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Publications archive - Waste and recycling


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

On-farm Composting of Municipal and Commercial Organics as an Environmentally and Socially SustainableResource Recovery Scheme for Rural Communities

June 2003,
Environment Australia

11 Expansion of Recycling Services

It was mentioned previously that not all households in Crows Nest Shire that receive a waste collection service also receive a kerbside recycling service. Through its commitment to improving community and environmental services, Crows Nest Shire Council is contemplating expanding kerbside recycling for those households that currently receive only a waste collection service. Any such future kerbside recycling service could collect either dry recyclables (expansion of existing scheme) or organic materials. These two options are outlined and compared in scenarios that reflect the situation in Crows Nest Shire where 1,000 new recycling services are being considered.

The three considered scenarios represent:

1   Existing recycling scheme for dry recyclables (current operational and financial conditions)
2-A   Organics recycling scheme that reflects conditions as they existed during the trial, except for collection and processing costs
2-B   Good organics recycling scheme

Two scenarios are considered for the collection and processing of organic materials. Scenario 2-A reflects conditions in the trial and represents a voluntary scheme in which only 75% of households that receive a 120L organics recycling bin use it. Scenario 2-B represents a good organics collection scheme that is compulsory and in which householders are provided with a 240L bin. Collection of kitchen organics is restricted to raw fruit and vegetables to minimise odour and fly problems and to maintain a fortnightly collection interval throughout the year.

Costs for collecting the organic materials were assumed to match current waste collection costs ($0.8826/bin/collection), as no estimate was available from the contractor. Cost estimates for on-farm composting were based on the assumption that material collected in the designated area would be processed in a small on-farm facility where no other external organics were composted. Processing costs would be lower if composting took place in a larger on-farm composting operation.

A comparison between the considered options is presented in Table 24 overleaf. Scenarios 1 and 2-A were expected to divert approximately 140,000kg of waste per year from landfill while the good organics collection scheme would divert about 240,000kg, 71% more.

Combined collection and processing costs were considerably lower for the collection of organics than for dry recyclables. While the collection and sorting of dry recyclables would incur annual costs of $37,684, collection and processing of organic materials would cost $26,373 and $28,828 for Scenarios 2-A and 2-B, respectively. These differences were also evident when costs were compared on the basis of collected material (tonnage) or number of households serviced. Annual costs per household would amount to $37.68 for collection of dry recyclables and to $26.37 (Scenario 2-A) or $28.83 (Scenario 2-B) for collection of organics. As comparison, the kerbside collection and processing of garden organics in Caloundra (voluntary scheme with approximately 3,000 services) incurs costs of approximately $47 per year per participating household (Reeve, 2003). While Caloundra City Council offers the only organics kerbside collection service in Queensland, more than half of Victorian households (57%) had access to regular green organics collection services (EcoRecycle Victoria, 2003). Organics kerbside collection systems in Victoria incurred an average cost of just under $13 per household per year (collection only).

Table 24 Comparison of options and financial implications of establishing 1,000 new kerbside recycling services
Existing recycling scheme
Organics collection as in trial
Good organics collection scheme
Material collected  
Paper, glass, plastic, metal
Garden and kitchen organics
Garden and selected kitchen organics
Bin size  
Collection frequency  
Collections per year  
Type of service  
Expected yield
Costs / pickup
0.8826 *
0.8826 *
Processing costs per tonne
- **
Collection per year
Processing per year
- **
Collection and processing per year
Collection and processing per tonne
Annual per household
* costs assumed to be identical with waste collection costs
** processing costs are included in collection costs
∧ assumed processing costs for facility that composts organics from this collection area only

While collection and processing costs for dry recyclables are relatively fixed, total costs for the collection and composting of organics depend on the quantity of collected materials and gate fees charged per tonne. Consequently, annual processing costs for organics can vary greatly. With collection yields between 60 and 100kg per person per year and gate fees between $10 and $25 per tonne, annual processing costs for kerbside collected organics in the Crows Nest example could vary between $1,450 and $6,000 (Table 25). If the combined collection and composting costs are compared to costs incurred by the dry recycling scheme, it can be seen that the organics collection system would cost between $8,700 and $13,300 less than the collection and processing of dry recyclables. Consequently, the organics recycling scheme would be able to provide annual savings between $8,700 and $13,300 ($8.70-$13.30 per household).

Table 25 Potential savings offered by organics recycling scheme (1,000 households)

Collection costs
Costs / collection
Collections / year
Costs / year
Dry recyclables
Organic materials
Potential savings    
Organics processing
Possible yield  
60 - 100kg/capita/yr
Possible gate fee  
$10 - $25 / tonne
Possible processing costs  
$1,450 - $6,000 /yr
Potential annual savings  
$8,737 - 13,297 / year

Savings realised by collecting and processing organics rather than dry recyclables could be passed on to residents. Alternatively, they could be used to complement kerbside collection of organic materials with an efficient and well-maintained drop-off collection system for dry recyclables. Unfortunately no planning and cost data could be found for drop-off recycling schemes (other than those based at transfer stations) but it is assumed that an amount of $8 - $13 per household per year would go a long way in establishing and maintaining a high-yielding drop-off recycling scheme. Potential savings should also provide funds for ongoing public education and improvement of recycling activities. Lismore City Council estimates annual costs for its drop-off recycling system to be around $24.50 per household (Trott, 2003).

If the above outlined integrated recycling scheme were established, it would result in a situation where the same amount of money would provide for the collection of both organic and dry recyclable materials and result in

An overview of such an integrated waste and recycling collection system is provided in Figure 49 on the following page. The proposed new scheme would also combine collection services for municipal and commercial waste and recyclables as far as possible (wheelie bins only).

Lismore City Council is operating an integrated waste management system, with a weekly organics collection, a fortnightly waste collection and drop-off recycling (Lismore City Council, 2003). This system enabled Lismore to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill from 28,400 tonnes in 1990 to 20,500 tonnes in 2001/02. Today each resident disposes of 474kg of waste to landfill. During the first quarter in 2003, organics accounted for 64% (w/w) of all materials diverted from landfill (incl. scrap metal, fridges, white goods, oil etc.). In 2001/02 approximately 6,000 tonnes of organics were segregated and recovered, comprising kerbside collected material (64%) as well as self-hauled garden organics from private (21.6%) and commercial sources (14.4%). In addition, Lismore's drop-off recycling scheme yielded 1,754 tonnes of marketable recyclables, which equates to approximately 43kg per capita per year. The total recycling yield of 7,754 tonnes in 2001/02 represents an average recycling rate of more than 190 kg per capita per year.

Overview of possible future waste and recycling collection system

Figure 49 Overview of possible future waste and recycling collection system

Alternatively, savings made by adopting an organics kerbside collection scheme in favour of the conventional recycling system could be used to cover costs for shredding of segregated garden organics at landfill sites. A kerbside collection scheme for organic materials could result in the reduction of small-sized garden organics being taken to landfill drop-off sites. This would ensure that only large wooden components that require shredding are collected at designated drop-off sites. The expected reduction in the amount of material shredded would also reduce incurred shredding costs to some degree.