Wagga City Council is confident it will not have to pay back a $1m grant from the state government for the rollout of the controversial FOGO waste collection system, saying it will “build a facility” if necessary.
It comes after the NSW Environmental Protection Agency advised funding recipients may be required to pay back grants if the requirements of the grant are not met or the project is not completed. Though the rollout of new bins is ongoing and educational material has already been distributed in Wagga, council is yet to secure a processor for the food and organics material.
“The grant is dependent on the collected food and garden waste being recovered to be recycled and not disposed in landfill,” a spokesperson from NSW EPA said.
Council commercial operations director Caroline Angel last week confirmed FOGO waste would continue to go to landfill while negotiations with processing tenders were ongoing.
General manager Peter Thompson said the situation was “not ideal” but believes the funding will not be compromised, provided FOGO waste is “ultimately” diverted from landfill.
“The outcome of the grant is the diversion of food and organic waste from landfill; that’s our final benchmark,” he said.
“There’s a date in April that if we don’t begin to divert from landfill, we will have to apply for an extension.
“We’re currently in discussion with EPA and the environmental trust to explain our situation with most recent tenders.”
Mr Thompson expressed confidence in securing a FOGO processor but said council would consider building its own processing facility or outsourcing to private companies to avoid handing back the $1,035,626 grant.
“We have strong reason to believe we’ll conclude negotiations shortly,” he said.
“Yes, if we utimately do not divert the FOGO waste from landfill, we would have to give the funding back … but that will not be the case.
“We would build the facility and process the material ourselves, though that’s not the preferred outcome, and we’ve also been in communication with other companies.”