ACOR investigates organic waste to clean energy

Monday, 19 April, 2021

ACOR investigates organic waste to clean energy

A discussion paper has been released by the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), investigating the potential to turn Australia’s waste into clean energy.

Representing the $15 billion resource recovery industry, ACOR commissioned the discussion paper on the evolving relationship between clean energy and waste-reduction policies increasingly being implemented by Australian governments.

According to the paper, clean energy can be derived from organic wastes, such as food waste, biosolids, green waste, and paper and cardboard via:

  • pre-waste collection and industrial composting of organic wastes to produce biomethane and soil improvers;
  • management of landfills to harvest a proportion of the methane from the decomposition of organic wastes disposed there; and
  • combustion of remnant organic and other materials left in the post-recovery waste stream to create dispatchable, low-emissions electricity, which can provide valuable supporting services for high intermittent renewables electricity systems.

Governments across Australia are looking for more ways to implement a circular economy — turning our harder-to-recycle waste into clean energy could have a big environmental impact. Pursuing a waste-to-clean-energy policy could have the dual benefit of helping with the de-carbonisation of the electricity system while reducing the amount of waste going to landfills, which are a source of methane, one of the most destructive of all greenhouse gases.

“The energy that could be used from these waste streams may be useful as a source of zero-emissions fuels, low-emissions electricity and as an important complement to running high renewable generation in the electricity grid,” ACOR Interim CEO Cameron O’Reilly said.

“Increased waste-to-clean-energy capabilities could also have the added benefit of offsetting the waste levies imposed by some states. As the economics of recycling and resource-recovery facilities are underpinned by avoided landfill levies rather than wholesale energy prices, they can be viable through periods of low or negative wholesale prices unlike some other forms of clean energy generation.

“The report reinforces that energy from waste, selectively applied in a way that does not draw material from the waste stream that has other uses, has a role to play in a de-carbonised and circular Australian economy,” O’Reilly said.

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