Organic Waste Problem for Lane Cove Council

In the 2018 War on Waste  series they featured the Penrith City Council and the steps they have taken to reduce landfill and recycle organic matter.  Penrith City Council offers a dedicated organics bin.  After the episode aired, In the Cove was flooded with people asking why Lane Cove Council did not offer the same system.


Lane Cove Council told ITC that they will NOT be offering a dedicated organic matter bin. This was because the Lane Cove Council, along with four other councils in the Northern Sydney Region, send the content of redlidded waste bins to a purpose-built Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facility at Woodlawn, south of Sydney.

The facility is managed by Veolia who are responsible for transforming the waste from red-lidded bins in Lane Cove into useful compost for environmental rehabilitation. Based on waste audit data, it is expected that approximately 50-60% of the waste received will be diverted from landfill. After the organic material is recovered and converted into compost, remaining waste is delivered to a bioreactor for further energy recovery.

This waste processing technology requires a certain percentage of waste in the red bin to be organic to assist with the composting that is processed. This contributes to Council’s current waste diversion rate of 64% on average per month.

EPA Action

In October 2018 The EPA changed the regulations relating to mixed waste organic material. These amendments could result in the short-term diversion of general household (red-lid bin) waste to landfill.

The decision by the EPA to stop further use of the mixed waste organic material was made after a comprehensive, independent research program concluded that there are limited agricultural or soil benefits from applying mixed waste organic material at the current regulated rates.  The report concluded there are physical contaminants and potential environmental risks. In particular, deterioration of soil health, chemical and physical contaminants such as small pieces of plastic and glass, were of concern.  For an explanation of how the facility used to work see the diagram below.

An EPA spokesperson provided the following statement to ITC in late 2018

The NSW EPA has recently stopped the use of mixed waste organic material,  this does not impact Veolia’s Bioreactor which is also located at Woodlawn. The EPA is not aware of any recent regulatory action relating to the Bioreactor. Following comprehensive independent studies, the NSW EPA is stopping the restricted use of mixed waste organic material (MWOO) on agricultural land, and is ceasing use on plantation forests and mining rehabilitation land until further controls can be considered.   Further information about this issue including a fact sheet and frequently asked questions is available on the EPA website at changes directly impact Veolia’s alternative waste processing facility, also known as its Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) located at Woodlawn. The EPA is in the process of implementing a support package to help councils, the AWT industry and landowners respond and adapt to the recent regulatory changes impacting AWT.

An EPA spokesperson told ITC the following in early July 2019

The removal of the conditional permission to apply mixed waste organic outputs (MWOO) to land is still in effect. The EPA will release its future position statement on the land application of mixed waste organic material for consultation in coming weeks. We will provide further information on how to provide feedback through the consultation period.

What Does this Mean?

This means that the organic matter in red lidded bins will now go towards landfill and will not be reused in the agricultural and mining sector.  Your bins will still be collected. However,  the Lane Cove Council may now have to consider the introduction of organic waster matter bins.

Update:  We have been following up this issue with Lane Cove Council and in December 2018 ITC was advised as follows:

Currently Council’s red-lidded bin continues to be processed but at some point in the New Year this will cease and the waste diverted to landfill until the EPA provides clarity on the future use of the processed material.


Willoughby City Council

Some Lane Cove North residents are located in the Willoughby City Council area.  Willoughby City Council uses the same system as Lane Cove Council and will also have to revisit the issue.

Smelly Situation

The Woodlawn Facility has not been without controversy.  In September 2018 the P and C at Tarago Public School complained about the odour from Sydney waste trains that park on a nearby siding at the town’s railway station, sometimes for several hours.  An article in the Canberra Times quoted the School P and C secretary Megan Alcock who said she and fellow parents were concerned about the impact on their children.

In September 2017 an EPA spokesperson was quoted in the Goulburn Post as saying the Woodlawn Bioreactor has “a long history of odour and leachate issues.”

We will let you know when the Lane Cove Council has decided what steps to take in relation to organic waste matter.

Recycling Issues in General

Lane Council has joined the Save Our Recycling initiative as part of efforts to see the full State Government collected Waste Levy funds go into waste management, recycling and resource recovery. Lane Cove Council resolved to take the following steps:

Endorse Local Government NSW’s campaign, Save Our Recycling, to realise the reinvestment of a 100% of the Waste Levy collected each year by the NSW Government in waste minimisation, recycling and resource recovery;

Make representation to the local State Member, the Hon. Anthony Roberts , in support of this campaign objective – for the NSW Government to commit to reinvest 100% of the Waste Levy in waste minimisation, recycling and resource recovery;

Write to the Opposition Leader, the Hon Michael Daley MP, the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Gabrielle Upton MP, and the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Penny Sharpe MLC, seeking bipartisan support for the 100% reinvestment of the Waste Levy collected each year into waste minimisation, recycling and resource recovery;

Promote the Local Government NSW Save Our Recycling campaign locally;

Endorse the distribution and display of the Local Government NSW Save Our Recycling information on Council premises, as well as involvement in any actions arising from the initiative; and

Formally advise Local Government NSW that Council has endorsed the Save Our Recycling advocacy initiative.

Do you have a local issue you would like help with? ITC is here to help just email us at [email protected]

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