The Federal Government has announced $4 million in seed funding to create a new independent entity that will be responsible for driving food waste reduction in Australia.
Yume, an online marketplace for high quality surplus food, has teamed up with SUEZ to offer food manufacturers an option to get a financial return on surplus products.
McCain Foods Australia announced it has commenced construction on Australia’s largest “behind-the-meter” renewable energy system that will dramatically reduce CO2 emissions by 27,100 tonnes per year.
The Federal Government is calling on small and medium businesses to develop innovative solutions for Australia’s environmental challenges, with $12 million in funding available through the Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII).
Jeff Goodwin of Wastech Engineering speaks with Waste Management Review about bolstering organics recovery with highly efficient equipment.
In its recently released Net Zero Plan Stage One: 2020-2030, the NSW Government outlines its plan to achieve net zero emissions from organic waste to landfill by 2030.
“Organic waste, such as food scraps and garden trimmings, makes up about 40 per cent of red-lidded kerbside bins. When sent to landfill, the decomposing material releases methane that may not be captured,” the plan reads.
“However, when this waste is managed effectively, through proper composting and recycling processes, methane emissions can be substantially reduced, soils can be regenerated to store carbon and biogas can be created to generate electricity.”
The plan follows similar initiatives in Victoria. With the state’s Recycling Victoria strategy targeting a 50 per cent reduction in organic material sent to landfill by 2030, with an interim target of 20 per cent by 2025.
Jeff Goodwin, Wastech Engineering’s National Product Manager Projects, is enthused by the announcements, highlighting Wastech’s long standing commitment to sustainable organics processing.
Food waste is a significant issue in Australia, Jeff explains, noting that a recent Rabobank Food Waste Report revealed that Australians wasted $10.1 billion in food waste in 2019.
“It’s heartening to see governments across the country committing to food waste reduction initiatives, which is something we at Wastech have been passionate about for a long time,” he says.
“Now is the time for waste companies and food waste generators to heed the call and start investing in efficient and high capacity food waste processing solutions.”
With a 99 per cent recovery rate for both dry and liquid products, Jeff says Wastech’s ATRITOR Turbo Separator is one such solution.
Available exclusively through Wastech, the Turbo Separator range comprises four models, making it suitable for a wide range of de-packaging applications including separating organics from food waste packaging and paper from gypsum.
“The Turbo Separator combines centrifugal forces, self-generated airflow and mechanical processes to remove organic material from packaging – allowing the recovered material to be recycled,” Jeff says.
“The machine can recover anything from bread loafs in plastic wrap, beans in tins cans, milk in cartons and even pet food in plastic pouches. The only material it can’t process is glass, given its sharding effect.”
Several Turbo Separator installations have been purchased recently by recycling companies across Australia, Jeff says.
“When people are eating at a food court it’s common to throw everything into one bin, creating a mix of food and packaging waste that has been traditionally difficult to recover,” he says.
“Using the Turbo Separator however, operators can take a garbage bag containing food waste and packaging, tie up the garbage bag and run it through the machine.
“This allows shopping centres, which produce high levels of food waste, to recover that material and divert it from the general disposal stream.”
However, these bags often contain contamination such as glass bottles, so Jeff says it’s prudent to consider an inspection station prior to the Turbo Separator to remove unwanted materials first.
He adds that as a rule of thumb, for every kilogram of food waste, 10 per cent is packaging.
“When you remove packaging from the organic material, you’re able to recover 90 per cent of each kilogram of food waste, which then saves that material from entering landfill.”
The Turbo Separator includes a variable-speed shaft fitted with paddles, which rotates above a number of screens. The shaft, Jeff says, typically runs between 100 and 1000 rotations per minute, generating air flow as well as centrifugal and mechanical forces.
“Packaged material is fed by an infeed conveyor into the separation chamber, where rotating paddles open up the packaging,” he says.
“The force of the paddles then creates a squeezing effect, which separates packaging from its contents and allows the packaging to retain its integrity.”
This, Jeff says, is an added benefit, with the Turbo Separator’s squeezing as opposed to shredding process producing organic material free of shredded packaging residue.
Depending on material type, the recovered organics can be used for animal feed, nutrient-rich compost or anaerobic digestion.
Jeff explains that the separator is also well suited to product destruction, such as water or soda from half drunken bottles. It can also be used at a commercial level to recover beverages that are past their sell by date or have been damaged or incorrectly packaged.
“For operators dealing with wet material, Wastech can fit the Turbo Separator with a pump that removes liquids from the recovered organic throughput,” he says.
