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Weston Foods to use local waste to cut energy bills

Friday, 11 June 2021 9:27am

Anaerobic digestion of regional wastes will allow a food company to cut its use of fossil gas and grid electricity, and the community group behind the project will receive an annual dividend.

Dons Smallgoods, a subsidiary of George Weston Foods, will host the anaerobic digester at its factory in Castlemaine (Vic), which is the area's largest employer.

The company has also signed a term sheet that entitles it to the bioenergy produced by the digester, as well as committing it to supplying a specified quantity of waste.

The project was spearheaded by the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) and was developed with the support of a $146,000 ARENA grant.

Dons will supply about 20% of the organic waste that the digester requires, and the remainder will come from other regional businesses, as well as council green waste collections.

Michael Lewin, chair of MASG's bioenergy subcommittee, told Footprint the organisation had received expressions of interest from sufficient organic waste generators in the region to provide the additional tonnes of feedstock required.

Although Lewin didn't specify the other suppliers, one likely source of much of the organic waste is Coliban Water, which could provide the digester with biosolids from a wastewater treatment plant.

MASG currently owns the proposed digester, through an entity called Mt Alexander Bioenergy Pty Ltd (MAB), and is now seeking up to $25 million to cover construction costs.

"Once investors are secured, MASG will retain a small shareholding in MAB, allowing it to receive a dividend from the ongoing operation," Lewin said.

"This will enable MASG to conduct other sustainability projects in the community."

The anaerobic digester is expected to divert more than 30,000 tonnes of organic waste from landfill annually, and deliver 88,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas abatement.

In conjunction with Don's other energy projects and carbon abatement strategies, developed in conjunction with consultancy Northmore Gordon, the company expects to achieve a 40% reduction in its carbon footprint by 2025.

The process will also result in a soil conditioner that can be applied to local farmland.

Browse more articles on: Resource efficiency, wasteRenewables, low emissions 81171

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