Frequently asked questions

What type of food waste can go into the green bin?

With the exception of hard shells from some seafood, all food can go in the green bin, including:

  • Cooked food and leftover scraps
  • Grains, breads, rice, cereals and pasta
  • Egg shells, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products
  • Fruit and vegetable peelings and scraps
  • Coffee grinds, tea leaves and tea bags
  • Meat, bones, poultry and seafood (except the hard shells from oysters, scallops, mussels and clams).

Where can I get more compostable bags?

Extra bags can be collected free of charge at:

  • Lake Mac Libraries
  • Council's Administration Building
  • Council Depot
  • Landcare Resource Centre
  • Awaba Waste Management Facility

Compostable bags are also stocked at some retail outlets for a fee.

If you are purchasing compostable bags, they must comply with Australian Standard AS4736 and display this symbol.


Why is the garbage bin collected fortnightly?

Food and other organic material gets smelly as it decomposes. This is why we collect food scraps each week – but from the green waste bin instead of the garbage bin.

Your garbage bin is emptied fortnightly so two bins are collected each week – green and garbage one week, green and recycling the next.

The good news is we are able to recover more of your waste for re-use, recycling and composting.

Why can’t the green AND garbage bin be collected weekly?

The three-bin service with weekly green and fortnightly garbage bin collection is the most affordable waste service for Lake Mac. Food gets smelly as it begins to decompose. This is why we collect food scraps each week – but from the green waste bin instead of the garbage bin.

A significant cost of managing our waste is operating the trucks so a weekly garbage and green bin collection would significantly increase the Domestic Waste Management Charge on your rates notice. Also, there are many locations in the city where it is not possible to present all three bins to the kerb due to space constraints.

Are we getting smaller bins?

There are no plans to change the size of the garbage, green or recycling bins from their current 240-litre arrangements.

How can I minimise smells from nappies?

Residents who have children in nappies or who use incontinence products may be concerned about the smell of the bins during summer. Council undertook a Community Nappy Trial in 2014, which found that in most cases the smell is no worse with a fortnightly collection and the average bin was not at capacity.

There are a number of things you can do to decrease the odour in your garbage bin.

  • Dispose of all food waste in the green bin and present to the kerb every week for collection.
  • If possible, tip the contents of the nappy down the toilet before disposing.
  • Wrap the nappy into itself using the tabs.
  • Seal nappies tightly in plastic bags (you can use scented bags) before placing in the garbage bin.
  • Store your garbage bin in the shade and out of direct sun if possible.
  • Make sure your garbage bin lid closes properly and there are no cracks in the bin sides.
  • Consider using odour neutralising products in your bin, including cat litter, crystals or bicarbonate of soda.

Which bins do I present this week?

To find out which bins to present to the kerb on your bin collection day go to MyLakemac.

Your green bin is emptied weekly on your current collection day. Your garbage bin is emptied fortnightly, on the alternate week to the recycling bin. There are no changes to the recycling collection. A new collection calendar will be delivered to every household each year in June.

What happens to the food waste?

Food waste along with garden waste is taken to our Lake Macquarie Organics Resource Recovery Facility at Awaba. Council has a contract with a private company (Remondis) to receive and process our food and garden waste into Australian Standard compost. It will be used on gardens, parks and in agriculture.

I already compost or worm farm at home. Do I have to use the green bin for my food waste?

It is your choice as to whether you use the green bin for food waste. The green bin provides an extra way to manage food that typically isn’t usually composted or put in a worm farm at home, like meat, bones, dairy, seafood, onion and citrus.

The green bin is able to take all types of food, including meat, bones, poultry, seafood, dairy, onions, citrus, cooked food, tea bags and coffee grinds. The only items that can’t be placed into the green bin are hard shells from some seafood (oysters, clams, mussels, scallops etc.)

Some participants in the Food+Garden=Green Trial in 2016 (who were already composting) found that using the green bin gave them a way to dispose of food that they wouldn’t otherwise compost – including when they had more food scraps than would fit into their home compost system.

Where does my animal waste go?

Most pet droppings can be placed in the green bin and collected weekly provided it is not bagged in plastic. It can be contained in a compostable bag, loose, or wrapped in newspaper.

Cat droppings and kitty litter are not able to be processed at the composting facility and must be disposed of in the garbage bin.

Are weeds accepted in the green bin?

Since 2013, weeds have been an accepted item in the green bin. However, we understand the inclusion of weeds in the green bin might raise some questions for concerned Lake Macquarie residents.

All common garden weeds can go into the green bin while all other weeds go into the garbage bin. With the composting process killing most weed seeds, we want to minimise any risk of spreading unwanted seeds by excluding weed species considered noxious in our natural environment.

This means all declared priority weeds, such as Madeira Vine, Mother of Millions and many varieties of Asparagus Fern, should be disposed of in the garbage bin.

For further information on declared priority weeds, go to NSW Weedwise or download the NSW Weedwise app.

My garbage bin is full or overflowing after a fortnight. What can I do?