The design of the machine is extremely flexible, for instance, if an operator is only dealing with dry material, the pump isn’t required. Or, if they are working in a confined space, the separator can be re-configured into a different arrangement.”
According to Jeff, Wastech is ready to assist as Australia continues the fight against food waste.
“Wastech has been working in this space for years and we’re in it for the long haul. We believe a future free from food waste is possible and are excited to work with waste companies and food generators to achieve it,” he says.
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Coles has taken a step toward being Australia’s most sustainable supermarket, due to its commitments to continue reducing packaging and food waste as well as greenhouse emissions.
On World Environment Day on June 5, the supermarket giant announced its been one year since it unveiled Coles is driving generational sustainability part of the Group’s transformation strategy.
To date, Coles customers and team members have recycled 997 million pieces of soft plastic through REDCycle and donated grocery essentials to the retail value of $7.9 million to vulnerable Australians during COVID-19.
Chief Property and Export Officer Thinus Keeve, who leads Coles’ sustainability strategy, said the Group’s efforts have been due to over 115,000 team members serving more than 20 million customers every week, who “have a material impact on our ability to implement sustainable practices in the communities in which we operate”.
“Whether it’s making a donation at the checkout to SecondBite or dropping off soft plastics at a Coles REDCycle bin, each one of our customers are helping achieve our mission to become the most sustainable supermarket in Australia,” Keeve said.
Over the past 12 months Coles has made further progress on its commitments to increase the proportion of energy it sources from renewables and implement more sustainable processes across its stores.
“By using energy more efficiently and investing in renewable energy projects, we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 35 per cent since 2009, including a six per cent reduction in the 2019 financial year alone,” Keeve said.
Coles has installed solar panels on 38 supermarkets since June 2019, increasing the total number of on-site solar electricity generation facilities to 68, while construction has also commenced on three new solar power plants based in regional New South Wales, from which Coles will purchase the equivalent of 10 per cent of its national electricity consumption.
In the past two months Coles has also opened two of its most sustainable supermarkets with Coles Local in Melbourne’s Hawthorn and Sydney’s Rose Bay.
Coles said that these stores feature team member uniforms made from 65 per cent recycled bottles, trolleys made partly from recycled plastic and free reclaimed customer carry boxes as an alternative to bags.
Coles stated it plans to roll these sustainability initiatives to more of its stores over the coming months.
A new government and industry-sponsored study has revealed that food waste attributable to failures in the cold food chain costs the Australian economy nearly $4 billion at farm gate values.
The study was carried out by the Melbourne-based Expert Group for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and Refrigerants Australia.
Australian Food Cold Chain Council (AFCCC) Chairman Mark Mitchell said the study highlighted the “shocking abuse” of temperature control and food handling processes in refrigerated transports, loading docks and cold rooms across Australia.
‘It is almost criminal that one quarter of Australia’s production of fruit and vegetables are never eaten,’ he said.
‘This loss alone accounts for almost two million tonnes of otherwise edible food, worth $3 billion. Meat and seafood waste in the cold chain costs the country another $90 million and dairy losses total $70 million.”
According to Mitchell, while the Federal Government has committed to reducing food waste by half by 2030, the goal wont be achieved unless substantial improvements are made to the way chilled food makes its way from farm or production facility to the consumer.
“We need to work cooperatively across industry and government to improve cold chain efficiency,” he said.
“Most of the cold food chain’s problems are human-induced. Technologies and processes already exist that would dramatically cut food losses, but nothing can be achieved while food manufacturers and distribution channels operate in isolation and secrecy.”
To minimise food waste, the study recommends handling processes such as reducing the time food spends outside refrigerated environments during transfer, more accurate measurement of food temperatures and more transparent monitoring of food in transit.
“An Australian Cold Food Code could be a game-changer for food producers and consumers,” Mitchell added.
“It is all very well to implore cold storage facilities, trucking companies and supermarkets to redouble their efforts to reduce food waste, but they need the support and guidance of an updated and practical code, combined with an education campaign for cold chain practitioners.”
The South Australian Government has approved $1.7 million in funding for projects designed to reduce household waste sent to landfill.
Environment Minister David Speirs said the funding, delivered through Green Industries SA, will assist councils upgrade and modernise waste collection and recycling services and increase kerbside diversion rates through innovation and improved efficiencies.
“Twenty-two regional councils will also benefit from transport subsidies, which will support councils’ continued recycling efforts by offsetting some of the extra costs associated with processing and transporting collected recyclables,” Mr Speirs said.
