What is organic waste?
Organic waste is organic material that can be broken down into carbon dioxide, water and methane by micro-organisms and other living things. This can occur through composting, aerobic digestion, anaerobic digestion and insect farming.
Organic waste in Australia
The National Waste Report (2022) reported that Australia generated about 48 million tonnes of organic waste in 2021-22. Of the total, 14.4 million tonnes is made up of food waste, garden organics, timber waste and biosolids. About 8.29 million tonnes (58%) of this component was either recycled or recovered. This occurred through processes such as:
- energy use (or anaerobic digestion)
- landfill gas capture, or
- direct application of organic waste to land.
The remaining organic waste produced in Australia comprises waste from:
- primary production operations, including agriculture, forestry and aquaculture (33 million tonnes). This includes animal wastes, crop residues, product loss and processing wastes.
- the hazardous organic waste category, such as grease trap sludge and waste from abattoirs and tanneries (0.66 million tonnes).
The impacts of organic waste
Each year, organic waste in Australian landfills generates about 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide equivalent). This equates to approximately 3% of Australia’s total annual emissions.
These emissions can be reduced by recycling organic waste to produce compost. Compost is a valuable product that improves the structure and resilience of our soils. It builds carbon, improves soil biology and increases water retention.
Actions to address organic waste
We are committed to improving the management of organic waste in Australia. This requires action from:
- all levels of government
- non-government organisations
The National Waste Policy Action Plan (2019) seeks to achieve an average resource recovery rate of 80% from all waste streams by 2030. By this time, the plan also aims to reduce the total amount of waste generated in Australia by 10% per person.
Specific to organics, the plan sets out to halve the amount of organic waste sent to landfill by 2030. It commits Australian and state and territory governments to:
- Roll out food organic and garden organic (FOGO) collection services to metropolitan households and businesses by 2030.
- Support the development of infrastructure to process organic waste. This includes waste collected at the kerbside.
We are supporting new organic waste processing capacity through the Food Waste for Healthy Soils Fund.
Food organics and garden organics (FOGO) collections
State, territory and local governments are responsible for waste collection services in Australia.
Kerbside collection services for organics vary between councils areas. Councils may offer collections for:
- Garden organics (GO), for garden waste only.
- Food organic and garden organics (FOGO). This combines food scraps with garden waste.
- Separate food organic (FO) services. This can be in addition to GO and FOGO services and is often provided to multi-unit dwellings.
Most Australians, 77%, have access to an organic waste kerbside collection service. 38% of the population have access to a GO service and 38% have access to a FOGO service.
The material collected by councils can be converted into recycled organic products, such as quality compost.
Interactive map of organic collection services
We collect data bi-annually on which local government areas (LGAs) provide FOGO, GO or FO collection services. This is published in an interactive map which shows changes to organics collection services as they are rolled out.
How to divert your organic waste from landfill
You can reduce the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill by first reducing your food waste. Some tips include:
- Plan your meals.
- Use a shopping list.
- Use up leftovers and excess ingredients.
- Store food correctly.
- Reduce portion sizes.
Any remaining scraps can go in your FOGO bin. If your local council currently does not yet offer FOGO collection services, you can compost at home or use a local food scraps collector. This will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating rich compost fertiliser for your garden.