Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food Waste - Western Society Should be Ashamed

How much food does your household waste that is prepared and not consumed? How much do you buy and then throw out without using each week? How much is prepared and wasted in restaurants and food halls?

These are serious issues relating to world food availability.

To add to this issue much of this dumped food around the world is then deposited in landfills, to produce methane gas and add to global warming. Relatively modest volumes go into composting or anaerobic digestion and similar options that can allow recycling of the organic residuals and save the mineral components for reuse, in further horticulture and agriculture.

I do not subscribe to the view that organic agriculture will feed the world.........but the addition of carbon to soil via waste recycled organics is a real benefit to all agriculture.

Read the article and media release.

Stop wasting food and ask your local government services to improve their performance.

In Australia a big change is occurring now, and will accelerate under a new carbon emissions scheme. Curiously, waste is included, agriculture and horticulture are not. And we will pay significantly for waste in the carbon emissions scheme.

There are many options available to do better, but often the major supermarkets are not trying too hard. Some are investigating the use of small in-vessel composting systems [], some others are using a Biobin [ see]. We see the latter as a very useful simple to deply option for many food handling sites, and strongly advocate the former for larger sites such as hotels and resorts. In Australia the coming CPRS will help drive this rethink of practices as waste is included from the beginning.


UN calls for food waste revolution
Report calls for global crackdown on food waste and expansion of organic farming to help tackle impending shortages

The world could easily feed its growing population if farmers, businesses and government's simply stepped up efforts to curtail food waste, according to a major new study from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report, which was published at last week's meeting of the UNEP Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya, warned that without "a green revolution" across the food industry the combination of population growth and climate change will lead to severe food shortages over the coming decades that could see food prices climb by between 30 and 50 per cent.

"We need a Green revolution in a Green Economy but one with a capital G", said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "We need to deal with not only the way the world produces food but the way it is distributed, sold and consumed, and we need a revolution that can boost yields by working with rather than against nature."

The report, entitled The Environmental Food crises: Environment's role in averting future food crises, calls on food producers, businesses and governments to prioritise efforts to cut food waste as the most effective means of addressing future shortages.

It found that up to 50 per cent of food produced in the US is wasted, while a third of food purchased in the UK is never eaten. Meanwhile, food losses in developing world are similarly high with an estimated 20 to 40 per cent of potential harvests lost as a result of pests and pathogens.

Moreover, 30m tonnes of fish are reportedly discarded at sea each year – enough to sustain a 50 per cent increase in fish farming and aquaculture production, which the UNEP calculates is needed to maintain per capita fish consumption at current levels by 2050 without increasing pressure on an already stressed marine environment.

"Over half of the food produced today is either lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain," said Steiner. "There is evidence within the report that the world could feed the entire projected population growth alone by becoming more efficient while also ensuring the survival of wild animals, birds and fish on this planet." The report calls for increased investment in agricultural R&D to help reduce waste during the production process, as well as increased efforts from government's to cut consumer food waste.

In addition, to targeting food waste the report calls for an end to agricultural subsidies, curtailing of the practice of using cereals to feed livestock, increased investment in developing second generation biofuels that do not impact on food supplies and improved water management regimes in drought affected areas.

It also calls for wider adoption of organic farming methods, citing a recent report by UNEP and the UN Conference on Trade and Development which studied 114 small-scale farms in 24 African countries and found that yields more than doubled where organic or near organic techniques were used.
"Simply ratcheting up the fertilizer and pesticide-led production methods of the 20th Century is unlikely to address the challenge", says Achim Steiner. "It will increasingly undermine the critical natural inputs and nature-based services for agriculture such as healthy and productive soils, the water and nutrient recycling of forests, and pollinators such as bees and bats."

The report warned that unless its recommendations are adopted up to 25 per cent of the world's food production could be lost by 2050 as a result of " environmental breakdown". For example, it said that the retreat of Himalayan glaciers as a result of climate change could put nearly half of Asia's cereal production at risk, while global water shortages could cut crop yields by 20 per cent.

In related news, UNEP released a second report which found that 40 per cent of civil wars fought since 1990 were a direct result of natural resource shortages, a situation that is likely to worsen as climate change accelerates. It warned that conflicts with a link to natural resources were twice as likely to relapse within five years as conflicts fought for other reasons, and called on the UN to take environmental and resource issues more seriously in its post-conflict planning.

This is very serious stuff ............but is anyone really listening?

The current economic woes around the world really mean all should be reducing wasted food, as a simple economic measure.

But are we?

