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Auckland Council awards food scraps processing contract to EcoGas

In New Zealand, Auckland Council has announced that it has awarded a 20-year contract to process food scraps that will be collected kerbside across urban Auckland to biogas plant developer and operator EcoGas LP. According to Auckland Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee Chair Richard Hills, this is a “major step forward to bringing daily solutions to the climate emergency to every Auckland home by diverting waste from landfill and putting it to use for our planet.”

Auckland Council has awarded a 20-year contract to process food scraps that will be collected kerbside across
urban Auckland to biogas plant developer and operator EcoGas LP (graphic courtesy Auckland Council).

Food scraps currently make up close to half the weight of the average Auckland household’s waste bin. When the food scraps kerbside collection rolls out in 2021, it will shrink the 100 000 tonnes of domestic food scraps that are currently sent to landfill each year from Auckland.

Processing food scraps instead of sending them to landfill will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. While many believe that since food decomposes in a landfill, it is okay to dispose of, landfills are designed to store waste, not to break it down.

Proven technology

Instead, food and other organic waste can be utilised to provide energy as well as biofertilizer to grow more food sustainably. Food scraps in Auckland will use anaerobic digestion (AD), a proven technology worldwide, to naturally enrich the soil and heat greenhouses to grow food year-round.

A joint venture established by Pioneer Energy Ltd and EcoStock Supplies Ltd, EcoGas is developing a biogas plant in Reporoa, central North Island. EcoGas’s processing methods follow successful models used throughout Europe and the United States (US).

Andrew Fisher, EcoGas Director, and Development Manager sees the potential for the food repurposing industry to revolutionize the way New Zealanders deal with waste across the country.

The technology is already developed across much of the world. We are honoured to be trusted with bringing it to New Zealand. Together, we will turn your leftovers into food and fuel using this carbon-neutral circular economy solution, said Andrew Fisher.

Auckland Council and EcoGas have agreed on a high resilience design package that ensures food scraps are fully decontaminated, free of plastics, and processed in a world-class facility that will meet internationally proven end-to-end processing standards.

Globally, there are over 2 000 existing facilities of this nature, supporting the infrastructure and environmental needs of our modern urban lifestyles. We are pleased to be trusted with bringing it to New Zealand. Together, we will be adding another resource recovery facility ‘at scale,’ joining an existing global community of like-minded, practical, and future-focused custodians, said Andrew Fisher.

Weekly collection service from late 2021

The contract tendering process saw a good number of responses covering a wide range of technologies.

It was encouraging that the project attracted high-quality submissions, and the method chosen will complement the exciting commercial and home composting initiatives currently supported by the Council to keep food out of landfill. We know that a number of Aucklanders compost their food scraps at home, but our research shows that the majority of households don’t. Aucklanders can put items in their food scraps bin that are difficult to compost at home such as large quantities of meat and bones, said Parul Sood, General Manager of Waste Solutions.

A weekly food scrap collection service for urban Auckland is expected to be rolled out from October 2021 and will continue in the areas that already have this service in place.

Getting to zero waste

Reducing the amount of organic material going to landfill can bring a significant reduction in household waste – by up to 35 kg per person, contributing to Auckland’s Zero Waste by 2040 goal. Auckland Council’s four-tiered approach to managing food scraps is based on the waste hierarchy principles of Reduce, Rescue, Reuse, and Recover.

This new service will help build our resiliency to the climate crisis we are in and allow more Aucklanders to access a solution to reducing their waste. We encourage people to join one of our composting workshops now, or look at one of the many clever strategies Aucklanders are already doing to create a sustainable future for us all to thrive, said Auckland Council Environment and Climate Change Committee Chair Richard Hills.

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