June 17, 2020
The Hidden Benefits of FOGO
This article was originally published in Waste Management Review.
Trucks are rolling out of Source Separation Systems’ warehouse in Lake Macquarie NSW, on their annual quest to deliver over 80,000 Compost-A-Pak rolls to one of Australia’s largest food organics and garden organics (FOGO) programs.
While the sustainability outcomes and financial benefits of such programs are well documented, Peter Cruwys, Source Separation Systems Managing Director, says leveraging the company’s unique purpose-built software is delivering a number of hidden benefits for councils.
“Driven by a passionate team with an exceptionally strong communication strategy, Lake Macquarie Council reduced waste to landfill from domestic collections by 22,380 tonnes in its first year alone,” Peter says.
“Enabled by their customised Kitchen Caddies with full colour educational labels imbedded into the lids, and Australian Certified compostable liners, the contamination levels have been as low as 1.2 percent on average.”
The resulting compost, Peter says, is being used to enrich the natural beauty of the region through council gardens and public spaces, and domestically as compost is made available to residents.
“Such financial and environmental benefits are well understood. However, many councils are also discovering there are other benefits in FOGO distributions when leveraging the latest technology,” he says.
After years of walking household to household, and subsequently hours of thinking time, the team at Source Separation Systems have developed unique software for FOGO programs.
Refined over the past few years in partnership with several councils, Peter says the software is designed to leverage the unique opportunities presented by FOGO programs.
This means every household in a community is visited as part of the program.
“While each specific project is fundamentally customised, as well as timestamped GPS confirmed deliveries, this software audits the council database – identifying and taking pre-programmed actions as mismatches are identified,” he says.
So, what does that actually mean in the field? Peter explains that legacy information, systems and imports, department specific software, historical process oversights and clerical errors often mean that most council databases are well out of date, with a proportion of inaccuracies.
“The identification of database mismatches, such as new dwellings, multi-unit dwellings, and commercial buildings, when confirmed through GPS locations and real time photographic confirmation, is a source of new rates and waste services revenue for councils,” Peter says.
He adds that the identification of vacant blocks can reduce unnecessary waste collection costs.
“The identification of illegal dwellings and subdivisions are important for further assessments, including fire safety risks,” he says.
“Given our team are at the premises and comparing it block by block to the council database, it makes sense to have us capture any discrepancies, or ‘mismatches’ as we call them, and feed that information straight back to the council.”
Peter explains that this works to ensure the delivery of Source Separation Systems products are more accurate and stock controlled, particularly in situations such as unidentified multi-unit dwellings.
Developed in consultation with several councils, Source Separation Systems customises the software to meet project requirements and priorities.
“Like many modern apps, the software is built to be intuitive, so our teams are now faster, more accurate and safer during deliveries,” Peter says.
“In addition, with councils more involved in planning the programs and setting their priorities, we can be much more responsive to individual communities.”
As such, Peter says the benefits for councils have been significant.
“For most FOGO programs, while there might be a small premium for our unique service, the costs in reduced service fees and increased rates revenue for councils more than offsets this cost in the first year. And it’s an ongoing saving,” he says.
Peter adds that it’s been great to be a part of such a positive initiative.
“The program certainly does have financial benefits, but ultimately, I’m pleased we can make the case for FOGO even more compelling,” he says.
“Hopefully, that means more communities will establish FOGO programs and we can continue to build on the staggering environmental benefits being delivered.”