Benefits of recycled organics industry: key facts

SUBSCRIBE to our fortnightly email newsletter to receive more stories like this. Food waste being transported to a composting facility:AORA estimates that an additional 13m tonnes of organic waste could be diverted from landfill annually and productively recycled.

According to leading industry body Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA), six million-plus tonnes of organic matter a year are recycled across Australia as compost mixes, mulches, agricultural soil amendments and more.

Australia’s recycled organics processors recover the equivalent of nearly 50,000 tonnes of potential plant fertiliser annually, including more than 30,000 tonnes of urea; 15,300 tonnes of potassium sulphate and 3,000 tonnes of superphosphate, that would have otherwise been lost to landfill.

In the process, they’re able to sequester and abate more than 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of potential and actual greenhouse gas emissions through the diversion of organic matter from landfill, increased soil-carbon storage and reduction in fertiliser use.

Environmental benefits of compost

Compost has many benefits to soil and crop health, productivity and the environment.

  • It helps create healthier soils that subsequently use less water, less fertiliser and fewer pesticides and are less susceptible to nutrient leaching and runoff, greatly reducing negative impacts on the surrounding aquatic environment.
  • It increases crop growth and yield, enabling farmers to ‘produce more with less’ and thereby supporting Australia’s food security.
  • The composting process destroys weed seeds and pathogens, helping to control the spread of weeds and diseases and reducing biosecurity risks.
  • It supports resilient farming systems that produce healthy food free from chemical contaminants.
  • It buffers the impacts of climate change in agriculture by:

-  decreasing water loss from soils – thus boosting water use efficiency and reducing the risk of crop failure;
-  increasing soil cohesion, thereby protecting soils from wind and water erosion;
-  lowering fluctuations in soil temperature, hence promoting root growth and biological activity; and,
-  reducing the need for synthetic fertiliser demand, thus helping to reduce carbon emissions from the use and manufacturing of chemical fertilisers.

  • It boosts soil-carbon levels in agricultural soils. One tonne of composted recycled organics (such as garden waste) applied to land can sequester approximately 0.5 tonnes of C02e (equivalent).

Mileage to be made

According to AORA, an additional 13 million tonnes of organic material a year could, potentially, be diverted from landfill. If less than 20 percent of this total – just two million extra tonnes – was recycled each year, AORA predicts, it would:

  • avoid approximately two million tonnes of CO2e emissions;  
  • sequester around a million tonnes of CO2e in soils when compost is applied to land;
  • save an additional 100 gigalitres annually in irrigation water;
  • replace 10,000 tonnes of urea, 1,000 tonnes of superphosphate and 5,000 tonnes of potassium sulphate annually;
  • deliver an additional $30 million per annum in farm revenue, thanks in part to yield improvement in intensive agriculture;
  • generate more than 650 new jobs;
  • increase turnover by up to $400 million per annum; and,
  • attract expected capital investment exceeding $1 billion.

More information

For more information on the recycled organics (RO) industry, RO compost mixes and healthy soils, including numerous academic papers and extensive industry resources, visit AORA’s Compost for Soils web portal.

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