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What happens to your FOGO waste?

GLENORCHY City Council is one of many councils around Australia and the world providing its residents with a third bin service (a FOGO bin) for food scraps and garden waste.

Separating organic waste into your FOGO bin is a small change for individuals, but collectively has a huge positive impact on both greenhouse gas reduction and the volume of waste filling up our landfills.

But, that’s not the best part of the story – it’s what happens to your FOGO waste.

It goes back to the land, replicating nature’s way of repairing and replenishing topsoil – the soil we need to grow food.

Nutrients are returned, soil texture is improved, and the land becomes better able to handle droughts and heavy rainfalls.

All very good news if you’re a local farmer

So, how does this happen?

Veolia collects the FOGO waste from the curbside and delivers it to the transfer station in Bridgewater, where it is tipped out and any contaminants removed.

It then goes to a large industrial composting facility near Oatlands which is run by Pure Living Soils, a joint venture between Barwicks Landscape Supplies and Pure Food Eggs – two companies with a wealth of experience in Tasmanian agriculture.

The organic waste is shaped into long rows up to three metres high called “windrows”, where it starts to decompose naturally with only water added.

Windrows are monitored daily and are turned and watered so aerobic decomposition takes place and not anaerobic (without air), as this makes the very bad greenhouse gas, methane.

So, what makes industrial composting different from home composting?

It’s the heat.

With such large-scale volumes of organic waste decomposing, the by-product of this microbial activity is heat.

Windrows are monitored to ensure that a minimum of 55 degrees celsius is maintained over a time period set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The final compost is analytically tested against the Australian Standard for Composts, Soil Conditioners and Mulches to identify nutrients, carbon to nitrogen ratio, weed destruction and the absence of pathogens – for example, listeria, salmonella and E. coli.

Making great compost is a science and the composting facility is licensed through the EPA under strict environmental guidelines.

The first batches of compost from Glenorchy’s FOGO waste should be ready for testing in May/June.

The latest word from the composting facility is that contamination is low, but that more food waste is needed to improve nitrogen content – so, please keep putting your food scraps into your FOGO bin and help our Tassie soils.

Caption: A turning machine drives through the compost windrows, aerating and moving the centre of the windrow to the outside through a spiral rotating drum.