We understand that people’s waste can fluctuate week to week, however several City-wide waste audits prior to the start of the new service show that the average garbage bin in Lake Macquarie was about two thirds full each week. One third (by weight) of this was food scraps. By putting food waste into your green bin, you should free up extra space in your garbage bin.

These audits also showed that 18 per cent of the contents of the average household garbage bin are items that could go in the recycling bin. The next step is to have a look inside your garbage bin and make sure you’ve removed all the recyclables. Larger recycling bins are also available if your recycling bin is full each fortnight.

There are many ways you can reduce waste.

If you find you are unable to cope with a fortnightly garbage collection extra garbage services are available for a fee and can be organised online.

Individuals that generate volumes of medical waste due to an ongoing medical condition that cannot be managed through the standard kerbside waste collection service, may be eligible to apply for additional garbage collection services. Learn more about how to apply for this assistance.

How can I avoid flies and maggots in my bins?

During warmer weather we often see an increase in fly activity. Maggots are larvae that hatch from the eggs laid by flies. Flies are naturally attracted to rubbish and food waste, but there are a number of ways you can minimize them finding their way into your bin.

  • Make sure your bin lid closes properly and the bin has no splits or cracks
  • Avoid overfilling the bin so it shuts properly - flies can get in even if the bin lid is slightly open
  • Store the bin in the shade and clean your bin regularly
  • Separate food waste and put it out to be collected every week in your green bin even if the bin is not full
  • Ensure your compostable bags are tied tightly to contain food scraps
  • Change the compostable bag over in your kitchen food scraps bin every 2-3 days or more often as necessary in the hotter months
  • Clean the food scraps bin regularly using hot soapy water or in the dishwasher
  • Cover all food left out in your home
  • Consider storing food scraps like meat in a sealed container or compostable bag in the fridge or freezer until you put the bin out for collection
  • Bag disposable nappies, the contents of litter trays and other pet waste before putting them in the bin
  • Clear pet waste from the yard regularly

If your bin has maggots, once the bin has been serviced wash the bin out with warm salty water and leave the bin to completely dry in a sunny location.

How can I avoid fruit flies in my food scraps bin?

Fruit flies can be a common problem all year long, but most often in summer when temperatures increase. Fruit flies are attracted to overripe bananas, bruised fruits, potatoes, onion or any other unrefrigerated produce left on your counter or in your pantry. Although overripe fruits and vegetables are their breeding ground of choice, they also breed in anything moist that has some fermenting material on it, such as drains, the food scraps bin and even cleaning rags.

If you are experiencing ongoing issues with fruit flies we recommend changing the compostable bag out daily in warmer months.

Another option may be to consider storing fruits in the fridge in warmer months.

One option that can be used to remove fruit flies is to set a ‘trap’ on the bench top. Pour one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a bowl, cup or glass jar. You can use other vinegars of a cider variety that you have on hand, such as red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar but not white vinegar. Cover the top tightly with plastic wrap. It may also help to place a rubber band around it to make sure the plastic wrap stays in place. Poke some small holes in the plastic wrap. Leave on the kitchen bench top near the affected area for a couple of days. The flies will crawl in and they won't be able to crawl out.

As an ongoing deterrent, you could also try using some natural essential oils. This involves a few drops of tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil in water in a spray bottle and use around affected areas.

How was the community consulted about the move to a fortnightly garbage collection?

The decision to implement this new bin system was made back in 2011 after extensive community consultation and endorsed by Council in 2014 and 2015. Lake Macquarie is the 17th Council in NSW to implement this waste system. Several trials were done in preparation for the new service including a Community Nappy Trial in 2014 and a Food+Garden=Green trial in 2016.

Lake Mac’s waste services have evolved over time to meet our city’s changing needs and to recover more of our waste for reuse and recycling. This latest waste system aims to manage our city’s waste in the most sustainable and cost effective way.

My recycling bin is always full. What do I do?

You can swap your existing 240-litre recycling bin to a larger 360-litre bin for a one-off $25 fee. Larger recycling bins can be ordered online.

Can I bag my food waste in the green bin?

It is your choice as to whether you use a bag for your food waste, however compostable bags are the only bags that are accepted in the green bin. Residents can use the food scraps bin provided at service start or alternative container to separate food scraps from other waste in the kitchen.

The certified compostable bags available from Council are:

  • made with plant starch
  • plastic free
  • Australian Certified Compostable
  • not the same as biodegradable bags

Please don’t use biodegradable bags, standard plastic bags or bin liners in the green bin. They do not break down during our composting process.

Alternatively, you could line your food scraps bin with newspaper.

Should I put out my green bin if it only has a few bags of food in it?

Yes, the putrescible nature of food waste that means it needs to be picked up weekly. In terms of food waste, two or three bags are is the average for many households. While a few bags may not seem like much, across our 80,000 households this can account for a lot of food waste diverted from landfill each week.

If your question isn’t answered above, contact Council’s Customer Service Centre at council@lakemac.nsw.gov.au or call 02 4921 0333.

Page last updated: 22 February 2019