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Melbourne Water trials co-digestion to move towards zero emissions

Melbourne Water is trialling co-digestion of organic wastes at its Western Treatment Plant in the hopes of boosting environmental sustainability and generating revenue.

The 18-month trial is part of an investigation into the feasibility of implementing large scale co-digestion at the facility, which treats more than half of Melbourne’s sewage.

Melbourne Water’s Manager for Treatment and Resources Jenelle Watson said the trial was a great example of the business's drive for innovation in resource recovery.

“The co-digestion trial is the first step for Melbourne Water in providing a sustainable outlet for high-strength organic wastes from the food industry,” Watson said.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with our customers to create a new service offering that will benefit the environment.

“This initiative also has the potential to become a revenue generator for Melbourne Water, with profits going back into reducing costs for our customers.”

The Western Treatment Plant already generates enough biogas to meet nearly all of its on-site electricity needs; sometimes there is even enough surplus to export electricity to the grid.

But increasing biogas production via co-digestion would have a number of additional benefits.

According to a statement, the organisation listed those benefits as: “an increase in renewable energy generated from biogas that can be used on site for treatment plant operations or exported to the grid; an alternative revenue source, the benefits of which will be passed onto customers; reduced waste to landfill; and reduced travelling distance for waste transporters.”

The results of the current trial, which will be completed in mid-2018, will inform the decision to implement a similar system at a large-scale facility.