Stable Waste to Soil Benefit – a resource recovery feasibility study

For Sale_Horses in Paddock

The Stable Waste to Soil Benefit project is a resource recovery assessment to develop options and associated costings in the utilisation of this stable waste material

In June 2011 we reported that BEAM Mitchell Environment Group had been successful in securing a Grant for a business feasibility study for the “collection of stable waste material in the Mitchell and Strathbogie Shires and processing this material into biochar and compost”. The Stable Waste to Soil Benefit project is a resource recovery assessment to develop options and associated costings to establish a durable “green industry” in our region.

This is how we understood the problem and the potential at the time:

Mitchell and Strathbogie Shires have a strong equine industry. Straw and/or saw dust material is delivered in large quantities to soak up horse manure material in studs and stables. The soiled material is replaced regularly, but disposal is the problem, particularly for smaller stables. Small amounts of this “soiled straw/saw dust” are available to local gardeners as garden manure, but the bulk of the stable waste material is either stockpiled, burnt and/or buried. The material in this scenario is waste product and contaminant as well as being a resource being wasted, a resource that can make a positive contribution to carbon sequestration, to improving the nutrient values of soils, and further improving the resilience of soil to moisture stress from climate change. The waste material is a disposal and environmental problem.

Our initial expectation (June 2011) was for a value-added material to solve a waste problem and enhance soils and gardens in the region. Value as Biochar was a real expectation (at the time).

Through the Resource Recovery research with consultant Bill Grant (Blue Environment), the potential outcomes have shifted away from biochar and a regional response to location-specific responses. It is significant that the horse industry does not see stable waste as a problem, yet smaller stables have to dispose of the material “off site” and currently disposed of in an ad hoc manner to local trailer pick-ups. It is also significant that so little tangible data was available about the industry in this region (and elsewhere in Australia).

The Final Report (draft) was presented at a public workshop on February 27th. Despite poor numbers (purportedly due to a conflict with yearling sales), the Report, the process and the future Field Trials option drew good support.

The potential for resource recovery in an economic environment where stables will not pay to have the stable waste material removed would appear to be for local collaborations and field trials. Darley Stud with Swettenham Stud linking up with Tabilk Winery working on field trials holds some promise, but its early days.
Consultant Bill Grant has still to finalise some details including:

  • Follow up with horse industry people for their feedback on the report; including the horse Council, Swettenham and Darley, Euroa composter and Nth East Breeders talk.
  • Explore possibilities for future partners in field trials.
  • Investigate production and cost of pelletising the stable material (easy to handle) to then test for fuel production and biochar. This may link with Mitchell Shire as they are interested in Biochar trials at the Wallan Resource Recovery site.
  • Write up generic funding proposals suited to areas for potential composting field trials.
  • Add potential Equine Landcare group to the report.

Listed below are just some of the findings and recommendations that have resulted from the study:
BEAM and the shire councils have potential role in:

  • Educating stable managers regarding the risks and indirect time costs of current management systems.
  • Providing ‘how to’ information to stable managers regarding on-site management.
  • Coordinating collection systems to ensure materials are more cost-effectively recovered.
  • Coordinating the establishment of local processing options so that materials are appropriately managed off site.
  • Working with industry groups to seek external funding for infrastructure that improves the cost-effectiveness and risk management of storage and collection systems.
  • Arranging for trials and fuel quality testing of pelletised stable and yard organics.

There are a range of processing options available for processing stable and yard organics. However, the current no/low cost options for stables to manage organics limits the ability of organics processors to charge to receive organics, and therefore to invest in processing technologies.

The Stable Waste SUMMARY REPORT and Stable Waste Resource Recovery FINAL REPORT can be downloaded by clicking on the links.

– Peter Lockyer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *