspaper, paper towels and cardboard to prevent waste sticking to the base, using compostable bags and bi-carbonate of soda to reduce odours. Other advice includes freezing scraps until bin night, layering food scraps between organics in the bin and even for councils to offer alternative collections in summer and winter.
Residents have taken to social media to give their opinion on the proposed plans.
One person on Twitter wrote: “One word people – SEAFOOD. It stinks the yard out after 2 days in summer. Two weeks would be rotten. I’ll be dropping that off at my councils front door step [SIC].”
Another comment read: “I’ll support this if the council gives me another bin.”
A third added: “We have a problem and it needs to be addressed and our habits changed or we will be drowning in rubbish. Reuse and recycle.”
Even Karl Stefanovic got involved in the debate on Wednesday’s episode of Today.
“It’s still the same amount of rubbish, whether one week or two weeks,” the host vented. “What I worry about is the fact that if it’s two weeks, it’s overflowing and there’s going to be dramas with that.”
He noted that he threw out a lot of food waste including bread crusts and prawn heads and rubbish being collected every two weeks was simply too much. His co-host Georgie Gardner added the whole point of the initiative is for residents to cut back on waste.
The report stated that in councils where FOGO services have been offered alongside fortnightly garbage collection, it has gained community acceptance.