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AU: Victorian gardeners lose all crops after using toxic compost from major recycler

Some time in October last year, a batch of commercial compost left a Suez recycling facility in Melbourne, bound for garden centres in central Victoria and Melbourne. Within days, it had been combined into soil mixes, and sold to backyard gardeners planting their summer veggie crops.

Within weeks, many of those crops were dying. "Nothing survived," said Kelly West, who lives in the northern Melbourne suburb of Reservoir. In her front yard are two barren tubs that were supposed to be a thriving vegetable patch for her neighbours to harvest and enjoy.

"We were pretty excited about these beds. We had zucchini, squash, tomato, eggplant, and radishes around the edges, it's really disappointing," she said. Her backyard patch died too. But when Kelly mentioned it to a friend, she soon discovered she wasn't the only one who had lost their summer crop of veggies.

She's now one of more than 240 members of a Facebook group started just a few months ago in central Victoria by local gardeners who have experienced exactly the same thing. The garden damage has prompted an Environment Protection Authority probe, and tests from Suez.

Experts believe the Suez compost was contaminated with a powerful herbicide that somehow wasn't removed in the composting process. It wasn't picked up in testing, but even at low concentration it can have a devastating impact on gardens.

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