[partially sourced from Business Green by James Murray 23 Feb 2009]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tipperary Station Has New Owners

Tipperary Station is one of the iconic large pastoral properties in the Northern Territory, and along with adjacent sister properties Elizabeth Downs and Litchfield [ all operated essentially as a single entity] is well developed and capable of running around 80ooo head of cattle.

The property is about 150km south of Darwin in a seasonally wet dry monsoon area with rainfall of about 1200 - 1500mm across the property, with more near the western coastline. It also has virtually all year round access to the main developed areas closer to the Stuart Highway.

Tieerary was the first of the large properties to be cleared in the late 1960s with over 30oooha cleared for cultivation. Sorghum and other crops have been grown over the years but it is true to say that overall, grain production was not successful on that scale. Some smaller areas have been used for grain and other cultivation since then, and some areas have enormous potential for continued use including irrigation of higher value crops, for example peanuts. Maybe even cotton too.

The buyer is Australia's largest cattle operation......Australian Agricultural Company or AACo, and the seller is Melbourne barrister Alan Myers.

The $105 million purchase of the famed Tipperary Station and Litchfield, as well as 60,000 cattle, will be funded by the sale of three of AACo's properties in Queensland - Clonagh, Kalmeta and Gregory Downs, which together cover 481,000 hectares and come with 62,000 cattle, ands are being sold for $152m.

The complex deal also includes the purchase of 19.9pc of AACo for $90m by Mr Myers, as part of Futuris Corporation’s sale of its 43pc stake in AACo. Futuris, parent company of Elders, will offer its remaining 23pc to the market.

"We have been looking at a number of options for disposal of our stake in AACo as we move Futuris away from passive investments to be fully focussed on being an owner/operator of core businesses in which we have demonstrable skill and market advantage and which match our cash operating earnings objectives," Futuris chief executive Malcolm Jackman said. "In that regard, the sale of a substantial part of our holding in AACo to a committed pastoral investor is an excellent fit with all stakeholders' interests." Futuris also is the principal owner of Elders, the major Australian pastoral supply business.

AACo CEO Stephen Toms said the company, by purchasing Tipperary and Litchfield, was acquiring a valuable and unique aggregation in the Northern Territory with unlimited tenure, excellent access to the Port of Darwin, reliable high rainfall patterns and a substantial infrastructure base.

"We have been conducting due diligence on the aggregation, off and on, over the past two years," Mr Toms said. "The likely trend, over the short to medium term, in consumer sentiment to beef will be toward lower cost products. "AACo needs to respond to that and stratify its sales and production programs for the changing market. "Accordingly the business will adapt its flexible pathway system to be weighted toward less costly grass fed production."

This is an interesting development with an obvious trend seen by a very large operator back towards grass grown and presumably grass finished cattle. The export livestock business is thriving in nortern Australia, with expected numbers exported likely to increase from 600000 head a year in 2008 to over 1.2 million by 2012, according to industry projections. Most go to Indonesia, a short 7-10 day journey, with very very little in the way of transport problems.

It also opens speculation about future development on Tipperary, particularly in relation to cropping and related enterprises including hay production and even expansion of better quality pastures. Other adjacent properties have also been sold to agroforestry companies, so that enterprise would also be an option. And interestingly, the NT government is moving to allow some tenative further clearing in the Daly Basin for agriculture and property development.

The other significant isuse is - if AACo are expanding and want grass fed cattle, presumably for the domestic market too, what will be the situation in relation to an abbattoir locally or will they ship cattle out for slaughter to southern states?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Are Plastic Bags Important in Waste Management Policy?

Plastic bags and their management have become a symbolic issue in Australian waste management. In doing so, waste management has largely become irrelevant, for it has meant that the large issues are being ignored. We all love to hate industry, those making a living from our waste, but in reality they perform a public good function. Some even argue they could do much better, if allowed to do so.

In northern and north west Australia we have tended to ignore waste issues. Afterall, plenty of space and relatively few people, so waste issues are of modest interest, except in relation to a kerfuffle over nuclear waste, where those emptier spaces around Australia could serve a useful role. And yes, plastic bags are noticeable here too........but that is largely a litter issue, not a major waste problem.

But waste issues are of pressing importance in relation to the coming changes over carbon management. Superior organics management could yield improved outcomes in carbon emissions and capture, while potentially improving agriculture [ see any of the posts on carbon management on this site], and of even greater relevance in a time of reduced jobs.......better waste management could create many new jobs, and these would be permanent ones too. Technology to do this is available right now.

