April 1, 2021
A giant 'mechanical stomach' is eating food waste and farting out methane gas that powers local homes.
Food scraps from local restaurants and supermarkets are powering thousands of homes in Perth's City of Cockburn. A bio-energy plant opened in 2016 is now producing enough electricity from food waste to power its own operations and 3,000 nearby homes.
The machinery used to turn food into energy works like a giant stomach, digesting food and releasing methane gas that is captured to produce electricity. Food is trucked in from local businesses, including restaurants, seafood markets and supermarkets. It then goes through a piece of equipment that removes contaminants and turns everything into a porridge-like soup that is fed to two 'digester' machines. Yum!
"We're mechanically replicating a stomach, whether it be a cow's stomach or a human stomach," Tim Richards, managing director of RichGro, the fertiliser company behind the operation, told ABC news.
"As [food] breaks down, it generates methane gas. We're capturing that gas and we're running large generators that combined can produce up to 2.4 megawatts of electricity."
The machine operates much like the human gut, requiring a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables.
"Certainly, you can overdo a good thing — you wouldn't want too much fats, oils and greases," Tim said.
"A lot of fruit and vege, starchy, sugary products are good. They produce a lot of energy."
The process also produces a liquid fertiliser that is sent to farmers and used to fertilise on-site compost piles.
Since opening the waste to energy facility, the City of Cockburn has saved 43 tonnes of food waste from landfill and prevented 81,000 kilograms of CO2 equivalent gasses from entering the atmosphere. It is a great example of how bio-energy technology can be used to generate value from waste.
"Food waste really shouldn't be thought of as a waste, it should be thought of as a resource," the city's waste education officer, Clare Courtauld, said.
"It's really important to take food waste out of landfill because it produces harmful greenhouse gases. If global food waste was a country, it would actually be the third-highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world."
Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.
Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.