Can the future be waste free? If you take into consideration today’s diversion opportunities, it is a goal worth aiming for, writes Justin Jones, Director of JustWaste Consulting. 

The feasibility of future waste management projects in this country falls on the real-time data that is available and behaviours exhibited by the community and companies.

Diversion and separation at the source of the generation is critical to providing facilities with a clean product that can be value added or recycled for the best possible outcome. This is a trend that is occurring in organics. Being able to provide the cost benefit of depackaging and contamination cleaning organics provides both financial and environmental benefits through reduced disposal fees and diversion, from landfill fees to organic processing. The future is a clean, segregated material from any sector, including kerbside, commercial and construction waste, that will open our eyes that waste is a resource, and therefore the rate to process it long-term is significantly cheaper than landfill.

Food and garden organics collection (FOGO) is a growing sector with many councils looking at adjusting their current garden organics service or going straight to FOGO. This service complements council’s kerbside services and reduction targets. JustWaste has been involved with many councils and regional waste group reviews of the organic stream and how it is used by residents. While these services are achieving well above expectations with regards to tonnes collected and diverted, it is increasingly obvious that the food component of household waste is not being placed in the correct bin. On average, based on our waste audit data, the food component ranges from one per cent to six per cent. If we look at this from another angle, is your FOGO really FOGO? Or is it a garden organics service with a three per cent contamination level which is food?

We all have a role to play in the education of residents to place their food organics directly into the FOGO bin. This behavioural change is critical to the success of diversion from landfill at the kerbside. The continual education of residents to reinforce the message is needed.

Not just when the new service is implemented or once every calendar year, but on a continual basis, reinforcing the message that food must go in the FOGO bin.

Do the industry or councils change with the times? Are we reactive or are we ahead? The waste profile is ever changing and this is prevalent in recycling. With the increase in packaging in our everyday lives, the kerbside system has to adjust.

A pilot program with a regional facility has now begun trialing the inclusion of plastic film, polystyrene and rigid plastics into their kerbside recycling.

A simple adjustment to the sorting process, thinking outside the square and meeting the needs of today’s consumer has turned a contaminant in the recycling stream into a commodity.

Can the future be waste free? If you take into consideration today’s diversion opportunities we can certainly aim towards this.

There are many failed examples of zero waste to landfill programs or statements from government, however, the will and drive of this needs to come from bottom up, with support from government policy.

A 2017 project completed by JustWaste at a week-long food event has shown that this can be achieved. A rigorous, and more importantly, achievable waste management plan, followed by assessments of people’s behaviour and a waste audit to gather the data, has now lead to the event in 2018 providing only organics and recycling bins.

Increased recycling can only be achieved with the support of the community, patrons and also the buy in from vendors who are now using compostable plates, bowls, cutlery and cups.