Breaking new ground on zero waste

Construction begins on the facility for Auckland’s food scraps

Publish Date : 04 Aug 2020
Breaking new ground on zero waste

New Zealand’s first large-scale anaerobic digestion facility began construction today in Reporoa with a blessing of the land by Ngati Tahu-Ngati Whaoa.

Anaerobic digestion technology is well-proven overseas as the premier method of turning food waste into clean energy and fertiliser, with similar plants operating in Europe, Australia, and the United States.

Processing our food scraps instead of sending them to landfill reduces the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Councillor Richard Hills says, “It is surprising to find out that when food waste goes into landfill it is unable to break down properly and releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, into the air.

“Food waste makes up around half the weight of an average household’s rubbish collection so processing it into clean energy and fertiliser will reduce our reliance on landfills, while also dramatically lowering our greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of sending our food scraps to the dump we can harness their potential to enrich the land and help grow more food.

"Circular economy solutions like this help us respond to the climate crisis and make it easier for people to do their part.”

Ecogas was recently awarded Auckland Council’s 20-year kerbside food scrap processing contract, which is expected to supply some of the initial food waste to the Reporoa facility, using construction trucks that would otherwise be returning to the region empty after dropping off construction aggregate to Auckland from local quarries. Ecogas has also acquired a site to build an anaerobic digestion facility in Auckland as demand grows.

Mayor Phil Goff says, “Around half of all domestic waste produced in Auckland comes from food scraps, with around 90,000 tonnes going to landfill annually. When it breaks down, it releases harmful methane into the atmosphere and contributes to global heating.

“Through this project, not only will we massively reduce the volume of food scraps entering the waste stream, we’ll also be diverting food waste for productive uses, creating things like fertiliser and clean fuels, and supporting employment in related industries.

“To meet the challenges of climate change, our communities, businesses, and local and central government must work together. This innovation is one practical solution that will help us on the pathway to zero waste by 2040.”

Ecogas Director, Andrew Fisher says this world-class facility will help New Zealand deal with some of its 327,000 annual tonnes of food waste, which is currently lost to landfills around the country.

“Our anaerobic digestion facility will not only help address New Zealand’s food waste challenge, it’ll help power up the local community, local glasshouses, enrich local farmland, and create jobs and growth for the region.

“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. Innovative solutions and real-world science like this will help us as a nation meet our zero-carbon targets,” says Mr. Fisher.

This anaerobic digestion facility is owned by Ecogas – a joint venture between Pioneer Energy Ltd and Ecostock Supplies Ltd – on land owned by T&G Fresh, one of New Zealand’s largest fresh produce businesses. Co-funded by Ecogas and a $7 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund, this $30 million state-of-the-art facility will provide a welcome infrastructure boost to the local economy and generate close to 60 new jobs through the construction process.

The rollout of the regional kerbside food scraps collection across urban Auckland has been impacted by supply chain difficulties due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, the delay is projected to be at least 12 months, but no one can predict the global situation, and everyone is working to stay as close to the original rollout date as possible. Suppliers of some of the machinery are based in Germany and experts from Australia will also be involved in the hands-on building process.

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