Peter McLean, AORA Executive Officer

Organics Recovery In Victoria

The Victorian Organics Resource Recovery Strategy was published in October. Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) CEO Peter McLean provides an overview of the plan from his organisation’s perspective and outlines how it intends to support the strategy’s aims.

The Victorian Organics Resource Recovery Strategy provides a blueprint to better manage and recover the state’s organic waste over the next 30 years driven by a five-year action plan.

Supporting elements of the wider the Statewide Resource Recovery Infrastructure Plan, it aims to assist collaboration between stakeholders to ensure that organic waste is managed safely and sustainably, while strengthening the organics recovery industry.

Pursuing seven “strategic directions”, it aims to guide industry to move
into new technologies to improve the recovery, treatment and processing of organic resources, while protecting the environment, creating jobs and boosting the economy.

Overall, the strategy is very positive. It is great to see such a long-term approach, as this will benefit the infrastructure, cultural change and funding mechanisms.

The Victorian Government should be commended for its forward thinking and leadership in this area, which is backed up by appropriate industry development support, including funding and grants. Additionally, it is encouraging to see various emerging opportunities addressed and legislative points identified, which need to be considered.

Vision

The overarching vision is very sound and should be supported.
AORA would highlight the value of organic resources currently wasted. This resource improves soil health, which leads to improved productivity and yield, as well as providing the secondary benefits of carbon sequestration, increasing the lifespan of landfills, reducing landfill emissions and local energy production.

Unlike some strategies focusing 
on metropolitan garden organics, Sustainability Victoria assumes that many organic resources aren’t going to landfill in the first place by including agricultural and on-farm wastes. This underlines that the primary benefit of organic resource recycling is soil health, which is linked to human health, while other applications follow, including local energy production.

AORA welcomes the opportunity
for public discussion and for the overall thinking behind such plans to be examined. Australia needs to know exactly what it wants from organic resources before we invest in long-term infrastructure, which may not achieve the expected or desired outcomes.

Resource or waste?

Many, including AORA, have noted
the strong emphasis on using the word waste. Though normal to see the word regularly in such a document, it appears so frequently (more than 250 times) to highlight another key point.

When used correctly or even reused a few times, organic resources – otherwise quoted as organic waste products – can generate several valuable products.

A complex example of this is producing bioenergy, while a simpler application is shredding used, clean timber products, such as pallets, for poultry bedding before a third life as an ingredient for compost.

It’s all about identifying the specific properties of each organic resource and ensuring their energy and physical properties are used to the highest commercial and environmental benefit.

This will change depending on type of resource and location, as the industry broadly accepts that it must generally treat the resource benefit as a local issue. This means that products can be purpose built for local use, as well as being refined to add value in nearby organic recycling processes.

Waste philosophy

Products like paper, aluminium, glass and PET are highly recyclable. They are recovered and transformed through various processes into new products, which are no longer classed as waste.

This doesn’t apply to products such as compost, which is made up
of a variety of materials that would otherwise be wasted but instead have undergone a regulated process to create a new end-product.

In some states, composts are still classed as a waste, despite being safe products. This classification leads to
a number of limitations due to public perception and restrictions on their use, transportation and application.

It is encouraging to see that the Victorian organics strategy views compost as a product, not a waste. We hope that this philosophy will
 be evidenced through actions in the strategy, especially in future legislation.

Inward and outward

This strategy is very outward focused, which is to be commended. It is extremely inclusive and involves all stakeholders, as well as outlining where the general public can be engaged and contribute. It also recognises local government and the contributions that they have made to improve organic recycling.

However, there is a limited focus how the government agency internal factors will be addressed. This is an important point for all organisations and departments to consider carefully. With such a long-term strategy, it is essential that there is scope for Sustainability Victoria and EPA Victoria to adapt as it evolves and is rolled out.

AORA has made a submission to the Ministerial Inquiry into EPA Victoria to similar effect.

We argued that government agencies involved in the organic recycling industry should make provision for retaining experienced personnel and appropriate expertise, and to consider long-term succession planning. This will ensure that such long-term strategies are implemented effectively and input from stakeholders isn’t forgotten or accidentally left out.

Continuity can be important to shepherd change and the Victorian organics strategy is about planned change for beneficial outcomes. AORA looks forward to the opportunity to play its part with its members, both in delivering immediate service while contributing to its future development.

AORA’s plans

AORA is in discussions with the Victorian Government to help it deliver components of this strategy by supporting and/or providing:

  • more timely reporting and research, some of which will be at a national level but reported separately for Victoria
  • improved categorisation and end- use guidelines for compost products at a national level to further install consumer confidence
  • road mapping of future organic resource streams, infrastructure needs and management factors
  • industry and stakeholder training opportunities
  • participating on the cross government working group to provide guidance on legislative frameworks for the management of organic resources.

The full strategy document is available online at www.sustainability. vic.gov.au/organics.

About AORA

AORA is the association for the organics resource recovery and beneficial reuse industries. It works on behalf of its members to raise awareness of the benefits of recycling organic resources and to represent their views with policy makers.

AORA comprises national body and state divisions that operate in defined geographical areas. In addition to an annual conference, it hosts regular meetings around the country.

Contact Peter McLean at the AORA office on 02 4572 2011 or by email at peter@aora.org.au.

More details of current projects and upcoming events can found online at www.aora.org.au.