'FOGO' processing plant opens in Tasmania's north-west in a bid to keep food and garden waste out of landfill

'FOGO' processing plant opens in Tasmania's north-west in a bid to keep food and garden waste out of landfill More Tasmanian households will have access to a food and garden waste collection service. (Supplied: NSW Government)

Australia is grappling with a food waste problem.

Each year, we throw out about 300 kilograms of food per person, and most of that goes to landfill.

A new organic waste processing plant in Tasmania's north-west is hoping to change that.

Funded by the state and federal governments, along with local councils, the $32 million Dulverton Organics Treatment Facility near Latrobe is now complete.

It will soon process up to 50,000 tonnes of green garbage each year, converting it into around 16,000 tonnes of compost.

Much of the green waste will continue coming from primary industries — including the aquaculture, dairy, poultry and brewing industries.

But a large chunk of it will come from the community, as food organics and garden organics (FOGO) waste collection services are offered to 38,000 north-west coast homes.

Dulverton chief executive Veronica Schilling estimated FOGO makes up about 40 to 60 per cent of household waste, and diverting it would save 7,500 tonnes of organics ending up in landfill.

"It can be leftover food, it can be lawn clippings and prunings," Ms Schilling said.

"It's everything that comes out of your kitchen and out of the garden at home.

"It is carbon positive, so it's good for the soil, it's good for the environment."

She said using FOGO for compost and keeping it out of landfill would reduce methane, a greenhouse gas that is emitted as organic waste breaks down in landfill.

Local business are also set to benefit. Dulverton has more demand for compost from across the agriculture sector than it can produce.

Enriching farmland

Ashgrove Cheese manager Paul Bennett has been buying compost from Dulverton for more than a decade, using it to grow nutrient-rich pasture to feed his cattle.

"We can't do that with just synthetic fertiliser, so we're using quite large amounts of compost to keep our soils healthy, and everything's growing really well," Mr Bennett said.

"We're pleased to say that the yields in these paddocks are going up when we're using the compost, not backwards."

Mr Bennett said using compost was part of a commitment to a circular economy, and now the community would play a bigger role in the quality.

"We pride ourselves on buying stuff that's produced locally, and if we can buy fertiliser produced locally — not overseas — that is a great advantage for the local community," he said.

"We export nutrients off this farm in the form of milk and cheese and butter to every person in Tasmania and across the country, and when they are recycling properly and we get some nutrients back, it closes a loop."

Big costs for smaller communities

Many of Tasmania's landfill sites have decades left in them, but others are creeping closer to capacity.

FOGO collection has been around in Australia for years and some of Tasmania's bigger councils are already doing it.

JustWASTE consulting director Justin Jones said infrastructure and environmental approvals were often a lot for regional communities to fork out.

"They need to be [costly] to make sure that we have a facility that is appropriate and that will not create environmental nuisance to the community," he said.

"It's not as simple as having a paddock out the back and using that facility; you need high-tech environmental controls, odour controls [and] leachate controls."

FOGO waste is already collected in the Central Coast Council area, and will soon be offered in the Devonport, Waratah Wynyard, Latrobe and Kentish council areas.

Households are being provided with a 240-litre green bin for fortnightly curb side collection.

Circular Head and Burnie City councils are expected to offer FOGO collection further down the track.

Dulverton is also working with the King Island and West Coast councils on providing a service in more remote communities.

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