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Historical document

Increasing the opportunities for use of organic wastes in the Tasmanian vegetable industry (VX99002)

Key research provider: Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment
Publication date: May, 2002

This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.

What was it all about?

A project was undertaken to investigate some of the perceived barriers to greater use of recycled organic materials in the Tasmanian vegetable industry. Three of these barriers were:

  • Availability of suitable products
  • Transport, handling and processing costs
  • Concerns regarding food safety.

Some 250,000 tonnes of solid organic residuals suitable for reuse in agriculture were produced in Tasmania each year, mostly by the food processing and forestry industries.  

Economic modelling showed that the cost of compost production in small on-farm operations could be lower than large enterprises, provided on-site infrastructure and other fixed overheads were low. However, it was expected that quality control would be relatively low in such operations. When determining the economic viability of larger scale operations, production volume, tip fees and transport distances were important.

A review of alternative uses for organic residuals indicated that there was scope in Tasmania to produce "designer" composts and mulches with potential benefits to vegetable production. Producers of composts and similar products needed to meet high quality standards in order to minimise the risk of food safety issues.

Soil organic matter loss and organic waste management were significant issues in intensive vegetable production. Both impacted the perceptions of "clean, green" produce and the long­term sustainability of agricultural production systems. Both issues were addressed while improving the economic and environmental performance of the production and processing sectors of the vegetable industry. When viewed as a "waste", residual organic materials had to be managed to minimise environmental damage. When viewed as a properly processed resource, they were sources of organic matter and plant nutrients.

Businesses needed information on the availability and nature of organic wastes to evaluate opportunities for market development. It was recommended this information be provided to facilitate the flow of materials from waste generators to potential end users.

It was recommended that the economic model developed by the project be integrated with other models related to compost recipe design and site development. This provided a suite of computer programs for determining the requirements and economics of proposed organic recycling initiatives.

There was a need to provide better information on issues surrounding the use of recycled organic materials and food safety. It was recommended that the recycled organics and agricultural industries promote the message that properly processed and managed organic residuals were safe to use in food production.