Some overseas governments have policies that compel businesses to keep their waste out of landfill. These countries are well on the way to developing circular economies. These include Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Scotland and Sweden.
In Australia, the federal government has offered no such incentives. Instead, communities are taking it upon themselves to repurpose waste. State and local governments are introducing policies that offer incentives for recycling, or penalties for producing landfill.
There is a growing interest in co-digestion (anaerobic digestion of multiple biodegradable substrates) to boost biogas production, particularly for small wastewater facilities, such as: municipal wastewater, food and drink manufacturer process waste, paper waste, oils and greases, residential food and green waste, etc.
Around 4 million tonnes of food reaches landfill in Australia each year. This forms part of Australia’s organic waste, the country’s largest unrecovered stream of waste that goes into landfill.
There’s a missed opportunity here to recover this waste and do something useful with it. In particular, we can use it for energy such as biofuel.
Recent advances around the country:
- South Australia Water’s Glenelg wastewater treatment is Australia’s first co-digestion facility. The addition of food byproducts such as milk, cheese, beer, wine and soft drink has increased power generation from 55% to 75% of the plant’s power requirement. The South Australian government is developing a bioenergy roadmap. The aim is to link biomass suppliers in regions to users of energy and help to support local businesses to add value.
- Yarra Valley Water’s waste-to-energy facility is a new co-digestion development at Aurora Sewage Treatment Plant, north of Melbourne. It will process 100 cubic metres of waste each day. The waste is delivered by trucks from local commercial waste producers, such as markets and food manufacturing. Through Sustainability Victoria, the state government is offering funding through the Advanced Organics Processing Technology Grants program, which supports the installation of small-scale onsite or precinct-scale anaerobic digestion technology for processing organic waste.
- New South Wales: Cowra‘s proposal shows the ability of state and local government, industry and farms to pool waste created in and around a country town to produce energy and fertiliser, which can be used within that same geographic circle. At full capacity, the Cowra biomass project will produce 60% of the town’s energy needs.