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Organics regeneration: Australian Organics Recycling Association

To renew and regenerate is a fundamental and everyday principal to an industry dedicated to the recovery and beneficial reuse of organics, writes the Australian Organics Recycling Association’s Diana De Hulsters and Peter Wadewitz.

The board of the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) has just finalised our National Strategy for 2019 to 2022. We acknowledge that with the speed of change happening in the resource recovery industry that some pivots to this strategy may happen during the three-year period as we respond to market forces and regulatory changes.

AORA’s first objective is to strengthen the organisation as the peak body for the organics recycling industry. The organics recycling industry is not new. Humans have been recycling and reusing organic material as fuel and soil improvers since ancient times. 

Today, the role of the industry is becoming more critical as the effects of urban development, agricultural practices and energy use impact our environment. The organics recycling industry diverts material from landfill to beneficial reuse to mitigate climate change and improve the sustainability of agriculture. 

In order to perform this role effectively, the industry must work with governments at all levels to set the policy and regulatory frameworks that will allow efficient delivery of beneficial reuse. Collaborating within a single peak body to protect, promote and advance the interests of the organics recycling industry in Australia ensures sustainable growth of the industry and the association.

Ambitions detailed in the operational business plan are to ensure sustainability of the organisation, to produce an annual Australian Organics Recycling Industry Report, and to conduct two major national events annually around Australia, alongside a series of local and online events.

Peter Wadewitz

Championing a pathway to a future where recycling of surplus organic material is optimised is the second objective for the association. 

Diverting organic resources for recycling significantly reduces emissions and valuable agricultural nutrients from landfill. The application of composted and digested organic products to agricultural soils sequesters carbon and improves water filtration and retention, while returning nutrients to the soil. 

Organics recycling closes the loop on food wastes and ultimately returns them to food production through the soil. It is an exemplar of the “circular economy” but is not yet mainstream in the waste, resource recovery or agricultural sectors. 

To improve awareness, AORA will champion pathways to sustainable, resource-efficient organic resource recovery and agricultural reuse practice through Compost for Soils – which allows users to find a composter across Australian states and territories. 

More detailed ambitions include leading cultural change by describing the future management of surplus organics material and identifying, communicating and celebrating “best practice” strategies, technologies, performance and products.

Collaborating with government stakeholders to develop and implement organics recycling industry policy, regulation and legislation that optimises market conditions for organics recycling is also crucial. 

AORA will also collaborate with likeminded associations in Australia and internationally, and we aspire to develop “AORA standards” and best practice certification programs.

The AORA strategic plan sets out a third and final objective to help establish and participate in knowledge hubs for recycled organics research, development, extension and communication. Research development and extension are fundamental to the development of the organics recycling industry. 

Supporting organisations that act as nodal points for research, and demonstration of identified research and market priorities, as well as disseminating the knowledge generated, is the most efficient strategy to achieve this. The industry needs research, development and extension to advance its cause, sell its products, and provide balance to regulatory conservatism.

AORA will further develop and position Compost for Soils as a core resource for primary industries, as well as the general public, regarding the production and use of recycled organics. Partnerships will be nurtured with tertiary institutions and cooperative research centres to drive research, development and extension for the industry. Industry training will be developed and delivered in partnership with training consultants or existing registered training programs and educational programs will be available for the general public.

As this edition goes to publication, AORA’s 2019 National Conference is taking place in Fremantle, Western Australia (1–3 May). The theme of the conference is Renew and Regenerate – a fundamental and everyday principal to our industry. Keynote speakers sharing their international knowledge are Dr Sally Brown from the University of Washington, who advocates for compost as the simple solution to multiple problems, and Marco Ricci-Jurgensen joins us to share his lessons learnt in 20 years of successful organics recycling in Italy. 

Entire sessions have been dedicated to the renewal of soils, the role of certified compostable packaging, the resourcing of food and garden organics collection and new technology innovations. The sessions ultimately contribute to the rapid evolution and regeneration of the ancient process of organics recycling, now recognised as the new-age “circular economy” – delivering an industry thriving with jobs and endless opportunities to sustain life on our planet by mitigating climate change.

Fast Fact

AORA works on behalf of its members to raise awareness of the benefits of recycling organic resources. 

Together with stakeholders we facilitate the conditions through which surplus organic material can be sustainably and cost-effectively recycled and promote their beneficial reuse. The association envisages a future where no organic materials end up in landfill.

AORA is a national peak body governed by a board of directors. The national executive officer manages the day-to-day running of the association supported by the volunteer members on the board and in various state division committees. 

Peter Wadewitz, who has been AORA’s Chair since mid-2017, is also the Managing Director of Peats Soil & Garden Supplies. He has been commercially processing compost for over 40 years. 

Peter’s commitment to the growth and prosperity of the organics recycling industry has led to appointments to the Barton Group’s Export Taskforce and the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council. Peter was also a leading figure in developing the Australian Compost Industry Roadmap for the Federal Government, which outlines the future development of the compost industry. 

This article was published in the May issue of Waste Management Review. 

Featured Image: Diana De Hulsters.

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