ACT partners with the federal government to build new composting and recycling facilities and cut emissions by a third

The federal government has announced $13 million in funding for a new large-scale composting facility in Canberra.

The facility will be built in Hume and will process food and yard waste collected from household green bins across the city.

Municipal Services Minister Chris Steel said the new facility was a critical part of the rollout of Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) in the ACT.

“It will turn around 50,000 tons of food and organic waste into valuable compost for use in agriculture and viticulture in our region, as well as in gardens,” he said.

“It’s hugely important for climate change, it’s our third biggest source of emissions.”

“True circular process”

Collecting and processing FOGO is expected to reduce ACT waste emissions by 30%. (ABC News: Harry Frost)

Around 5,000 households in Belconnen, Bruce, Cook and Macquarie are currently trialing a FOGO collection system.

Mr Steel said the service would be expanded to include all ACT households once the new facility is operational.

“It’s going to be a fantastic story,” he said.

“It’s Canberrans food waste that will be turned into compost, so we can return those nutrients – which otherwise go to landfill – into the ground to improve our soil, and then grow our food again.

“So it will be a real circular process.”

A person in a suit is holding a green bin.
It is not yet clear which elements will and will not be allowed in the new FOGO processing flow. (ABC News: Harry Frost)

Mr Steel said a new $23 million recycling facility would also be built in Hume.

“We were in partnership with [the federal government] to upgrade the existing facility to process our plastic, aluminum, paper and board products, as well as glass,” he said.

“But as we progress through the design process, we have now come to the conclusion that it would be best for us to build a new state-of-the-art materials recovery facility adjacent to the existing site. ”

He said the government would now go through a procurement process and he hoped the two facilities would be operational within 18 months, although he noted the unpredictability of the current construction market.

Education is key to FOGO’s success

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Audio playback.  Duration: 9 minutes 29 seconds

Mia Swainson, President of Zero Waste Evolution, discusses Canberra’s new composting facility.

Zero Waste Evolution President Mia Swainson welcomed the injection of funding and said a simple, focused education program would be essential before the FOGO facility goes live.

“The key is to bring Canberrans on the journey, making sure people know what can go into treatment and what can’t,” she said.

“Depending on the technology, there will be different food and yard waste from the home that can go in and others that can’t.

“So keeping that level of contamination low will really be the key to success.”

Ms Swainson said success would require a new way of thinking about waste for many Canberrans.

“Overall, the trend is towards recycling and reprocessing of all organic waste,” she said.

“Yeah, it’s a bit of a shift and a culture shift, but over time people get used to it and that’s how we build our lives.”

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