First large-scale food waste-to-bioenergy facility construction begins

6:11 pm on 4 August 2020

Construction is beginning on New Zealand's first large-scale food waste-to-bioenergy facility at Reporoa, in the central North Island.

Man emptying a container full of domestic food waste, ready to be composted.

Photo: 123RF / Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

Following the blessing of the land by Ngāti Tahu-Ngati Whaoa, construction will begin on the new anaerobic digestion facility which is owned by Ecogas - a joint venture between Pioneer Energy Ltd and Ecostock Supplies Ltd - on land owned by T&G Fresh, a New Zealand fresh produce business.

Ecogas director Andrew Fisher said the facility would help New Zealand deal with some of its 327,000 annual tonnes of food waste, which currently went into landfills around the country.

"By using world-leading, innovative technology, our anaerobic digestion facility will not only help address New Zealand's food waste challenge, it will help power up the local community, local glasshouses, enrich local farmland, and create jobs and growth for the region," he said.

Co-funded by Ecogas and a 2019 $7 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund, this $30 million state-of-the-art facility will provide an infrastructure boost to the local economy and generate close to 60 new jobs through the construction process.

The facility will be operational in 2022 and will recover 75,000 tonnes of organic waste from businesses and kerbside food scrap collections throughout the North Island and turn it into sustainable renewable clean energy.

Fisher said it would create enough energy to annually power up the equivalent of around 2500 households in the region, produce clean bio-fertiliser for approximately 2000 hectares of local farmland, and provide CO2 and heat to enhance the growth of tomatoes in T&G Fresh's local glasshouse.

"The outcome is a carbon-neutral, circular economy solution," he said.

"By revolutionising our reuse and recovery of this organic resource, each year the facility is expected to remove up to 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide - that's the equivalent of planting 218,400 trees every year. It's innovative solutions and real-world science like this, which we believe New Zealand needs to increasingly pilot and adopt, that will help us as a nation meet our zero-carbon targets."

Anaerobic digestion technology is well-proven overseas, with similar plant's operating in Europe and the United States, however, through this joint venture, it will be the first commercial-scale facility in New Zealand.

Auckland Council Waste Solutions general manager Parul Sood said food waste was a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Almost half the weight of a kerbside rubbish bin is actually food scraps. Rather than throwing them away, we can be turning them into more food and renewing the land.

"This sustainable solution brings a practical approach to addressing the climate emergency we are in. Auckland has a goal of getting to zero waste by 2040, and this project will help us get there."

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