City of Launceston’s Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) collection service will temporarily suspend the collection and processing of compostable packaging from local events while it awaits new national standards for compostable packaging to be implemented.

In recent years, many local events organisers in Northern Tasmania have embraced compostable packaging for the sale of food items at events. 

Used compostable packaging has subsequently been collected from those events and processed through the City of Launceston’s FOGO collection service.

However, recent scientific studies have indicated many forms of compostable packaging on the international market contain per- or poly-fluorinated alkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS. 

The majority of materials contained in this packaging will physically degrade, but the added PFAS does not. It is environmentally persistent and can contaminate water, soil and wildlife.

While the compostable material produced by the City of Launceston’s FOGO service currently meets all relevant Australian standards, the Council is taking the precautionary measure of suspending the processing of compostable packaging from events until new national guidelines governing PFAS in compostable packaging are introduced.

Victoria and New South Wales have already banned compostable packaging entering FOGO and compost systems, while South Australia is still accepting compostable packaging in FOGO but removing it at the processing stage.

City of Launceston Mayor, Danny Gibson, said it was expected compostable packaging containing PFAS would be phased out in Australia in the near future, and there were plans in place to achieve this nationally towards the end of 2023.

“This is obviously a frustrating position as Northern councils have all been working hard in partnership with event organisers over the past five years to shift behaviours towards organics collection, processing and diversion,” Mayor Gibson said.

“Not only have event organisers been supportive, with many rolling out FOGO bins at their events in Northern Tasmania, so have event patrons who have quickly adapted to compostable packaging.”

Mayor Gibson said event organisers were being encouraged to utilise reusable and recyclable food packaging containers, noting that compostable packaging could still be used by vendors but would need to be disposed of in the general waste stream. 

“We’re hopeful of seeing some new national standards in place regulating the use of PFAS materials in food packaging in the very near future.

“What this means for the coming events season is we won’t see FOGO bins at public events as we have in recent years, but we hope to see a return of FOGO at events in the very near future, once new national standards are implemented.”

Mayor Gibson said there was expected to be minimal impact on residential FOGO kerbside bins, which typically did not contain compostable packaging.

“While we don’t want to see compostable packaging increasing in residential bins, the current data we have indicates that the suspension of the collection of compostable food packaging will have minimal impact on Launceston households.

“We are taking this step as a precautionary measure and working with event organisers is an effective way for us to prevent the vast majority of this compostable packaging entering our FOGO processing stream.”

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