Turning waste into water in the City of Melbourne

More than 60 tonnes of waste have been diverted from landfill thanks to a machine installed by the City of Melbourne that turns food scraps into waste water.

Over the last year, the ORCA aerobic digestion system has used micro-organisms to transform 62 tonnes of food scraps from the busy Degraves street face precinct into greywater, making it one of the most heavily used machines of its type in Australia.

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ORCA Enviro Systems Executive General Manager Tas Papas said micro-organisms in the unit digest the 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,” Mr Papas said.

“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.

“Over the course of a year, that also means more than 8,000 litres in diesel fuel is saved because fewer trucks are needed on the road.”

Because space is a premium in the city centre, ORCA was chosen to handle the increased volume of food waste being generated from the busy café district.

“The ORCA has helped City of Melbourne to build strong support among local businesses for food recycling efforts and keep the bustling precinct clean and appealing,” Mr Papas said.

The machine was installed in the Degraves Street recycling Facility in May 2017. The ORCA is rolling out across Australia in pubs, shopping centres, food courts and hotels.

ECU to phase out single-use plastics

Edith Cowan University (ECU) will begin phasing out single-use plastic water bottles and straws across all of its campuses from the start of semester two.

It follows initiatives on the east coast from the Universities of Canberra, Melbourne, Sunshine Coast and Monash University.

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ECU said it believes it is the first Western Australian University to limit the use of plastic water bottles on campus.

The phase out will be done as part of a staged approach to restrict single-use plastic water bottles. Beginning with around 40 events it holds on its campuses, ECU will instead provide water refill stations.

The university is also investigating solutions including an increase to the number of water fountains on campus, offering free or discounted multi-use water bottles on campus and discussing with commercial tenants for alternatives to single-use bottles.

ECU Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman said it was a big step forward for the University.

“With around 30,000 students and 1800 staff, we can make a huge difference by taking this first step to limit single-use plastic water bottles at our campus events,” Professor Chapman said.

“It’s also financially responsible. More than 90 per cent of the cost of bottled water can be traced back to the bottle, lid and label.

“This is not a ban. This is about education and providing alternatives. By offering high quality, convenient options to students, staff and visitors, we are confident we can reduce the demand for single-use plastic water bottles on our campuses.

Veolia to deliver water treatment plant at Talison Lithium Mine, WA

Veolia Water Technologies has been selected to deliver a water treatment plant at the Talison Lithium Mine in WA.

The mine, located in Greenbushes, is the biggest hard rock lithium mine in the world. The Greenbushes Lithium Mine Water Treatment plant will be constructed utilising some of Veolia Water Technologies products.

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Veolia Water Technologies will provide a water treatment plant solution based on ACTIFLO clarification, CeraMem ultrafiltration, high recovery RO and two stage EVALED thermal evaporation.  The plant is designed to treat a maximum feed flow of 150 metres cubed and hour to recover the most water as possible.

It aims to double the output from the Greenbushes Operations and satisfy environmental requirements to reduce lithium contained in onsite mine water before it is discharged into environment.

Veolia Water Technologies specialises in water and wastewater treatment solutions to the private and public sector and design, build, operate and maintain wastewater treatment facilities.

Lithium from the mine is used in batteries, busses and passenger vehicles, aerospace allows, wind turbines, glass and ceramics.

Preliminary activities have commenced, and the construction of the water treatment plan is expected to be completed and operational in 2019.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch bigger than originally thought

Over 79 thousand tonnes of plastic is floating inside the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 16 times higher than originally estimated, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

The report examined a major ocean plastic accumulation zones between California and Hawaii called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Laurent Lebron and colleagues authored the study and found the amount of microplastics in the area were also rapidly accumulating, from 0.4 kilograms squared in the 1970s to 1.23 kilograms squared in 2015.

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According to the report, 99.9 per cent of all debris in this part of the ocean is made up of plastics. 46 per cent of this plastic is made up of fishing nets and three quarters of the debris was larger than 5 centimetres, including hard plastics and film.

Microplastics accounted for 8 per cent of the total mass of the plastics but made up 94 per cent of the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces floating in the area.

The researchers observed that common packaging plastics polyethylene and polypropylene were among some of the only types of debris thick enough to remain buoyant and remain in the zone.

While most of the larger items had broken down into fragments, researchers were able to identify containers, bottles, lids, packaging straps, and ropes. Some items in the test still had a readable production date, with one of the earliest being from 1977.

Aerial imaging and 652 net tows were used to capture the data. The differences between the estimates could be attributed to better technology allowing for a more accurate measurement, or an increasing level in ocean pollution in the areas following the 2011 Tohoku tsunami.

The report’s authors caution that more research is needed to quantify sources of ocean plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and to better assess how long plastics stay in the area.