It smells earthy at the Armidale dump, a mountain of rubbish built bag by bag over 50 years by the city’s 25,000 residents.
Residents have more than halved the amount of rubbish that ends up in landfill since the introduction of the City to Soil program two years ago.
More than 70 per cent of residents are taking part in the program to turn household organic waste – ranging from potato peelings to meat scraps, used pizza boxes and lawn and garden clippings – into compost.
The program was piloted in Goulburn and Condobolin, and Armidale is the first larger regional centre to introduce it citywide. Variations on these schemes are being tested around the world but Armidale and City to Soil are attracting international interest because of their use of incentives to get consumers involved and the low level of contamination.
Zero Waste Australia president Gerry Gillespie said most recycling programs suffered from about 15 per cent contamination, which meant farmers and gardeners did not want the end product. In contrast, the level of contamination, such as plastics, in Armidale consumers’ green bins was about 0.5 per cent, he said.
To encourage Armidale residents, who cut Council costs by sorting their rubbish at home, the rich compost is sold back to them for $25 a cubic metre (less than half the usual price) and prizes are given for the best garbage.