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An Honest Review of FOGO

By Nicola Smith on March 29, 2021 in News

Bin bits found on Coogee beach. Photo: Nicola Smith

During the past month, shiny new green bins with FOGO caddies zip-tied to them landed on the doorsteps of most homes in Randwick City.
FOGO stands for Food Organics Garden Organics and is a new scheme allowing Randwick City residents to separate their waste to be composted (food scraps could not previously be added to the council green bins).
Each household has received a kitchen caddy, a lime green FOGO bin (that will be collected weekly) and a set of compostable caddy liners.
The new FOGO scheme has found many supporters in the community, as well as several critics who are quick to point out the initial teething problems of the scheme.
Comments on the Randwick Council Facebook page have ranged from questions about why perfectly good bins were being taken away to be recycled, to asking why bins haven’t yet been delivered or picked up, with one commenter referring to their street as a “bin convention”.
But with 43 councils in New South Wales currently using FOGO, and its popularity growing, Eastern Beaches residents may just have to get used to it.

The Good
After just a week of FOGO there was half as much waste in our kitchen bin as there usually would have been .
The caddy fits neatly under the sink and the liners appear to be genuinely compostable, unlike many ‘green’ brands at supermarkets that will only degrade in special high temperature facilities where they never arrive.
The list of items that can go into a FOGO bin includes more than your typical compost bin, with tea bags, pizza boxes, bones and even pet waste among the many inclusions.
We initially worried about running out of liners but soon found out that they are delivered each quarter and are available at libraries and customer service centres throughout Randwick City.
The best thing about FOGO happens after the garbage truck leaves. All of Randwick’s FOGO waste is composted by Veolia and used in agriculture – our potato peels are a lot more valuable than you might think!
Environment Protection Authority trials of FOGO compost on farms have found that it increases water retention in soils, increases microbial activity and can increase the yield of crops.
The popular Netflix documentary Kiss the Ground also features FOGO programs in the US as key weapons in regenerative agriculture tackling climate change, as healthy soils have huge CO2 storage capacities.
A representative from Randwick Council said that this was a key part of the FOGO strategy.
“I think the more we can link people’s appreciation of food waste as a valuable resource, the more successful it’ll be and the more meaningful the process of separating food waste at the source will be for people,” the representative told The Beast.

The Bad
Some teething issues with the caddies have already been identified by Randwick Council. The next round of liners will be bigger to fit more easily around the edge of the caddy, and the Council has also reminded people that any container works to collect food scraps.
Home composters have been using ice cream tubs under the sink for years before purpose-built caddies came along.
If you’re a small household, there’s a chance the caddy will start to smell before you fill it up, but of course, nothing is stopping you from emptying it when it’s half full.

Other residents complained that their old, perfectly functional bins were replaced when it wasn’t necessary and that this created more waste than it prevented.
Another change that has irked some residents is the belief that red bins will only be collected once every two weeks, with FOGO and recycling bins collected weekly. Council has informed The Beast that red bins will still be collected weekly for strata apartments and fortnightly for houses. Yellow recycling bins will be collected fortnightly, as they always have been. This should be enough for most households, but larger families may have to readjust to a larger bin that is collected less frequently.

The Ugly
One problem with the FOGO roll-out was brought to The Beast’s attention by Randwick resident ‘KG’, who regularly collects rubbish from the Coogee shoreline on his evening walk and noticed that the plugs connecting the bin lids to the bins were showing up among the usual plastic and ciggie butts.

The Beast spotted contractors working on Knowles Avenue, Matraville, on the afternoon of February 25 using a chisel to sever the plugs to quickly remove the lids and allow the bins to be stacked. Unfortunately these plugs were then left in the gutters. We’ve assumed that the recent rain washed these plugs out to sea and now they’re washing up on our beaches. Council informed The Beast that this issue was rectified during the roll-out.
“Randwick Council is doing a good thing for the environment with FOGO, and I love that, but at what expense somewhere else? Everyone knows about microplastics, so why isn’t the council doing something about it?” KG asked.

The Verdict
FOGO is the way forward in tackling waste problems. Our food waste is very valuable if we sort it properly, and the way we eat and generate waste is intimately connected with how we fight climate change and pollution, so FOGO is an important step in the right direction.
While there may be some teething problems for individuals and issues with the rollout of the new bins, the overall strategy is a good one. In ten years time, FOGO will be so second nature that we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.