The following article provides a decent overview of some of these issues. Are we focussing on an irrelevant issue in trying to ban plastic bags? I would agree with the author.

Increasingly, the humble plastic bag is being highlighted as “public evil number one” when it comes to waste and the environment. It seems all levels of government have got the demise of plastic bags firmly in their sights. Never was so much effort and political capital spent on such a marginal issue.

Don’t get me wrong – reducing plastic bags as part of a litter management scheme is an important place to start but from a waste management point of view it is symbolic at best. Plastic bags represent just one thousandth of the waste stream or 0.1%. 20,000 tonnes out of a landfill waste stream of 20 million tonnes.

Resource recycling and greenhouse gas emissions must be the waste policy priorities as we move into an era of climate change and a carbon constrained economy.

There is an enormous opportunity for the Australian recycling and waste sector to lead positively from the front on issues of emissions reductions and climate change. A study by Warnken ISE points to the potential to deliver nearly 35 million tonnes of greenhouse gas abatement through innovative resource recovery, organics processing and improved landfill gas capture practices. That adds up to a reduction of nearly 7 percent in Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions – equal to taking all cars off Australian roads.

Doing so would see investment of around $4 billion in new infrastructure and the creation of 4000 new jobs.

Waste is one of those sectors where there is an alignment of Government policy on climate change and business opportunities for growth and diversification. I’m not advocating we ignore plastic bags but can we also focus on the big issues?

Gas capture from landfills
When organic waste, mainly wood, garden waste and food is disposed to landfill, it generates methane which is a significant greenhouse gas. While on the positive side it is estimated that 70% of household waste is disposed into landfills with gas capture systems, capture inefficiencies taken with the 30% of landfills without capture and importantly the massive amounts of organics sent to Commercial and Inert landfills, amount to a landfill emission profile of 15 million tonnes CO2e/year.

Landfills will always have a role to play in an integrated waste framework so it is important that we get the landfill platform operating with the lowest carbon footprint possible.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will go some way to address this by putting a cost on methane emissions from landfill. For the first few years of the scheme the price is likely to be $25-40 /tCO2e. That could see landfill gate prices rise by anywhere from $10-$50 /t of waste across the weighbridge depending on whether the landfill has a gas capture system and the organic loading of the waste.

At a particular carbon pollution price, landfill operators will install new and improved gas capture systems.

Alternatives for organics treatment

At a particular carbon pollution price (taken with rises in landfill levies), waste generators will seek out alternatives to landfill and those alternatives become commercially viable. The main treatment options for organics are “clean stream composting” and “residual processing” through an Advanced Waste Treatment (AWT) plant.

Clean stream composting is widely practiced in Australia and growth in carbon costs (taken with the potential for some form of carbon storage benefit) will see this sector flourish. In 2008 there were 12 “residual processing” AWT plants either operating or under construction across Australia, up from 1 in 1994. AWT has been taken up for different reasons in different states – sometimes government policy and targets driven through regional waste boards (e.g. Perth), sometimes price signals via landfill levies (e.g. Sydney) and sometimes local Councils have taken the lead (and the cost burden) (e.g. Cairns, Port Macquarie, Port Stephens).

More than 30% of Sydney Councils are now using AWT to process their waste. Tenders for the processing of residual/organic waste are expected for another 40% in 2009. By mid 2009 with two new plants coming on stream, NSW will have one of the highest concentrations of AWT’s per head of population in the world, with 7 AWT’s between Coffs Harbour and Campbelltown (3 anaerobic digesters and 4 MBT composters).

Perth is similarly fast tracking towards low emission and high resource recovery options with 4 AWT’s operating or being constructed. Adelaide has Australia’s premier timber treatment technology turning a greenhouse gas liability in landfill, into an alternative fuel source with outstanding greenhouse gas benefits. Melbourne has signaled its intention to start aggressively down the path of 12 new AWT and organics processing facilities.

Resource recovery

The third key action is to rapidly ramp up resource recovery and recycling. Australia recycles only 48% of the total waste stream. Recovering the embodied energy in recycled materials reduces energy consumption in other manufacturing sectors of the economy. But this benefit is given limited recognition by governments.

There is a desperate need for improved infrastructure and programs to support commercial and industrial, construction and residential recycling.

Getting Australia’s recycling rate up toward 70 or 80% will deliver massive greenhouse gas benefits, as well as generally lower costs of production to manufacturers. It will also generate huge numbers of jobs.

If a company was closing up shop today and taking 4000 jobs with it, it would be front page news. But the waste sector can create 4000 new jobs with significant environmental and economic benefits, and at very low cost.

