Organic waste or wasted gold?

The country’s first symposium on recycled organics will tackle their potential to create an industry worth more than $1 billion.

Australia produces 20 million tonnes of wasted organics – garden organics, forestry residues, municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues, biosolids,green waste and timber – each year.

Professor Chengrong Chen of the Griffith School of Environment, said currently 44 per cent of organics were recycled, 9 per cent were used to produce electricity and 47 per cent went to landfill.

“If we can recycle that remaining 47 per cent it could create an industry in recycled organics worth more than $1 billion,” he said.

“On the one hand we generate waste but on the other hand we’re saying how can we put that back to make things grow better?”

Held in partnership with Soil Science Australia and being opened by Queensland Chief Scientist Professor Suzanne Miller the symposium held at Griffith’s Nathan campus on Thursday (June 15) will address the benefits of using recycled organics on degraded and marginal landscapes.

Currently 45 per cent of Australian land is degraded.

“This is the first time in Australia we’re raising awareness for this critical issue,” Professor Chen said.

“It’s very important to raise public awareness and change public perception otherwise soil degradation and soil pollution will continue and we won’t have enough food or enough fibre in the future.

“Soil security is becoming a very important issue globally.”

Professor Suzanne Miller the Queensland Chief Scientist said innovative resource recovery was a real challenge for our state with its large land size and decentralised population adjacent to areas of high natural value like the Great Barrier Reef.

“Government, industry, researchers and farmers are working together to identify best management practices that benefit productivity and profitability, as well as contribute to improved environmental outcomes such as improved water quality,” Professor Miller said.

The symposium will bring together industry partners, governments, policy makers, land managers, farmers, environmental consultants and researchers in recycled organics to deliberate their application in degraded and marginal landscapes and better understand their use for agriculture, mining, urban environments and infrastructure.

Conference organiser Dr Maryam Esfandbod said household food waste was not waste but rather “wasted gold” that could be recovered.

“The key problem with the recycled organics industry is education for everyday people,” she said.

“We can assist people to make informed recycling choices which reduce their impact on the environment. We can also assist the end user — working with farmers to use these recycled organics for agricultural production.

“If we can recycle more wasted organics we can minimise waste going to landfill.”

Key speakers include representatives from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Australian Organics Recycling Association, Environmental Earth Sciences International, CSIRO, NuGrow, GreenFingers, Centre for Organic Research and Education, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, New South Wales EPA, Australian Laboratory Service, Qld Main Road Transport, Scion, Forests-Product-Innovation-New Zealand, RMIT University, MSF Sugar, Sugar Research Australia, Qld NRM Regional Groups Collective and Herbert Cane Productivity Services Ltd.