Unlocking the value in food organics

Unlocking the value in food organics

Food waste, as well as its treatment and disposal, is becoming more topical across the Australian political and public landscape. The Rabobank 2019 Food waste report identified that food waste costs Australians $10bn annually. Of course, the approach to tackling the problem is to avoid the generation of organic waste in the first place, but once it’s generated, education and suitable food waste treatment are key. With the right technology and capability, organic waste can provide numerous circular economy and climate resilient outcomes.

Australia is slowly seeing stronger policies coming into place to increase the amount of organic waste going into landfill. As an example, Victoria’s recently released ‘Recycling Victoria’ strategy included a $129m package for kerbside waste collection reform, with a target for 100% of households having access to a separate food and organics recovery service or composting by 2030, as well as halving the volume of organic material going to landfill by 50% between 2020 and 2030.

As a leading environmental solutions organisation, Veolia Australia and New Zealand welcomes this trend. “Organics recovery is firmly part of our business strategy to ‘Resource the World’. For Veolia, it is not only about landfill diversion, but importantly, it’s also about improving soil health, which is extremely relevant in our Australian context,” said Laurie Kozlovic, Chief Innovation and Strategic Development Officer, Veolia ANZ. Carbon storage in soil offers a host of ecological benefits such as release of nutrients, water retention, and absorption of organic and/or inorganic pollutants. Its sequestration also supports other ecosystem services derived from soils, such as farming production, drinking water supply and biodiversity, by increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil and thus improving its quality.

In Australia, Veolia operates a comprehensive range of technologies including a number of in-vessel composting facilities as well as an anaerobic digestion facility that produces both electricity and fertiliser. Veolia’s compost products are beneficially re-used in a number of urban amenity, agriculture, rehabilitation and environmental remediation applications across the country. Additionally, Veolia collects organic waste from its broad customer base that includes councils and commercial and industrial businesses. This experience also extends to its water business where organics such as biosolids are managed and beneficially re-used.

“Removing organics from landfill crucially reduces carbon emissions, but equally important is the role that compost plays in providing food security, improving soil carbon and crop productivity, and reducing the effects of drought. Organic waste recycling is a great example of how we can value the inherent properties of waste and keep the materials circulating through the economy.” Additionally, Kozlovic said that identifying the waste streams for recovery early on enables the right infrastructure to be developed to provide an integrated and holistic solution, which is crucial for any ambition towards zero waste.

With organics recycling rates being around 52%1 in Australia, there is ample opportunity for improvement and innovation. “The best outcomes are when customers take ownership of their wastes from a process and recovery point of view. It then becomes a prime partnership for finding optimal solutions together,” said Mark Taylor, Head of Solid Waste Treatment, Veolia ANZ.

Veolia’s innovations include the Soil Advisor, an app that has been in development internationally for a number of years through Veolia’s agronomic hub, to provide farmers with a tool to optimise compost application, by analysing the long-term effect of the compost and its impact on changes to soil organic matter and soil carbon storage. This digital tool supports the international “4 per 1000, Soils for Food Security and Climate” initiative that was launched during COP21 in late 2015. The idea being that a 4% annual increase in the amount of carbon in all soils worldwide would compensate for all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

Another example is a mobile, onsite organic digester solution, Iugis, suitable for customers in a range of market sectors. The Iugis technology mimics a natural digestion process, biologically converting organic food waste into liquid tradewaste. Used in a range of operations needing to manage and dispose of organic food waste, this device supports landfill diversion as well as an onsite solution for customers that may be in remote or rural areas, or some distance away from a dedicated composting facility.

As with all waste issues, a systematic and comprehensive approach is needed to deliver meaningful outcomes. Veolia is ready to work further with governments, businesses and communities to convert the various organics policy ambitions, as well as their customer objectives, into practical and relevant solutions. However, Veolia said it needs all stakeholders to work together to create the framework and conditions necessary for the actions to be successful, “Veolia will invest; however, we need stable and reasonable policy, regulatory and contractual conditions. In doing so it will enable long-term and sustainable investments which are value creating for all partners,” said Head of Solid Waste Treatment Mark Taylor.

For more information visit veolia.com/anz.

1 National Waste Report 2018

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/JeanLuc

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