Disposal of food waste

Everyone has a responsibility to ensure food wastes containing animal material are disposed of correctly to reduce the risk of an emergency disease outbreak occurring.

Food wastes containing animal material or wastes contaminated by animal material pose a risk of an emergency or exotic animal disease outbreak if fed to susceptible stock. Stock owners, businesses generating food waste, waste disposal businesses, local authorities, government departments,community groups and private individuals all have responsibilities in preventing stock from accessing food wastes that could contain prohibited matter.

Food waste that contains material derived from a mammal or bird (e.g. blood bone, egg, faeces, meat), or that may have been in contact with material derived from a mammal or bird, are prohibited feed for pigs and poultry and must not be feed to pigs or poultry.

Food waste that contains material derived from any vertebrate animal, including fish (e.g. blood bone, egg, faeces, meat), or that may have been in contact with material derived from any vertebrate animal, is restricted animal matter (RAM) and must not be feed to ruminants

For example, food or food scraps from a restaurant, a hotel or domestic premises that may have been in contact with meat is both RAM and prohibited feed for pigs and poultry and must not be fed to ruminants, pigs or poultry.

The risk to animals

Animal disease organisms can survive in foodstuffs. Food preparation processes do not destroy all infectious agents. Animals eating foods that contain or have been in contact with animal material may be exposed to these infectious agents and a disease outbreak can result. The 2001 foot and mouth disease out break in the UK resulted from animals being fed food wastes containing animal material.

Food wastes end up in a range of disposal systems. Unless waste is carefully segregated and kept separate, all waste must be regarded as potentially contaminated. Even where foods are kept separate in a waste disposal system, generally no quality assurance system exists to ensure the waste's integrity; therefore, it poses an unacceptable risk of causing a disease outbreak if fed to stock.

Legal obligations and restriction

In Queensland, legislation prohibits ruminants being fed RAM or pig or poultry being fed prohibited feed for pigs and poultry. It also prohibits anyone from allowing these animals to have access to RAM or prohibited feed for pigs and poultry, and prohibits anyone selling or supplying RAM or prohibited feed for pigs and poultry if they know it is to be fed to ruminants, pigs or poultry.

For example, a food business permitting someone to collect food scraps to feed to ruminants, pigs or poultry would be committing an offence and may be prosecuted, as well as the person collecting the scraps to be fed.

The legislation also requires that a person must take all reasonable steps to ensure that ruminants, pigs and poultry do not feed on RAM or prohibited feed for pigs and poultry respectively. Property owners who dispose of food waste into the environment must take all reasonable steps to prevent ruminants, pig and poultry access to the site. Registered landfill owners must manage dump sites adequately to prevent ruminants, pigs and poultry, including feral ruminants, pigs and poultry, from gaining access to dumped materials containing RAM and prohibited feed for pigs and poultry.

Animal-matter foodstuffs that may be fed to ruminants, pigs and poultry

Ruminants, pig and poultry may be fed

  • gelatine
  • used cooking oil that was used for cooking in Australia and has been collected and processed in accordance with the National standard for recycling of used cooking fats and oils intended for animal feeds
  • milk of Australian origin or milk lawfully imported into Australia as feed for livestock  
  • milk products or milk by-products made in Australia and derived from milk of Australian origin or a milk product lawfully imported into Australia as feed for livestock  

In addition, pigs and poultry (but not ruminants) may be fed

In addition, ruminants may be fed

Preventing ruminants, pigs and poultry from having access to food waste is the key. You must consider potential access by both domestic and feral ruminants, pigs and poultry. Feral pigs in particular create special difficulties.  

In addition to the requirements of the Biosecurity Act 2014, there are requirements under the Environmental Protection Act that apply to whatever disposal option is used. Contact the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection for further information  

Some broad principles can be applied, either separately or in combination, to ensure safe disposal:  

  1. Use a licensed waste disposal contractor. This ensures the waste is collected and transported in a manner that keeps it contained and prevents it being exposed to animals. The waste is then disposed of in a licensed landfill site.    
  2. If a contractor is not available, food waste should be collected and transported in containers that prevent ruminants, pigs and poultry from accessing it    
  3. Bury the material at sufficient depth to prevent access by ruminants, pigs and poultry. Burial should occur immediately if the site is unfenced or unattended.    
  4. Dispose of the material at a dump site that is adequately fenced and secure from animal entry to the site    

Landfill and dump sites  

Fencing may be used to exclude animals from landfill and dump site. The general principles of effective livestock fencing should be considered when deciding what fencing is required under the circumstances. Generally, where pigs may be present (either feral or free-ranging domestic stock), more substantial fencing is required.  

Keeping poultry out of landfill and dump sites requires a different approach.  

Principles to consider:  

  • Fencing material to exclude livestock. For pigs, a strong mesh-type wire like K-wire may be required; for sheep, a ring-lock style may be adequate, and, for cattle, a four-strand barbed wire style.    
  • Design features required in the locality. Consider fence height, post spacing, and suitable straining assemblies.    
  • Peculiarities that may exist in the locality that could compromise the durability of the fence. Does the soil move a lot, resulting in posts leaning, or loss of tension in wires? Does the site flood?    
  • Peculiarities of the site. Is the land erodable or are there undulations that may result in animals gaining access through eroded channels or under the fence in depressions?    
  • Secure points of entry into the landfill or dump site. Will a livestock grid be effective? Could some stock cross it or get around it? For dumps closed at night, do the gates meet and are they close enough to the ground to prevent access under them by pigs or sheep?    
  • Risk of stock accessing an unattended site. Should a suitable livestock grid be installed?    

Find out more about excluding animals from landfill and dump sites .  

Scavenging rights  

If people have scavenging rights to the landfill or dump site, restrictions should be placed on them to prohibit the removal of animal matter or animal-contaminated matter from the dump and to prohibit them from introducing animals to the dump site.  

Rubbish bins, transfer stations and camping grounds  

Rubbish bins in national parks, tourist areas and some other public places present a source of food waste that animals could access. Bins that are of solid construction and are either contained behind fences or are fixed so as to prevent contents spillage by animals, reduce the risk. Waste bin lids should exclude birds that may spread waste and should be of a style that closes automatically after use. There should also be enough bins or collection services to deal with the volume of waste generated in these sites. Signage about the risks and appropriate disposal of food waste is recommended.  

Waste transfer stations may present similar risks to dumps if waste is not adequately contained or animals are not excluded.  

Camping grounds can also pose a risk if waste material is disposed directly into the environment - for example, thrown into the bush to decompose or buried in shallow holes. Waste should be disposed of into the disposal system set up by the owners of the camping ground  

Household scraps  

Household scraps present similar risks to other sources of food waste. The legal responsibilities and principles of waste disposal are the same. Household scraps contaminated with animal matter cannot be fed to livestock, including poultry, and their disposal must ensure that animals do not access them. Burial or composting in secure sites are the primary methods available for disposal where garbage collection services are not available. They should not be discarded to the environment where they can be accessed by animals. Animal matter can be fed to dogs and cats.  

Further information

Last updated 23 August 2016