29 Apr 2018

Can food waste and poo power help NZ reach its low emission goal?

6:28 am on 29 April 2018

Our agriculture waste should be used, rather than discarded to power this country to lower emissions, says one New Zealand company.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The Productivity Commission released a draft report yesterday on what New Zealand has to do to become a low-emissions economy.

They are seeking feedback until June, but one company is saying anaerobic digestion at wastewater treatment or food processing plants is a proven cost-effective approach to reduce emissions.

Its a process in which micro-organisms break down organic material.

BPO Limited chief executive Sally Rosenberg said it's a natural fermentation process.

"It breaks down organic compounds, be they fats, leafy material, whey from milk processing, even blood, anything that's organic and through that they separate the molecules to produce a bio gas, that can be fed into gas boilers or generators to generate electricity," she said.

She said the digestive (leftover material) can be reapplied to the land where animals graze or crops are harvested to put nutrients back into the soil.

Ms Rosenburg says there are few examples of this technology being used in New Zealand, but not on a wide scale.

"Its huge in Europe, most commercial farms have their own on site, its actually regulated and required in some places in Germany, but there are thousands of these installations around the world and very few in New Zealand," she said.

She said the technology is relatively low cost, but until now there hasn't been much of an incentive to make the switch - but things are changing.

"Now we've got Europe, and a growing middle-class and China saying we need to look at sustainability as one of the dimensions of whether we want to do business with New Zealand, and so the need to look at these technologies has become an economic and marketing need as well as an environmental need," she said.

She said there needs to be a joint effort by the free market, government and regulators.

"I really think there's an collaborative effort needed by leaders in industry who really want to keep that market position and not have to defend the pure New Zealand tag line we use."