Councils awarded under the Regional Transport Subsidies Program include the City of Mount Gambier, Berri Barmera Council, City of Port Lincoln and the Fleurieu Regional Waste Authority, which represents Alexandrina, Victor Harbor, Yankalilla and Kangaroo Island councils.
According to Mr Speirs, funding is allocated under three programs – one to reduce food waste sent to landfill, another to help councils modernise their collection systems and the other for regional council transport subsidies.
“Improved waste management is not only good for the environment, but it contributes to South Australia’s economic growth by creating jobs and developing new business opportunities to recycle and reuse our resources right here in South Australia,” he said.
The largest area for improvement in council kerbside systems is food waste, Mr Speirs said, which makes up approximately 40 per cent of the weight of household residual waste bins sent to landfill.
“By supporting councils to improve their collection of food waste we can lower waste management costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a valuable resource like compost,” he said.
“I congratulate the seven councils awarded funding under the Kerbside Performance Plus (Food Organics) Incentives Program for their commitment towards implementing systems which assist with the diversion of food waste from landfill.”
Under the program, councils receive a subsidy for the cost of bench-top containers, compostable bags and production of householder education material.
Awarded councils include the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, which received $106,765 to reinvigorate an area-wide system for 20,900 households, and the City of Tea Tree Gully, which received $73,588 to improve its opt-in service for 8000 households.
Twelve local government organisations have also received funding to help modernise their collection services to increase landfill diversion, decrease contamination levels and improve data collection.
“Congratulations to the 12 local government organisations who are willing to push the envelope with investment in alternative delivery models and technologies such as smart bins to improve operational efficiencies,” Mr Speirs said.
Local government organisations awarded under the Council Modernisation Program include East Waste, which received $90,000 for Fight Food waste CRC audits and research, and Holdfast Bay, which received $97,900 for a weekly food and green organics collection pilot.
Disposing food waste at the source prevents on-site decomposition, reducing odour and the presence of pests like flies, rodents and cockroaches. This is the idea behind the ORCA, which mimics the natural digestion process using microorganisms to transform food waste into an environmentally safe liquid.
iugis, an internationally managed service technology company, introduced the technology to the Australian market over two years ago, after six-years of operations in Canada and the United States.
The ORCA aerobic digestion process uses natural microbes, which are automatically sprayed into the unit, oxygen and naturally occurring heat to digest food waste down to a liquid. Once the material reaches liquid form, the ORCA passes it through an in-built filter and discharges it from the unit.
Additionally, the metabolisation and digestion rate is accelerated by continuous feeding, meaning operators don’t have to wait until the end of a cycle and material can be fed into the machine 24 hours a day.
Unlike traditional dehydration systems, the ORCA uses minimal energy, needing just single-phase power to operate. The ORCA is available in four sizes ranging from seven to 45-kilogram processing capacity per hour.
In addition to landfill diversion and reduced energy use, the ORCA allows businesses to diminish emissions through a reduced reliance on kerbside waste collections.
Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) has released its Roadmap for Reducing Australia’s Food Waste by Half by 2030, as required under the 2017 National Food Waste Strategy.
Each year, over seven million tonnes of food is wasted in Australia, costing the economy an estimated $20 billion, according to the roadmap.
The National Food Waste Strategy seeks to half this tonnage by 2030, with FIAL engaged by the Federal Government to work with stakeholders across the food value chain to identify appropriate actions.
According to FIAL Chair Michele Allan, the roadmap provides a clear path forward, documenting the steps and initiatives required to tackle Australia’s food waste.
“While work is already underway in many sectors, there are opportunities to improve coordination through robust governance, reporting against a balanced scorecard and better understanding the overall feasibility of achieving a 50 per cent reduction by 2030,” Dr Allan said.
Strategies include a Voluntary Commitment Program, which the roadmap highlights as a “powerful vehicle for reducing food waste across the supply chain.”
“An effective Voluntary Commitment Program that has been implemented internationally has been found to reduce food waste by up to 28 per cent. FIAL is currently developing a Voluntary Commitment Program for Australia,” Dr Allan said.
The program will look at ways to find innovative uses for waste and surplus food, embed new criteria into design, buying and sourcing and change commercial supply practices.
Further actions include scaling-up food rescue and relief, launching an ongoing national behaviour change program and mainstreaming Fight Food Waste CRC research findings.
Additionally, a number of targeted sector action plans have been drafted, with more scheduled in 2020.
“These plans take a ‘whole-of-sector’ systems perspective to identify opportunities and target interventions that maximise food recovery, reduce waste and create multiple benefits,” Dr Allan said.
“Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste and now is the time to take action. We hope you will join us on the path to halving food waste by 2030.”