The mechanical stomach: iugis

Tas Papas, iugis Enterprise Sales Director, speaks with Waste Management Review about working with Veolia to promote on-site recycling and the aerobic digestion process.

While waste occurs throughout the food supply chain, roughly two-thirds of Australia’s food waste is generated in consumer-facing businesses or in the home.

To minimise its contribution to the overall footprint, the City of Melbourne, one of the most populous juristications in the state, installed an ORCA aerobic digestion system at its Degraves Street Precinct in 2017.

Diverting more than 60 tonnes of waste in its first year, the machine uses natural microorganisms to convert food into wastewater, which is then sent directly into the sewer system.

According to Tas Papas, iugis Enterprise Sales Director, iugis introduced ORCA technology to Australia two years ago, after a six-year run in Canada and the United States.

Tas says iugis, an internationally managed service technology company, is committed to changing the way businesses deal with their food waste. He adds that as part of this commitment, iugis has developed a collaborative partnership with Australian waste management provider Veolia.

“We saw Veolia as a business that continues to look for waste technologies beyond landfill, and in the last 12 months, they have been offering our ORCA food waste digester as one of their organics solutions,” Tas says.

“Veolia suggest the ORCA to customers looking for an economically viable way to divert food waste, and while the national partnership is still in its infancy, the future looks very promising.”

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.

Tas says once the material reaches liquid form, the ORCA passes it through an in-built filter and discharges it from the unit.

“One of the great advantages of the ORCA, which we refer to as the mechanical stomach, is that the metabolisation and digestion rate is accelerated by continuous feeding,” Tas explains.

“Operators don’t have to wait until the end of a cycle as material can be fed into the machine 24 hours a day – it loves a continuous feed.”

Accoring to a 2019 Blue Environment Report prepared for Veolia, the ORCA produces a 100 per cent diversion from landfill rate. This rate, Tas says, enables iugis to register under the Emissions Reduction Fund.

Through reduction credits, the Emissions Reduction Fund aims to incentivise individuals and organisations to adopt new practices and technologies to reduce emissions. These credits, Tas says, add a layer of economic incentive to ORCA installation.

Another economic benefit, Tas says, is that compared to standard dehydration systems, the ORCA uses minimal energy.

“To dehydrate food, a significant amount of heat needs to be added, which typically comes from a pump that requires three-phase power,” he says.

“The ORCA on the other hand, only uses single phase power, so a standard 10-amp power point is all that’s required. Operationally, it’s very cheap to run.”

In addition to landfill diversion and less energy use, Tas says the ORCA allows businesses to reduce emissions through a reduced reliance on kerbside waste collection.

“Recycling at the source also means businesses can assist in getting waste trucks off the road, which is a key focus for us.”

Tas says processing 25 tonnes of food waste in the ORCA is the equivalent to reducing the emissions of a diesel truck travelling 21,000 kilometres. He adds that recycling waste at the source also eliminates extra costs associated with bin collection.   

To further minimise the strain of financial output, Tas says iugis put all machines to market as a managed service.

“Investing in new technology can be prohibitive to smaller buisnesses, so we allow users to pay a monthly fee as part of a fully managed service,” he says.

“iugis manages all the consumables including the microorganisms, and offers ongoing preventative maintenance.”

He adds iugis offers a range of ORCAs to suit all size and tonnage needs.

“Our new baby ORCA, which can process 120 kilos of food waste each day, is the perfect solution for smaller businesses such as restaurants, cafés and pubs,” Tas says.

For larger businesses such as hotels and shopping centres, Tas says iugis offers digesters capable of processing up to a tonne of food waste each day.

“The more exposure on-site recycling solutions get, the wider the uptake will be,” he says.

“iugis, which is Latin for perpetuity, is continuously looking to develop technology that increases digestion rates and inspires more on-site recycling.”

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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.