This report aims to capture the findings and insights from my Churchill Fellowship - To investigate the effective recycling of urban and agricultural wastes to provide positive outcomes for agriculture.
This project was initially focused on compost and its use in agriculture, but after the initial scoping of my trip, I did not want to limit the project scope to compost alone. Consequently, I selected a wide range of geographic locations, environments, production systems and climates including areas with high levels of recycling, environmental regulation and innovation.
This journey took me around the globe with a wide range of learnings that I feel can benefit both industries in their productions systems and use in sustainable agriculture. These include:
- European composting systems are advanced, innovative and highly integrated with renewable energy production. These renewables include - biomass generation with timber and plastic, anaerobic digestion of food wastes to produce energy and fertiliser and solar power generation.
- High renewable energy generation targets set by the EU, drive recycling behaviour and subsequently governments provide financial support for renewable energy production. If growth of recycled organics and renewables is to continue in Australia, government support at all levels is critical to achieving this.
- Technology and innovation in the organics recycling sector are largely driven from Europe due to land constraints and high renewable and recycling targets. Adoption of these can potentially lower compost production costs and increase product quality. This will provide gains in the production and use of compost.
- The benefits from quality compost use were observed in a wide range of production systems around the globe. Benefits included - increasing soil organic matter levels, increasing the diversity and volume of soil biology, improved soil health, stabilising nutrients into a slow release form and increasing soil water holding capacity. The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) and agricultural support bodies need to continue to demonstrate and communicate the benefits for the successful agricultural uptake of compost.
- Those successfully using compost understand what it can contribute, how long it will take and how this will occur. Education programs and agronomic support are required to achieve success and must be industry driven.
- Quality standards and clear definition of compost and recycled organics are critical to successful uptake. Industry bodies such as AORA must lead and own this process.
- Ongoing education, especially of children, is key to changing recycling behaviours and supporting compost and recycled organics use.