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Green technology a solution to landfill crunch

20 February, 2013

Murdoch University has played a key role in the development of a technology capable of reducing organic household waste destined for landfills by 90 per cent.

The AnaeCo Ltd patented DiCOM™ process, which went through scientific laboratory testing at Murdoch, is set to begin operation in Western Australia in the first half of 2013.

Dr Ralf Cord-Ruwisch of Murdoch’s School of Veterinary and Life Sciences said the achievement was proof of WA’s ability to take innovation from concept to real-world implementation.

"My former student, AnaeCo founder Tom Rudas, came to us in 1999 with the concept and asked us to test its feasibility, which up until then was considered to be next to impossible scientifically," Dr Cord-Ruwisch said.

"DiCOM™ combines two processes to break down common organic household waste, one which uses bacteria requiring oxygen, and one which uses bacteria that can’t function if oxygen is present. Tom’s method proposed both processes taking place in a single vessel, so naturally, you could see our challenge."

Dr Cord-Ruwisch worked with PhD candidate Lee Walker, now Head of Biotechnology at AnaeCo, to test the concept at the laboratory stage, on an 8m3 pilot plant and a 20,000tpa demonstration facility at Shenton Park – ironing out a few ‘wrinkles’ in the process along the way.

"This is the first technology of its type in the world and is a substantial environmental achievement, seeing as it requires minimal water, uses methane produced by the process itself for power and produces useful stable compost as the end product," Dr Cord-Ruwisch said.

Dr Cord-Ruwisch said reduction in household waste was an imperative going forward worldwide, particularly in many urban centres, including Bangalore in India, whose landfill system has been termed near collapse.

"Disposing of rubbish through landfills is both expensive and environmentally unsustainable. Organic waste leaches into ground water, green house gases get released and there are odour issues," he said.

"Incineration takes a lot of energy and affects air quality. DiCOM™ on the other hand uses natural bacteria, is energy positive, and has a waste product that improves soil."

Dr Cord-Ruwisch said initial testing showed the end product compost provided better growth for plants than regular compost, and even appeared to make plants less susceptible to dieback.

Patrick Kedemos, Managing Director and CEO of AnaeCo, said Murdoch’s contribution was key to the project’s success.

"We are pleased to have had the opportunity of working with Murdoch University during the testing phase of elements of AnaeCo’s technology. The collaborative partnership with the University was invaluable in the early stages," Kedemos said.

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