While there's some conjecture over whether FOGO's rules have indeed "changed", or that the EPA is now "clarifying" what has always been its position, the resulting situation is causing headaches for the community and council alike.
Items such as cardboard takeaway containers, certain coffee cups, tea bags and pet poo were among the compostable items that, until now, were included in what could be disposed of in Bega Valley's green FOGO bins.
That message has now changed, with the Environment Protection Authority saying not even "home-compostable" products - like paper towel, bamboo and cardboard packaging - can be included in FOGO.
The green caddy liners are still permitted as they adhere to a "commercial composting" Australian standard.
While the EPA is telling us this was always the case, BVSC's acting waste strategy coordinator Rechelle Fisher said all the FOGO implementation and education programs the shire had undertaken across the past four years had been signed off on by the EPA.
There have even been industry accolades along the way.
Regardless, the challenge remains to shift our behaviours towards separating food from "compostable" packaging, and returning a proportion of what we were sending to FOGO back into the landfill we all thought we were reducing.
The challenge multiplies for our local businesses who have joined the council on this landfill-reduction journey.
New workflows, staff and customer education, not to mention the financial outlay in changing product and packaging options.
Thankfully there are some positives, council acknowledges amid its own disappointment.
FOGO is still a really effective way to keep organics out of landfill and put them to better use as compost.
And as well as creating a consistent organic compost framework across the whole state, the EPA framework also puts those outlets who have gone through the council's FOGO for Business program ahead of the game when it comes to November 1's statewide ban on single-use plastics.
"Knowing that makes the behavioural change needed a lot easier to swallow," waste services manager Alan Gundrill said.
- Ben Smyth, Editor
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