Council to consider plan to fast track food waste recycling by four years

16 Mar 2022

A proposal to increase the capacity of City of Newcastle's new organics processing facility will fast track its ability to accept food scraps by four years, diverting an additional 24,000 tonnes of waste from landfill.

A report to be tabled at this month's Council meeting recommends expanding the facility's capacity to 50,000 tonnes per annum at the initial construction stage, which would allow it to process both garden and food organics from its first year of operation.

The fully enclosed facility, which will be constructed at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre, uses new technology to process the waste into compost for reuse.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the facility would deliver a more sustainable approach to organic waste and resource recovery in line with community expectations.

"Delivering this facility is in line with the objectives in our adopted Climate Action Plan and our draft Sustainable Waste Strategy, and meets the expectations of our community, who are supportive of measures to divert waste from landfill,” Cr Nelmes said.

“This facility would allow processing of more than double the organic waste that we currently receive, and importantly, it enables us to process and transform that waste into compost for reuse instead of sending it all to landfill.”

City of Newcastle currently receives around 23,000 tonnes of garden organic waste at Summerhill each year, which is then transported more than 90km to Ravensworth for further processing, however food and organic waste generation has significant seasonal peaks which the facility must cater to.

There is also expected to be a significant increase in organics received once residents take advantage of the new collection service. A key learning was from Lake Macquarie City Council, who reported much larger increases in organics than anticipated, placing stress on the capacity of its Awaba facility.

The proposed facility at Summerhill will instead allow onsite processing of up to 50,000 tonnes of food and garden organic waste every year in a completely enclosed facility designed to contain any associated noise or odour.

The facility was previously designed with a staged approach, beginning with a capacity of 32,600 tonnes to process green waste only, with an additional upgrade needed before it could cater for food waste and population growth in its fourth year of operation.

Increasing the capacity of the organics facility now also ensures City of Newcastle will fulfill the requirements of the NSW Government's Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041, which requires local councils to deliver food and garden organics collection by 2030, with major commercial generators required to have food diversion by 2025.

Subject to the expanded capacity being approved by the Council, a development application for the facility will be lodged in April. Two additional development applications are also being submitted for site preparation and relocation of the existing materials processing operations, and bulk earthworks to ready the site for the new facility.

"Community input into this project is an important part of the planning process," Cr Nelmes said.

"We consulted with the nearby community in late 2021 and heard that most respondents were extremely supportive of the proposed facility. As we move forward, the views of the community will continue to inform our approach for this important project."

The development application for the organics facility is expected to go on public exhibition in mid-2022.