FOGO frequently asked questions

Food Organics and Garden Organics allows food scraps to be added to the green lid garden waste bin.

Only the following materials are allowed in FO or FOGO bins:

  • food (FO bins) and food and garden waste (FOGO bins)
  • compostable plastic kitchen caddy liners that comply with Australian Standards for commercial composting
  • fibre-based kitchen caddy liners, such as newspaper.

No liners at all are preferred.

Many of the following (including paper towels made from recycled paper) may contain PFAS and other chemicals and are not allowed:

  • fibre-based food contact materials including baking paper, coffee filters, paper towels, serviettes
  • fibre-based food containers such as coffee cups, pizza boxes, plates, bowls
  • cardboard packaging

Small amounts of newspaper, office paper or other uncoated paper can be used to line the kitchen caddy to help transfer food waste into the kerbside bin, if needed. Kitchen caddy liners made of compostable plastic certified for industrial composting (AS 4736) are also permitted. 

Unlined kitchen caddies are the preferred way to collect food waste. This ensures the compost generated from food waste is of the highest quality, safe and sustainable for both our environment and our economy. 

There have been no changes to the rules specifying what can and can’t be used to make compost in NSW. The EPA’s position statement doesn’t change anything; it formalises the EPA’s existing position on inputs to FO and FOGO waste streams, consistent with the Resource Recovery Order for compost.

We are asking councils that previously allowed other things to go in the green lid bin to phase them out as we move towards a state-wide roll out. 

All NSW councils currently providing, or about to introduce new FOGO services should inform residents that only food and garden waste should be added to FOGO bins to ensure the production of top-quality commercial compost, free of harmful chemicals and micro-plastics.

Some councils that adopted FOGO collections early included other inputs considered ‘organics’ in their contracts to increase the recovery of organically derived materials. However, many organically derived products contain chemicals that may remain as contaminants in organic wastes that are processed into compost. The inclusion of these additional products has likely led to the contamination of compost with chemicals such as PFAS and PBDEs, and some of the microorganisms as reported in the EPA’s What’s the GO with FOGO? report. The EPA has clarified the rules, paving the way for the successful roll out of FOGO to every household in the state. 

FOGO collections have a critical role to play in meeting the NSW Government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and creating a circular economy that reduces waste and benefits all NSW communities. By ensuring the right waste goes into our green bin – we are creating high-quality commercial compost to support food production and soil health. 

The EPA’s position on what can and can’t go into FOGO bins aims to ensure only food and garden organics are collected and that the compost produced is free of contaminants, including plastics. As many teabags are made from materials containing plastic and use staples to attach the strings and cardboard tabs, they are best disposed of in the red-lid bin.

Loose leaf tea and coffee grounds can be disposed into the FOGO bin.

Small amounts of newspaper, office paper or other uncoated paper used to line kitchen caddies and help transfer food scraps to kerbside bins are allowed.

Unlined kitchen caddies are the preferred way to collect food waste to ensure commercial compost is of the highest quality, safe and sustainable for both our environment and our economy.

Fibre-based items like newspapers can go in yellow-lid (or paper only) bins to be recycled into paper, providing a higher value use for this item. Contact your council to check which fibre-based items can be disposed of in your yellow-lid or paper only bin.

Pet straw is only allowed in FOGO bins if it is made from clean wood, timber, hay or straw, but not if it is made from a super-absorbent product (these may contain plastic polymers). Note that pet poo or any kind of cat litter must be disposed of into the red-lid bin.
PFAS is a group of over 4,000 chemicals. They are very effective at resisting heat, stains, grease and water, making them useful for a range of applications including food packaging. 

Unfortunately, it’s these same properties that mean PFAS chemicals do not break down during composting processes, are persistent and bioaccumulate in the environment.

All Australian governments have agreed to transition away from their use and that further release of PFAS into the environment should be prevented where practicable. 

The EPA’s FOGO statement is also a precautionary measure to help reduce PFAS chemicals in the environment by clarifying that potential sources, like fibre-based food contact materials, are not placed into FOGO bins. 

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) recently launched an action plan for a national, industry-led approach to phase out PFAS in fibre-based food contact packaging. 

Many other jurisdictions also limit compostable packaging in FOGO. Please check with the relevant authority.

NSW is leading the way with the release of the FOGO statement. Research on FOGO provides the evidence base for the EPA’s position to not allow compostable plastic packaging in FOGO bins. As more services are rolled out across the state, we want to ensure only valuable food and garden organics go into FOGO bins. By limiting FOGO inputs to food and garden organics only, reduces the risk of contamination of products that may not be compostable.

Councils should advise residents on FO and FOGO inputs as set out in the position statement. To support this, the EPA has established Scrap Together – a community education program to help councils make the most of FOGO. Scrap Together was piloted in three council areas, increasing the amount of food waste in the green lid bin by an average of 10 per cent, and reducing contamination as well as the amount of food waste residents generated overall.

The EPA has consulted extensively with councils and key stakeholders.

We will continue to work with councils to ensure they have the tools and information needed to support households.

The EPA is continuing to work with councils to support community education, including providing funding through our Scrap Together FOGO education grants.

Councils that do not currently have FOGO services in their communities can apply for funding to support the roll out under the $46 million Go FOGO grants program

Our FOGO masterclass series features Australian and international speakers sharing their experiences on delivering FOGO.

The EPA has created Cool Compost, a one-stop online resource centre for existing and new customers of quality commercial compost.

Through a series of videos, podcasts and factsheets, Cool Compost showcases the benefits of compost across five target audiences – graziers, vegetable growers, landscapers, councils and government agencies.

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