Thursday, November 18, 2010

Composting in Australia - More Action Needed

Breaking down the benefits of composting
Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A press release worth reading.......

Increasing the use of organic compost to intensive agriculture industries such as citrus could save 30% of irrigation water and deliver millions of dollars of extra income through increased crop yields to regions such as the Riverina as well as providing significant carbon abatement and sequestration opportunities for the nation, according to the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA).

CEO of the WMAA, Val Southam. believes greater investment in the utilisation of organic materials in agriculture may be part of the solution to restoring health to the Murray-Darling Basin without jeopardising the livelihoods of farmers and regional communities.“The economic and environmental benefits of composting are enormous. In addition to improving water use efficiency, there are significant environmental benefits accrued through carbon abatement and sequestration.

Organic material diverted from landfill could abate 2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year- approximately 461,893 cars off the road annually.

“Around 420,000 tonnes of compost is used in our intensive agricultural industries per year. Compost improves soil condition by adding organic matter, and a 5% increase in soil organic material will result in the quadrupling of a soil’s water holding capacity. It also suppresses weed growth thus reducing the need for chemicals.” Southam said composting also prevents the loss of valuable top soil and reduces the damaging effects of erosion - savings of between 2.3 and 17 tonnes per hectare of soil loss due to erosion can be achieved. “Our industry is calling on all levels of government to provide R&D funding to fully evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of composting and fund programs which promote awareness of the benefits of compost use in our agricultural industries and wider community,” she said.

Chair of Compost Australia (a division of WMAA), Peter Wadewitz believes there’s much more government, industry and the community can do to increase the use of compost. “At least 20 million tonnes of organic material is available for recycling through composting. Composting organic material such as cardboard and food scraps can reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by as much as 50%. “The Recycled Organics Industry is already processing over 5 million tonnes of organic material annually but the benefits to our environment and economy from increasing this amount are significant,” Wadewitz said. “In addition to increased R&D funding and raising awareness of the benefits of composting, one option may be to establish tax incentives for producers of recycled organic products in more sustainable agricultural production systems,” he added.

Compost for Soils reported that SARDI (South Australian Research and Development Institute) citrus trials (composted green organics, grape marc, animal manure) showed a positive return on the initial investment.An application of 40 m3ha-1 of composted green organics in Loxton North produced the highest benefit at 5.38 – that is, for every dollar invested around $5 is returned to the grower.


While this information is not new, in our current debate about carbon, and improved productivity in Australian agriculture, this is a very timely press release and should be heeded around the country.

There is so much wasted food and recyclable organics available. There is technology available to do a lot more, from very simple systmes to quite complex operations. Other countries see this as a valuable resource for agriculture, yet we in australia with relatively poor soils and low moisture holding capacity in soils, really do need this material to improve productivity of the land.

And that applies especially so in the tropics, with higher temperatures driving a faster turnover of the soil carbon as well as a faster soil moisture cycle........and even poorer soils in general.

There are structural issues, with local government [or their contractors] often the handler of organic wastes, yet it must have better leadership at State or National level to achieve serious change.

Yes, there are skilled people that could achieve more.........let there be some action along the lines proposed in terms of R and D!!


Agriculture Jobs UK said...

There is so much to be gained in understanding and implementing worthwhile policies for composts.

Peter H said...