An action-plan for organics: AORA

An action-plan for organics: AORA

The Australian Organics Recycling Association’s new National Strategic Plan outlines action points for sustainable growth in the accelerating sector.

Government action and funding for organics recycling has ramped up in recent months. In May, for instance, the NSW Government announced $20 million in grants for the alternative waste treatment industry and councils affected by the EPA’s controversial 2018 MWOO decision.

On the other of side of the country, the Western Australian Government has made similar commitments – injecting $20 million into the economy to support local governments transition to better practice three-bin FOGO services.

This is welcome news to Peter Olah, Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) National Executive Officer, who since joining AORA in 2019, has worked proactively to grow government support for the sector.

“The increases in funding for the organics recycling industry are a welcome recognition by governments of the industry’s contribution to our economy,” Olah says.

As the leading national voice for the organics recycling industry, AORA has developed a new strategic document – detailing targets and action points towards the creation of a more sustainable and profitable industry.   

Approved by the AORA Board in late May, the AORA National Strategic Plan 2020-2023 seeks to further entrench public and government understanding of the role of organics recovery within a circular economy.

The plan’s mission statement highlights the role AORA will play in facilitating an operating environment that maximises the recycling and reuse of organic materials.

“Through ongoing communication with stakeholders, AORA seeks to promote the benefits of compost, soil conditioners and mulches across the Australian community,” Olah says.

As the first of three objectives, AORA plans to further develop its position as the national voice of the organics recycling industry.

According to Olah, success in this space will see governments and other stakeholders approaching AORA proactively, with the knowledge that the association provides positive direction and leadership.

“The organics recycling industry is not new. Humans have been recycling and reusing organic materials since ancient times,” Olah says.

“Today, the role of the industry is becoming more critical however, as the effects of climate change, urban development, agricultural practices and energy use impact the health of our soils and environment.”

Mirroring statements made in the Strategic Plan, Olah stresses the role of the organics industry in diverting material from landfill to beneficial reuse, mitigating climate change and improving the sustainability of agriculture.

“In order to perform this role effectively, the industry must work with governments and other stakeholders at all levels in setting the policy and regulatory frameworks which promote the best outcomes,” he adds.

To achieve this goal, AORA has outlined four key targets for 2023, including producing reports and original research to ensure the needs of the organics industry are clearly presented to government and other stakeholders.

“We do not want to produce unread reports, so any original research we undertake will always be about better positioning the industry with governments and the community,” Olah adds.

Furthermore, AORA plans to continue collaborating with governments to design and implement policy, regulation and legislation that optimises market conditions for the industry.

To support this, AORA will begin establishing knowledge hubs for recycled organics research, development and communication.

“The number one issue for our industry is the piecemeal nature of government decision making,” Olah says.

We must have a better alignment between the industry and government at all levels to improve the operating environment, so that our industry can invest and employ more, and provide even greater benefits to our society.”

The association will also further develop and position Compost for Soils as a core resource for business and the community.

“Compost for Soils works to champion pathways to sustainable, resource-efficient organics recovery and agricultural reuse practices by allowing users to find composters across all Australian states and territories,” Olah explains.

The second objective, championing a future where organics recycling is maximised, seeks to increase recycling rates nationally.

“We want to see community understanding of the industry and its products grow, and as a by-product, increase profitability across the sector,” Olah says.

“In addition to growing the industry, achieving this goal will see further applications of composted and organics products to soil, thereby sequestering carbon, improving water retention, drought-proofing land, and improving agricultural productivity.

“Organics recycling closes the loop on food and other organic wastes and ultimately returns them to food production through the soil. It’s the industrialisation of a natural process, and therefore a true exemplar of the circular economy.”

Three-year targets include identifying, communicating and celebrating best practice strategies, technologies and products.

“In the first year we will formalise partnerships with tertiary institutions, CRC’s and other associations by targeted MOU’s focused on shared strategic objectives,” Olah says.

“We also plan to communicate our major policy documents so that they are well understood by governments and other stakeholders.”

As reported by WMR in May, AORA commissioned Nick Behrens of Australian Economic Advocacy Solutions to undertake an investigation into the economic impact of the organics recycling industry.

The report highlights that each year, the organics recycling industry processes around 7.5 million tonnes of waste into valuable products for further use across the Australian economy. As a result, 2018-19 saw a collective industry turnover of $2 billion.

The report, Olah explains, provides an important baseline to inform future policy discussion with stakeholders and government.

He adds that further distribution of the report across government and the wider community is therefore critical to achieving the goals outlined in AORA’s National Strategic Plan.

The final objective concerns AORA’s internal structure, Olah says, highlighting the importance of operating as a sustainable and transparent business.

“In order to deliver the beneficial outcomes AORA envisions for its members and the Australian community, it must do so from the certain base offered only through a sustainable, well run and flexible business,” he says.

“To deliver this, AORA must have high quality and transparent corporate and financial governance, a broad and reliable revenue base, a well-managed and targeted approach to expenditure, and a strong central focus on identifying and delivering the needs of members.”

By 2023, AORA targets growth to 500 members and corporate sponsors, including at least 80 per cent of all processors nationally. To build that base, Olah says the next few years will see AORA delivering more significant events to demonstrate thought leadership for the industry.

“We will also work to regularly review our member products and services to ensure their ongoing relevance and broad appeal,” he says.

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