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Council set to backtrack on controversial bin change after outcry

The proposal comes after three months of bitter feedback from residents following the new collection cycle.

Three-and-a-half months after the introduction of a controversial new bin cycle that sparked an outcry from many residents, an Aussie council may be forced to backtrack on its original plan.

The Inner West Council (IWC) in Sydney changed general rubbish bin collections in mid-October from weekly to fortnightly and introduced FOGO (food organics and garden organics) bins for food scraps to be emptied weekly. Frustrated locals labelled the move as a "rushed" and "poorly communicated" rollout with overflowing bins and "rotting food" lining the streets.

Following the backlash, Labour councillors announced on Friday their proposal to reinstate weekly general rubbish pick-ups. It will be a permanent, "free, opt-in collection" that locals "struggling to engage with FOGO" can organise, according to IWC Councillor Phillipa Scott who shared the news online.

Left is an image of a FOGO bin on the street in the Inner West shared in a scathing post on Facebook. Right an image of Mayor of the Inner West Darcy Byrne holding a kitchen FOGO bin.
Mayor of the Inner West, Darcy Byrne, had defended the controversial move to FOGO bins. Source: Facebook

Mayor of the Inner West Council Darcy Byrne said this new move will help "parents with small children" and "larger households". "We know that it's not one size fits all and we want to provide even more support to households that are finding the fortnightly red bin collection a challenge," he said.

The proposal to "strengthen food recycling in the Inner West" was moved by Mayor Byrne and Councillor Mat Howard and will be voted on by Councillors at the February 13 Council meeting.

Reports of reduced landfill despite locals' feedback

IWC has stated the new food recycling service introduced last year diverted 5,900 tonnes of waste from landfill since FOGO began — the equivalent of removing 12,358 tonnes of carbon or taking 7,000 cars off the road for a year.

"Our Inner West community is massively reducing our carbon emissions through food recycling and the vast majority of households have adapted to the change," Byrne said.

Councillor Mat Howard, who has led the design and implementation of food recycling, said the council have always been committed to "assessing the support being provided" to households after the initial rollout to "ensure the ongoing success of food recycling."

"While the vast majority of households have successfully made the transition to food recycling and the carbon emissions reduction has exceeded our expectations, the rollout has demonstrated that some residents are still finding the change challenging," he said. "That's why we are proposing this additional support to help all local people in making this transition."

Left image of an open FOGO bin with food scraps inside. Right image of a dead rat found near the bin.
Many locals complained about increasing numbers of rats in the area, linking the surge to the FOGO bins. Source: Facebook

Potential cost of the new opt-in bin service

The councillors estimate that if 15 per cent of households take up the opt-in service it would cost approximately $1 million per annum. At this stage there are two council vehicles available to provide this additional weekly service as well as some staffing capacity, though if needed private providers may also commence this service.

A Melbourne council backtracked on FOGO following similar debates

Hobson Bay Council, in Melbourne's southwest, implemented the fortnightly general waste collection in early 2020, but by late 2021, they had reverted to weekly pick-ups following ongoing dissatisfaction and intense heated debate from locals.

A councillor from Hobson Bay Council, who has asked not to be named, previously spoke to Yahoo News about the impact the general waste collection frequency change had on their community.

"[During that time] an audit on park bins showed us that approximately 30% of waste in park bins was deemed residential waste, and contamination rates were high for other recycling bins. Highly contaminated recycling gets dumped," they said.

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