Saturday, May 25, 2024

Councils ink waste deal with renewable organics network

Four local Victorian councils are joining forces with Barwon Water to transform organic waste into high value products for agriculture and generate renewable energy in a big step forward for the circular economy in Victoria.

Barwon Water has signed waste supply agreements with the Borough of Queenscliffe, City of Greater Geelong, Golden Plains Shire, and Surf Coast Shire to take organic waste from kerbside collection and process it at the Regional Renewable Organics Network (RRON) when it is built at its Black Rock water reclamation plant in Connewarre.

The project has received support from the Victorian Government with funding for the business case and leverages Barwon Water’s expertise and infrastructure as a manager of organic waste from wastewater, including biosolids.

The project proposes the construction of a state-of-the-art and sustainable organics processing facility to be operational by mid-2025.

The facility will operate under similar principles to the Colac Renewable Organics Network at Barwon Water’s Colac water reclamation plant.

Barwon Water Chair, Jo Plummer said the Regional RON would deliver significant environmental, economic and community benefits for the region.

“The Regional RON is a key part of our response to the challenges of climate change and population growth. It has been enabled by new technology and a commitment to playing a leading role in the circular economy,” she said.

“The project will convert 40,000 tonnes of organic waste each year into 8,000 tonnes of high-value soil enhancers, including biochar, to support local agriculture.

“Biochar has amazing properties that helps lock carbon into soils while helping them retain moisture, which will help make our regional farm soils more climate resilient.”

Ms Plummer said that as well as creating biochar, the processing of the waste would generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of 500 homes and reduce the region’s greenhouse gas emissions by between 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes.

“It also provides a local, long-term waste solution for councils and their ratepayers with lower financial and environmental costs; and it reduces Barwon Water’s energy costs by helping to power the Black Rock water reclamation plant through the production of renewable energy, keeping our customer bills affordable.”

Victorian Minister for Water, Harriet Shing said the Regional Renewable Organics Network would help the water sector lead the way in the circular economy and tackling climate change.

“Projects like this play an important role in Victoria’s circular economy aims and target of zero emissions, as well as lowering Barwon Water’s production costs, which will help keep water bills down for their customers.”

Ms Plummer said Barwon Water was delighted to be collaborating with local governments on the unique and exciting project.

“The Regional RON will lead the way in our region’s transition to a circular economy, in which materials are continually reused and recycled to increase their lifespan, add value and reduce waste.

“Another great positive from the project is how it provides an innovative local solution for kerbside organics recycling, meaning it will be processed in our region rather than needing to be taken long distances for processing, saving carbon emissions and costs in transport.

“By working together we can reduce waste, reduce energy costs, create jobs and help our region prosper.”

City of Greater Geelong Councillor, Belinda Moloney, chair of the Circular Economy portfolio, said the sustainable organics processing facility would help the city meet its aim of rolling out a region-wide food waste collection service.

“At the moment there is no local facility capable of processing enough food waste for us to introduce this service across our entire community. This project will fill that gap, allowing us to remove and recycle around a third of waste from household red bins,” she said.

Surf Coast Shire Mayor, Libby Stapleton said the Shire was excited to be part of the Regional RON.

“The Regional RON project is one of a number of ways we are looking to reduce our carbon footprint, and comes after a recent achievement of being carbon neutral-certified for our corporate operations,” the Mayor said.

“We hope our leadership in this area inspires organisations and individuals across the shire and the region to switch to renewables and seek sustainable alternatives.”

Golden Plains Shire Mayor, Gavin Gamble the project was a great initiative for long-term solutions for waste management and Golden Plains Shire Council was pleased to partner with the other councils and Barwon Water to develop the innovative project.

“For growing councils like Golden Plains Shire, waste management is an expensive and challenging issue. This is a great example of a regional solution for innovative and sustainable waste management, allowing our Council to introduce an organic waste service.”

Queenscliffe Mayor, Ross Ebbels said the project’s environmental benefits were important to the Council, which is rolling out its climate emergency response plan in a bid to make the community carbon-neutral by 2031.

“Processing our organic waste locally to create high-value products for agriculture and renewable energy is exactly the kind of innovative thinking we need in the fight against climate change,” he said.

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