Food, Fats and Grease to Power Homes at New Western Sydney Waste Hub

Nicholas Ropulo •
October 06, 2022

Food scraps, wastewater, fats, oils and grease from homes and businesses could be diverted from landfill and converted to renewable energy, with potential to generate enough energy to power 120,000 new homes.

The potential of the revolutionary Advanced Water Recycling Centre in the Western Parkland City was unveiled today at a forum hosted by the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue, Unlocking the value of food waste in Western Sydney.

The forum heard economic modelling commissioned by Sydney Water and Circular Australia and completed by the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures showed the process known as co-digestion could divert up to 30,000 tonnes of organic waste from landfill each year by 2030.

Roch Cheroux, Managing Director of Sydney Water, said the Upper South Creek Advanced Water Recycling Centre is the organisation’s largest investment in water resilience in a decade and will use industry-leading water and resource recycling technology to harness renewable energy, making it one of the greenest infrastructure investments in NSW.

“Every $1 million spent turning food waste into energy generates $2.67 million worth of value,” Mr Cheroux said.

“This has the potential to activate a circular economy ecosystem in the Western Parkland City, acting as a hub and catalyst for circular management of water, energy and other resources.

“We can generate enough renewable electricity through biogas power to reduce annual emissions by 70,000 tonnes, as well as promote skills and create jobs in the state’s largest growth area.”

The Centre will be operational by 2026 and will have the potential to convert waste into energy using a mix of existing and innovative technologies.

The AWRC presents an opportunity to generate new renewable energy sources including electricity to send back to the grid, and gas and fuel to support the green energy needs of industry and other sectors across Greater Sydney.

The event brought together leaders from business, industry, utilities, academia and research to discuss the development, economic growth and sustainability of Western Sydney.

Adam Leto, Executive Director of the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue, said the plant model would deliver benefits beyond Western Sydney.

“The opportunities to drive innovation, fuel new industries and deliver sustainable environmental and economic outcomes aren’t exclusive to Western Sydney,” Mr Leto said.

“But if we get it right here, the impact can be as profound as anywhere in the world.”

Lisa McLean, Managing Director of Circular Australia, said the circular economy model was critical for Western Sydney’s future economic sustainability.

“What we’ve seen over the past five years in this region is a consistent pattern of volatile weather, an increasing prevalence of natural disasters, rising temperatures and rising cost-of-living expenses,” Ms McLean said.

“The fact is, a transition to a circular economy is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must have.

“The successful transition to a circular economy requires the integration of water, energy, productive industry and waste management – to go beyond traditional silos to develop innovative partnerships that will keep resources in the economy while designing out waste.

“This project will be part of a circular economy wave that can become a trillion-dollar industry for Australia.”

More than 80 per cent of Australia’s food waste is currently disposed of in landfill, where it decomposes to form methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Dr Melita Jazbec, Senior Researcher at the UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures, said their report, Unlocking the value of organic waste: co-digestion in the Western Parkland City, revealed the benefits for jobs, emissions, and the wider economy.

“Investment in circular and resilient water management systems will yield social, economic and environmental rewards for all,” Ms Jazbec said.

Part of the Advanced Water Recycling Centre at Kemps Creek will treat wastewater from homes and businesses, producing recycled water for a range of residential, agricultural and industrial uses.

It may also be used to process other organic waste – such as food waste, fats, oils and grease – to bolster the creation useful biogases and biosolids.

Co-digestion is considered one of the most sustainable methods for treating organic waste streams. The safe collection and disposal of fats, oils and grease will prevent the formation of fatbergs in the sewage system and eliminate problems caused by these blockages.

The conference heard that there is the potential to produce biosolids with a value of up to $2.8 million annually at Upper South Creek. More than $20 billion of investment is already committed to the region, creating 200,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.

The project is currently in procurement phase, with plans to award the construction contract for stage one in the coming months and completed in 2025 in time for the opening of the Western Sydney International Airport. Unlocking the value of food waste report is available on the Sydney Water Website.

For media information please contact Belinda Wallis – Media & Communications Manager Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue 0466 386 88