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Hotham's Food Waste Recycling helping the environment

According to Mount Hotham environmental department, 50% of Mount Hotham’s waste stream is food waste.

In 2010, the North East Waste and Resource Recovery Group (NEWRRG), formerly known as NevRwaste, noticed a large majority of waste resulting from alpine resorts and going into landfill was food waste. With these results in mind, NEWRRG got funding to create the ‘Living Bin’ project.

For Mount Hotham Alpine Resort, the project was first trialled in winter 2010 with commercial businesses and was found to be successful. Over the following years, the project has been rolled out across the wider community.

In 2015 post-winter, Mount Hotham ran an initial trial for composting at Cobungra. Shepparton compost facility received 38 tonnes of the resort’s food waste and the remaining three tonnes was taken to Cobungra composting facility. The successful results gave Mount Hotham confidence in the process and they then took on the task of processing 2016 winter’s food waste. Mount Hotham now collects food waste from all establishments across the resort.

Mount Hotham runs the Cobungra Landfill and organic composting facility and would like to see the community focus on how they recycle their different types of waste.

Environmental and Compliance Officer Georgina Boardman said that the way people get rid of their waste has a detrimental impact on the environment.

“We have the ability to make a choice between sending our food waste to landfill, which impacts on our environment two-fold, or recycling properly and allowing that food waste to go to our organic composting facility,” Mrs Boardman said.

“Organic waste has a high level of methane - a greenhouse gas emission which contributes significantly to the amount of greenhouse gases coming out of and moving through the ground.

“Food waste is very high in nitrogen nitrates and there is a funky thing called leachate and as food waste breaks down it makes a fluid that leaks out of the bottom – that’s leachate and it can contaminate ground water source by elevating nitrogen levels.

“By removing food waste from our landfill, we are doing a really good thing for the environment and by recycling it on site here at Cobungra, we are able to reduce our transport and, hence, greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

“As a result, this compost has potential applications in our revegetation work, our nursery and benefits back into environmental projects across the resort,” she said.

The food collected from the resort is mixed with sawdust to kick-start the composting process. The pile heats up on its own and moisture levels are monitored. Further lab testing will be carried out to gain a full comprehensive chemical breakdown.

Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board (MHARMB) takes pride in their three-bin recycling system and hopes that the community can support their efforts in reducing the impacts on the local environment by separating waste from recycle and placing food scraps into separate bags.

“We want our stakeholders to continue to support us in this program, by getting behind it and taking as much as their food waste out of their normal waste collection stream, making sure they separate it into relevant bags,” Mrs Boardman said.

“We defiantly encourage people to keep an eye on that and reduce contamination. It’s just for food scraps so beware of soft plastics, cutlery, beware of other things that aren’t food scraps or organic waste that is going to contaminate the system.

“We now have the opportunity to make an end-use product of it in a closed-loop system here in the resort.

“If people don’t take the option to recycle food waste and it goes into the garbage, it will end up in landfill and it will end up having a negative impact on our alpine environment and our groundwater resources. So, look after your own back yard, is probably the best way to put it.”

20 March 2017