Mechanical 'stomach' digests food waste in Melbourne

Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Mechanical 'stomach' digests food waste in Melbourne

Turning food scraps into wastewater has prevented more than 60 tonnes of garbage from going to landfill in the past year thanks to a machine installed by City of Melbourne.

The ORCA aerobic digestion system was installed in the Degraves Street Recycling Facility in May 2017. It transformed 62 tonnes of food scraps from the Degraves Street cafe precinct into greywater over the last year alone, making it one of the most heavily used machines of its type in operation in Australia.

The system uses microorganisms to digest waste, creating wastewater that goes straight into the sewer system via a grease arrestor.

“The ORCA is basically a mechanical ‘stomach’ that digests fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy and proteins, so you end up with greywater that is safe to put into the drain without resorting to landfill,” explained ORCA Enviro Systems Executive General Manager Tas Papas.

“Degraves Street cafes set aside food waste as part of their daily operations. By diverting the food waste from landfill, we are also able to prevent greenhouse gases from escaping into the environment.”

Decomposing food in landfills gives off harmful gases such as methane. The trucks used to transport this waste to landfill sites also contribute to more pollution which could be prevented.

“Over the course of a year, that also means more than 8000 litres in diesel fuel is saved because fewer trucks are needed on the road,” Papas said.

The Department of Environment and Energy states that 2.2 million tonnes of food is disposed of by the commercial and industrial sector. In a busy cafe district such as the one in Melbourne, space is a premium and the volume of food waste will only continue to rise.

ORCA can also help address the pest and odour problems associated with food waste storage. Papas said the system has helped build support for food recycling efforts and keep the precinct clean.

ORCA is rolling out across Australia in shopping centres, food courts, hotels and pubs.

Image credit: ©

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