Department of Health

Key messages

  • There are significant opportunities for healthcare facilities, and other food services organisations, to recycle food waste.
  • The department has produced a guide and food waste calculator to assist hospitals and other food services organisations effectively manage food waste.

The Victorian Government is committed to reducing the levels of organic waste in landfill to get full value out of organics and to cut greenhouse gas emissions from food decomposing in landfill. Unused edible food can also be donated to food charity groups to feed vulnerable people.

The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group, through the Organics Fund, provided funding to the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a food organics recycling guide and calculator for hospitals, which would also be applicable to the broader food services industry.

The guide and calculator is for people who manage food operations in organisations that provide food services, such as hospitals, aged care providers, hotels, cafes, restaurants and food courts in shopping malls.

Organics recycling options

Organics recycling can be split into two broad treatment categories; on-site and off-site. Within these categories there are six options:

  • food waste that goes to someone else’s site:
    • food donation to charities
    • separate bins for commercial treatment
  • handling food waste at your premises:
    • worms (vermiculture) for compost
    • drying via dehydration unit to reduce food load weight and provide soil fertiliser
    • composting via an ‘in-vessel’ compost unit
    • anaerobic digestion units to produce biogas for energy and digestate.

New processes and technologies are regularly being developed for organics management and readers of the guide are encouraged to do further research as necessary to ensure that all possible options are being considered.

Benefits of organics recycling

Benefits of organics recycling can include:

  • reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • reduced frequency of waste collection and associated costs
  • reduced waste costs, as organic waste is generally the heaviest component of general waste
  • improved local amenity such as reduced vermin and odour
  • improved reputation and branding.

Costs of organics recycling

Organics recycling in some instances may be cheaper, or cost comparable, to disposing food through your general waste stream. This is, however, dependent on your specific circumstances and the recycling option you choose.

The costs of on-site waste recycling include equipment purchase (or hire), energy use and establishment works, such as provision of power.

The costs of off-site recycling is primarily the cost of a waste contractor collecting the material and transporting it to a recycling facility, as well any fee from the facility operator for processing the material.

Both options may also require process changes if organic waste is not already separated from other waste streams, as well as the purchase, or hire, of additional bins for organics.

To assist calculating the potential costs and financial benefits of organics recycling you can use the attached food waste calculator. The calculator is based on generic data and may not relate to your specific circumstances.

Reviewed 10 November 2023


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