Lawn clippings and old palm fronds are being transformed into compost by one of Australia’s largest farming organisations in an attempt to reduce its carbon footprint.

A new state-of-the-art compost facility in Bundaberg, south-east Queensland, is accepting garden waste to be converted to nutrient-rich compost designed to provide an alternative to chemical fertilisers and help farms decrease nutrient run-off.

Green Solutions Wide Bay was created by Australia’s largest producer of sweet potatoes, Greensill Farming, to expand the company’s composting program and involve locals disposing of their green waste in an environmentally beneficial way.

Nathan Freeman is head of planning, infrastructure and projects for Greensill Farming, which also grows sugar cane and peanuts around Bundaberg.

Protecting soil health while lessening environmental impacts is important to the farming organisation and worth the investment in the futuristic composting facility, according to Mr Freeman.

A man stands in front of a large machine grinding trees and shrubs.
Nathan Freeman with the green waste grinder.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

“We have to start looking at this, reducing the amount of fertilisers and synthetic products we do use,” he said.

“This is a really natural product we can punch back into the soil.

Creating compost from waste

Turning green waste into compost takes 120 days.

The dumped organic matter is fed into a large grinder that uses scanners and magnets to remove any material not suitable.

Piles of shredded material are left to break down and undergo a “pasteurisation period” where the temperature reaches between 55 and 65 degrees killing off weeds and seeds while also allowing beneficial microbes to grow.

A robotic-looking turning machine with extendable legs then patrols the piles turning the compost, and water is added to keep the mix cool throughout the process.

The last part of the process involves screening the compost before it is applied to the farms.

Although the compost facility has only been open to the public for 10 weeks, Mr Freeman says trials have shown the compost is making a big difference in the health of the soil, which will mean better crops and a longer farming life for the soils.

“We are already seeing the benefits from the products we are putting out on the farms now,” he said.

“It’s a good opportunity to basically turn what used to be landfill into a usable product that can help sustain our farms.

“We really want to increase our soil biodiversity. Some crops can be a little hard on the soil, so if we can help and put this back in it will really help prolong the life of our farming activity.”

Large sediment dams have also been created to prevent any run-off from the compost to the waterways in the area. 

Security monitors dumping

Trailers full of garden offcuts and lawn clippings roll past over 30 security cameras installed around the complex as Bundaberg residents take advantage of the free waste disposal.

There is no human contact at the complex, the cameras record your licence plate details and if you leave material that is not plant-based, an alert will notify staff when you next visit.

Mr Freeman believes most people will do the right thing.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and money getting the technology right here,” he said.

“We don’t want people to be scared off by that technology.

“Everybody is welcome, anybody can come along and put their green waste here. The only time you aren’t welcome is if you put contaminants in there.”

Green Solutions Wide Bay officially opens Saturday, June 5, 2021 after a 10-week ‘soft trial’. 

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