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Gwen Harper: Glenorchy’s new FOGO girl

NOTHING excites Glenorchy City Council’s new waste services project officer Gwen Harper quite like a waste reduction project.

With relevant local and international experience, Ms Harper is keen to help teach Glenorchy residents how Council’s Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) service will work.

Ms Harper took the time to answer some of the more frequently asked questions about FOGO and to share a little about her background with waste and community education.

 

  • Why did you apply for the role?

I’m very passionate about waste minimisation and landfill education and have worked extensively in this area.

I saw this job and jumped at the chance to work with a council that’s won numerous Sustainable City Awards on such a forward-thinking waste project as FOGO.

I know many councils are also doing FOGO around Australia now, and here was one close to home.

I was also excited to work closely with their award-winning waste education officer Danielle Hall and an experienced and knowledgeable waste team who are dedicated to handling Glenorchy’s waste in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

 

  • What experience do you have?

I’ve managed several waste and community projects in Australia and overseas.

A native Tasmanian, I’ve also lived in the UK and in Arlington, Texas, where I was the recycling project manager responsible for rolling out two school district recycling projects for 63,000 students.

As a project manager at Gagebrook Neighbourhood House, I ran a Primary Health Tasmania grant that helped people disadvantaged by poverty.

I am also a qualified master composter trainer/master naturalist (USA) and have done courses on landfills, waste management, project management and improving outcomes for the disadvantaged.

I want to make the FOGO journey fun, interesting and easy for everyone, and am really looking forward to meeting as many Glenorchy residents as possible.

 

  • I’m worried about the additional cost of FOGO. Can I not pay?

I understand the financial challenges many people in our community face day-to-day, and if we could offer it for free, we would.

We’re all working closely with the Aldermen to put together an exemption system that will not disadvantage those who can least afford it.

The business case said that FOGO would cost each household about $2 a week.

We’re trying to make this lower by joining up with other local councils so we can use our combined bargaining power.

We still have six months to go before the FOGO roll-out, so watch this space.

You can get onto a mailing list for FOGO updates on Glenorchy’s ‘Waste Starts With U’ website at wastestartswithu.com.au.

 

  • Why isn’t this service ‘opt in’?

This is for two reasons.

Firstly, the need for us all to divert every bit of food and garden waste away from landfills, and secondly, only full participation will reduce the regular waste disposals costs from landfill by enough to make it cost effective.

Even if you don’t produce a lot of food waste and no garden waste, your small contribution to the fortnightly FOGO bin will still help.

Today in Glenorchy, more than 50 per cent of our total fortnightly waste collection is made up of FOGO waste.

This adds up to more than 4000 tonnes of waste a year.

Additionally, around 3000 tonnes of garden waste is brought to landfill by residents each year.

Also, the Jackson Street Waste Management Facility, despite the recent expansion, won’t last forever.

Currently, it’s the closest and cheapest waste disposal option for both our residents doing a ‘tip run’ and local businesses (e.g. landscapers and builders).

We cannot “waste” this landfill space because it will impact us all later.

 

  • Can I opt out?

There will be exemptions available for those who already divert all their food and garden waste, and for rural properties.

There is also a team at Council, including Aldermen, currently working on a fair and equitable Exemption Policy for those suffering from financial hardship.

The final Exemption Policy will be included in an updated Waste Policy, which will be published as soon as it is signed off.

This is of the highest priority for me, and a very important part of the project.

I’ve set up a contact form on the Waste Starts With U website where people can provide their details to be updated when it is finalised.

 

  • If people have more FOGO questions, how do they get in touch with you?

The team and I look forward to talking to the Glenorchy community.

We have a lot more FOGO FAQs answered on the website at www.wastestartswithu.com.au where you can also put your name on the FOGO update email list, or email gccmail@gcc.tas.gov.au or phone 6216 6800.

Caption: Glenorchy City Council’s new waste services project officer Gwen Harper at the Jackson Street Landfill.