Compost bins, waste-to-fuel on the cards as ACT Government reviews recycling policy

Updated 

Canberrans could have kerbside food waste collection in five years’ time, with the ACT Government looking to expand its green bin program.

The extra service is one of the recommendations of the Government’s long-awaited Waste Feasibility Study that also recommends the development of a waste-to-fuel policy.

Greg Haroldson from the Government’s recycling arm No-Waste said food scraps amounted to about 37 per cent of Canberra’s weekly rubbish collection.

But while the service could divert tens of thousands of tonnes of material away from landfill, it is estimated it will take at least five years to build a suitable processing facility.

“Given the volume of waste that we’re talking about, that would have to be a very large site — about 10 hectares,” he said.

“Canberra’s already under a bit of pressure with land at the moment.”

Mr Haroldson said that time could also be used to run an education program aimed at getting Canberrans to reduce the amount of food that even made it in the bin.

“What we would do over the next couple of years is promote people to look at their menu planning, look at their shopping, to reduce food waste in the first place,” he said.

“Then we would say ‘OK now the second option for the food scraps that you’ve already reduced is to compost at home’.”

Another challenge, according to Mr Haroldson, was the number of Canberrans living in apartments. He flagged shared complex composting facilities as a possible solution to that problem.

Methane gas released when food breaks down in landfill

City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris said when food waste decomposed in landfill, harmful methane gas was emitted into the air.

“Composting food and organic waste could see 40,000 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill,” she said.

“That waste not only would be diverted, but would also not have the more harmful carbon emissions that it currently does.”

According to the Government’s study, reusing food waste would additionally avoid greenhouse gases being emitted during the production and transport of new goods.

The report also recommended developing a waste-to-energy policy in the ACT.

“The study has identified that much of the residual waste currently sent to landfill is of high calorific value and is suitable for the use in energy generation and cement kilns outside the ACT,” the report read.

“A processed engineered fuel facility within the ACT could offer an opportunity to convert the ACT’s residual waste into alternative fuels, and deliver around 7 per cent improvement in the territory’s resource recovery rate.”