What is organic waste?
Organic waste is waste derived from material that was once living (excluding petroleum-based materials). According to the National Waste Report 2020, 14.3 Mt of core organics wastes (primarily food organics, garden organics, timber and biosolids) was generated in 2018-19 with 6.87 Mt deposited in landfill.
An additional 28.0 Mt of non-core organic wastes from the agriculture and fisheries sectors was also generated in 2018-19, including manure, sugarcane bagasse, mill mud (the residues of sugarcane juice clarification and filtering), cotton gin trash and fisheries waste.
When organic waste is sent to landfill rather than recycled it creates greenhouse emissions. In Australia, around 13 million tonnes of CO2-e (carbon dioxide equivalent) is created as a result of organic waste going to landfill. This equates to approximately 3% of Australia’s total emissions.
The current national organics recycling rate is 49% with significant variations in recycling rates within the states and territories – from 75% in the Australian Capital Territory to 1% in the Northern Territory.
Reducing our organic waste
By diverting organic waste from landfill, we can transform organic waste into a valuable resource that improves our agricultural soils, boosts our economy and creates jobs. According to the Australian Organics Recycling Association, an additional 2,682 jobs would be created in Australia if 80% of organic waste was diverted from landfill.
In the National Waste Policy Action Plan, the Australian Government with states and territories have agreed to:
- Support the development of infrastructure to process organic waste by 2022
- Introduce FOGO collection services to households and businesses by 2023.
- Halve the amount of organic waste sent to landfill for disposal by 2030.
- Achieve an 80% average resource recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030.
The Plan also aims to reduce annual total waste generated in Australia by 10% per person by 2030. That amounts to about 300 kg reduction of waste per person per year.
Reducing and recovering organic waste will help us meet this goal. Bin audits have shown 40-60% of waste currently sent to landfill is organic waste.
- Managing Australia’s organic waste - fact sheet
Food organics and garden organics
Kerbside collection services for organic wastes vary between councils across Australia. Councils with a kerbside collection service for organic wastes are generally split into those with a service for Garden Organics only (GO) and those with a service for Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO). FOGO kerbside collection services combine food scraps with garden waste to be turned into recycled organic products, such as quality compost.
Around 74 per cent of Australians have access to an organic waste kerbside collection service. Approximately 42 per cent have access to a GO kerbside collection service and approximately 32 per cent have access to a FOGO kerbside collection service. Through the 2019 National Waste Policy Action Plan, states and territories have agreed to introduce FOGO kerbside collection services to households and businesses by end-2023.
An interactive map that displays local government areas with FOGO or GO collection services is available. This map will be updated as additional services are rolled out.
How to divert your organic waste from landfill
You can divert your organic waste from landfill by following the waste hierarchy. Avoid food waste by planning your meals, shopping to a list, using leftovers, storing food correctly and reducing portion sizes.
Any scraps remaining can go in your FOGO bin. If your local council currently does not yet offer FOGO collection services, you can still prevent organic waste from going to landfill. If you have space at home, you can use a compost bin or worm farm. Composting and worm farms break down food waste aerobically. This helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating rich compost fertiliser for your garden.
Tackling Australia’s food waste
Food waste, whether it be food that never leaves the farm, food that is lost during transport, or food that is wasted from the hospitality sector and households, has significant economic and environmental impacts.
The Australian Government has developed the National Food Waste Strategy with the ambitious target to halve food waste by 2030.
Review of Regulations and Standards for Recycled Organics in Australia
This report identifies key issues in organics recycling and provides recommendations for a sustainable organics recycling industry in Australia.
Recommendations include greater integration and alignment of recycled organics policy frameworks, a consistent approach to source separation of kerbside organics, the application of an end-product standard with third party accreditation for compost products and the development of fit-for-purpose product specifications and end-product guidelines for specific applications and markets for recycled organic products.
Organics Recycling Industry Capacity and Capability Assessment
The Australian Organics Recycling Industry report outlines the benefits of organics recycling to the Australian economy and the environment.
The report modelled the impacts of the Australian organic recycling industry under an organics recycling rate of 70 per cent, 80 per cent, 90 per cent and 95 per cent. It found that at the 80% recycling rate:
- Organics recycling businesses would generate an extra $1.1 billion in sales providing an additional $1 billion in supply chain opportunity with an extra $401 million in industry value add towards the Australian economy;
- Organics recycling businesses would create 2,682 extra jobs paying $203 million in livelihood to everyday Australians; and
- An extra 2,102,377 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions would be saved which is equivalent to planting 3,144,006 trees or taking 486,021 cars taken off the road each year.
The report provides independent and robust assessment of the industry’s ability to step up as an economic, employment and environment provider of benefit and provides the foundation for further development of the Australian organics recycling industry.
Opportunities to increase organic waste recovery
The report provides an analysis of:
- current organics recovery rates (including recycling and energy recovery) from the municipal solid waste, commercial and industrial, and construction and demolition waste streams
- the new national waste policy targets and what they would mean for organics generation and recovery if successfully implemented, and
- an overview of the opportunities for improved recovery and potential future recovery rates based on what has been achieved internationally and what could be considered best practice.