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.

For more information click here.

Related stories: 

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.

Read moreOrganics regeneration: Australian Organics Recycling Association

AORA 2019 National Conference wrap-up

The Australian Organics Recycling Association brought together recycling suppliers, researchers and packaging associations all under the one roof to identify cost-effective and sustainable solutions to organics. 

Read moreAORA 2019 National Conference wrap-up

AORA presents inaugural student award

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) is presenting an inaugural student award for the University of Queensland.

The annual AORA Student Research Awards will be managed by UQ’s Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients (CROWN).

The AORA Awards for Advancing Research, Development and Education in Organics Recycling will see participation from post graduate students enrolled at honours, masters or PhD level at an Australian or New Zealand university.

The awards aims to encourage students to undertake and excel in research designed to advance the nation’s knowledge and understanding of manufacturing high quality and value-added recycled organic products and their use in agricultural and horticultural production systems, including amenity horticulture.

Research considered for an award may apply to any stage of the organics recycling supply chains handling, including urban organic residues, food and fibre processing residues, biosolids or animal manures. It could also involve utilising generated recycled organic products as organic fertilisers, soil amendments, components of soil blends and growing media and for a wide range of land management purposes. Further information is provided in the awards guidelines and nomination form, both of which are available from the AORA Website and CROWN website.

AORA Victoria 2018 Award winners announced

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) has celebrated industry achievements from the past year in Victoria at its 2018 awards dinner.

Its event was attended by more than 90 representatives from organics processors, industry suppliers, to state and local government organisations.

Related stories:

Speeches from Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan and Parliamentary Secretary for Environment Anthony Carbines highlighted the support the government is putting forward into the organics industry.

The Melbourne Cricket Club won the 2018 Sustainability Victoria Outstanding Contribution to Industry Development Award thanks to the club’s organic fertiliser that it creates on site form organic waste.

Waste produced at the MCG is treated in-house and turned into a soil additive that is being used to sustain the heritage listed Yarra Park which surrounds the stadium. An Eco Guardians dehydrator at the MCG takes the organic waste and processes them into a soil additive known as SoilFood.

Glen Eira City Council won the 2018 Yarra Valley Water Outstanding Local Government Initiative in Collection/Processing/Marketing Award thanks to the councils Food Organics into Garden Organics (FOGO) program.

Food scrap recycling was identified as a priority in the council’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2016-2021. Glen Eira changed organics processor to Veolia to bring the service to residents sooner, as the company are the only contractor currently servicing the South East Organics Processing contract that is capable of processing food waste.

The campaign was soft launched in November 2017, with further marketing in the lead up to its introduction on 1 May 2018. Council offered residents a free kitchen caddy as part of the program, with around 7721 households receiving one.

Environmental management company Kilter Rural won the 2018 RMCG Compost User Demonstrating Innovation and Advocacy in Agricultural Markets Award. The company has led the recovery of severely degraded farmland in the irrigation district in Northern Victoria and restored the land to profitable production.

Burdett’s Sand and Soil won the 2018 Compost User Demonstrating Innovation and Advocacy in Amenity Market Award after using compost through its solids for at least 20 years. The company has expanded into pine barks and mulches and is known to be an avid compost user and support of recycled organics.

Image: Melbourne Cricket Club

Back and forth

Plastic bags for recycling

According to not-for-profit organisation Planet Ark, eight out of 10 Australian councils report plastic bags as their biggest recycling problem. Are we any closer to implementing a comprehensive national ban?  

The debate around the banning of single-use plastic bags is all but new, yet continues to spark controversy on a global level. While Australia is still in the process of putting a national policy on the issue in place – South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have established plastic bag bans, while NSW, Queensland and Victoria have all committed to investigating the introduction of a ban – the US is currently experiencing a concerning turnaround on the topic: Last month, Michigan became the fourth US state to place a ban on banning plastic bags, following the example of Idaho, Arizona and Missouri.

To put the development into perspective and explain just why back-pedaling is not an option, Peter McLean, Executive Officer at the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA), summarises the state of play in Australia.

“AORA has held a long-term national policy on banning single-use plastic bags since 2015. We want to ensure that only Australian Standards (AI) certified compostable bags are exempt under any plastic bag legislation because they will break down under the parameters of a commercial composting facility.

Ensuring this very strict standard means that all other degradable, oxo- degradable and biodegradable plastic bags will also be banned, as there are no guarantees that these types of bags will break down under specific timeframes and not produce any residuals like micro-plastics.

The only fail-safe method with so much confusion about product claims in the marketplace is to use AS4736 for commercial composting and AS5810 for home composting. Even biodegradable bags need to be left aside, as biodegradable doesn’t always mean compostable. This is due to them not always meeting the Australian Standards in regards to time to decompose and complete biodegradation, which means they would have to leave zero residues other than some water, carbon dioxide and biomass.

This will also reduce the many deceptive statements currently in the marketplace, which allow manufacturers to use statements like ‘this product is degradable and breaks down when exposed to the environment’.

To read more, see page 52 of Issue 10. 

X