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I Love FOGO - an advance in domestic green waste recycling

Bit sick of Coronavirus news, so today I am going to talk about rubbish, household food waste to be precise. Not that people aren't being wonderfully creative about being locked down or in social isolation - daughter and her neighbours meet on their respective decks in the evening and 'share' a convivial glass of wine while maintaining a safe distance. Oldest son and partner are doing date night at home all dressed up with food from their favourite restaurant and with their friends around via Facetime, but while other issues  may have taken a backseat, they have not gone away, so here goes.

Three years ago, when everyone was starting to become concerned about the amount of food waste being produced by domestic households which is responsible for around 30% of landfill and 34% of the emissions produced by consumers, our council started working hard to reduce it in accordance with the National Waste Policy of 2018 and the UN Guidelines for Sustainable Development in order to achieve zero waste by 2030.

With the same aim, I first acquired a Green Bin.  Unfortunately, I soon found out that this was only for things like lawn clippings and garden waste of which I had very little, not household green waste.  I then bought a Bokashi, which are used by Japanese households to deal with food scraps and sort of ferments them. This was wasn’t too bad, but you had to cut everything up into very small pieces and hard things like fruit stones, egg shells and chicken bones couldn’t be put in because they take too long to break down. It also required a rather expensive accelerator and, not having much garden, I soon ran out of flower pots in which to put the sauerkraut - like residue and it would still end up in  the general household bin, though much reduced in volume.[The resulting liquid can also be used as garden fertiliser in case you are interested]. 

This year, the council  introduced FOGO, a small white lidded bin for your kitchen bench which accepts all organic matter including the egg shells and bones as well as paper towels, compostable plates, cutlery and vegetable trays.* The white bin is then emptied into the big green bin. Ours only needs to go out every four or five weeks (I keep smelly stuff like chicken bones in the freezer until it’s ready to go).  After the green waste leaves the house, it is commercially composted and sold. This service costs an extra $50 per year on the rates, but this is working out very well for us. 

FOGO -The Benchtop Bin Part
Our usual household rubbish bin – minus the recycling, cabbage leaves, potato peels and carrot tops, now only goes out every four weeks and even then is usually only a quarter full.  Extrapolated across the whole city, this must save on a huge amount of landfill, as well as providing enrichment for impoverished soils. I expect that large nurseries, public parks and landscapers buy the resulting compost and possibly also market gardens. It would be ideal for planting all those trees which we are going to need, so it’s a much better arrangement all around which every council should consider.  

Things which you can now compost
Going Further

For those of you who still have small local shops and markets, it is unthinkable that people would buy more than they need and then throw so much away, but the problem lies largely in the way that our food supply and distribution works.  It is grown far away, brought to the cities by large supermarket operators and then distributed via only a few major outlets, necessitating a single weekly shop, usually in another suburb some distance away. With all the commuting we must do already, people who work simply do not have time to scour the countryside looking for  growers as well.  Of course, menu planning and a detailed shopping list might help a bit, but this rarely works in practice – some goods are on special or what you want is not to hand. This means you more or less buy staples plus enough for the week so you won’t run out and some of that then ends up being unused. [ It would help too if say, broccoli wasn’t being sold with half a kilo of inedible stalk on it, but perhaps that helps to keep it fresh].

The corner stores which used to exist in most suburbs died out because they couldn’t compete with the larger stores. When I had my small business, I was paying more wholesale for say, Coca Cola than people could buy it retail in the supermarkets because of the much smaller volume which I sold and the same applied to most other goods, but I am deeply envious of places like South Korea, where every block of flats had basic supplies available in a little business on the ground floor which meant that I didn’t have to go into the city to pick up vegetables and everyday items. Stay at home Mums in the same block didn’t need cars just to be able to feed their families either. 

As economies start to decarbonise and more and more people are forced to live in flats and highrise apartments, small 7 -11 type shops will become more economically viable. Far better to have one truck delivering to twenty smaller outlets than thousands of people having to drive five kilometres to buy a litre of milk. This would not only reduce congestion and emissions, but create a lot of employment. If the big retailers wanted to stay ahead of the game, this is what I would be looking at. Perhaps there should be some type of cash incentive for same and certainly councils should be making it a condition before approving any new large residential development.

Perhaps it's something to think about during our various enforced shutdowns.

Meanwhile keep well, stay safe and keep your distance!

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