What is required is a change of perspective on the role of waste within a carbon constrained economy. We need to move past old images of the waste sector as garbos in trucks and dumping at the local tip, toward a view of waste as an integrated part of resource reuse in the economy.

Toward an understanding of the role recycling, resource recovery and waste management can have in helping to solve Australia’s (and the world’s) climate change problems.

These are the key issues from a waste policy perspective.

The campaigns for politicians to ban plastic bags are understandable given that plastic bags are such a visible waste stream, but from a strategic waste perspective, a ban on plastic bags is symbolic at best and distracting at worst.

written by Mike Ritchie, President NSW Branch of the Waste Management Association of Australia and General Manager, Marketing & Communications, SITA Environmental Solutions.


While these views may be quite in your face and definitely confronting.........they are logical and deserve more thought from the NT and Darwin City politicians.

One of our major issues in the NT is construction and demolition waste, and most goes straight to landfill. Other jurisdictions have made major attempts to reduce and manage that material, but not here. A simple one would be to use all the waste gyprock/ dry wall in the compost. Grind it and add to the green waste, and there is a lot of dry wall wasted!

And in Darwin the MRF avoids many useful grades of plastic - they are banned from recycling, yet are widely reused in many types of new plastic products, even as co-mingled materials.

Can the NT do better than it is now?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Compadre Zoysia - First in the Park Too

In late December The Darwin City Council committed to the establishment of a modest sized park in the Stuart Park area of Darwin with Compadre Zoysia. While the park in Duke street had been talked about for sowing earlier in the year, seed was not available until December to actually sow the area. This late sowing had some issues to be concerned about as it was very close to the monsoon period, and the potential for a major wash out from heavy rain.

The grassed areas of the park were sown just prior to Christmas, 2008, using hydroseeding, with Gimbell's, a locally based experienced contractor from Darwin doing the job. The hydroseeding included a normal mix of shredded paper and tackifiers, along with Compadre seed at recommended rates. A very even cover of hydroseed material was achieved, and germination was quite prompt, with seedlings seen after about seven days, and a good green tinge in about 10-12 days.

The hydroseeding provided some help in preventing erosion and wash outs in a parkland area with a slight slope, although a small area was adversely affected. Some rectification of that was achieved using a compost berm above the area, slowing water flow across the slope, and most of the area now has grass seedlings. Compost berms are excellent in achieving water flow reductions in tropical areas where most of the rain comes from heavy episodic storms that can dump a large volume in a short period. They are not used as regularly as they could be in this that in itself is a big plus.

Germination and emergence continued with regular application of small amounts of additional water by the irrigation system to ensure the surface remained moist in the critical first 3-4 weeks, even though there was regular rain, but not necessarily every day. Some weed control was also carried out by hand to pull small grass weeds, by the parks staff of the Darwin City Council. These weeds were relatively few, but it important to ensure the zoysia seedlings are not swamped by grass weeds in its early stage.

Adequate fertiliser was applied in the first two weeks, and some additional slow release turf fertiliser will be applied to ensure there is adequate nutrition in the establishment phase.

Now, at about seven weeks from sowing the area looks very good. There is a very small wash area, identified above, but considering the heavy and prolonged rainfall over the past seven weeks, the area is in terrific condition after this time. Seedlings are just showing signs of lateral growth and the area would be expected to now develop a strong lateral network and thoroughly bind the topsoil. Thickening of the stand will develop over the next 7-8 weeks, with complete cover probably by about 16 weeks.

This has been a well executed project and shows the potential for Compadre zoysia in urban parks across north Australia, and consolidates the concept of using this variety. Many parks are designed to have shrubs and trees and ultimately, shade. Common options such as couch and even bahia grass, do not tolerate shade well, whereas zoysia will tolerate 50% shade, maybe even more if the turf area is not excessively used. It is also capable of remaining as a good turf surface with reduced irrigation amounts and lower nutrition, particularly in comparison to couch. That ultimately saves local councils quite a lot of money.

So far, so good with this evaluation project. It augers well for the variety. And congratulations to those involved from the Darwin City Council and Gimbells for a job well done.

For more information on Compadre zoysia.............
contact Above Capricorn Technologies or read more on this blog, or look at other photos.

area view at 2 weeks

These two photos show the sown area after about two weeks with an obvious green seedling tinge, and the compost berm used for erosion protection

< Seedling density at 7 weeks

Green parkland appearance at 7 weeks>

It is developing very well, and should be really great in another 7-8 weeks.