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Research Thesis Topic

Valorisation of municipal food waste in the production of energy

Topic ID:

Thesis Topic/Title:
Valorisation of municipal food waste in the production of energy


Industry problem / challenge to be addressed:
Around 4 million tonnes of food reaches landfill in Australia each year and forms part of Australia’s organic waste, the country’s largest unrecovered stream of waste that goes into landfill. Waste management in Australia has hit a road block as it faces more waste with less landfill capacity and increasing disposal and energy costs. New technologies in composting, waste to energy (combustion) and anaerobic digestion (AD) present feasible approaches to divert organics to landfill. Of the three technologies, AD of source separated food waste represents the most beneficial use of this wet organic fraction as it produces renewable natural gas for heat, electricity and vehicle fuel in addition to biosolids for commercial or agricultural use. However, the use of source segregated food waste is not established in Australia because of the technical challenges associated with collection, sorting, processing, and the beneficial use of recovered material.

Project description:
The key concept of the research is to valorise the energy from food waste by anaerobic digestion (AD), with a full evaluation of the overall life cycle energy balances associated with this process. The research comprises a number of closely interrelated components with a common underlying goal: to evaluate and where possible improve the energy production process from the perspective of the overall net energy gain achieved within defined system boundaries that include collection, sorting, processing, and beneficial use of recovered material.

Key activities:
• Assess the amount of food waste that is produced, as a fraction in a given region.
• Determine the composition and characterisation of food wastes and evaluate the efficiency and yield of source segregated food waste collection schemes from domestic properties, restaurant and catering facilities, food markets and food manufacturers in a specified region.
• Determine the energy and carbon footprints of the food waste to energy process in the specified region including collection, transport, treatment and final product use, considering both direct and indirect inputs.
• Optimise digestion processes using interventions to improve the chemical and microbiological factors affecting potential energy gain from the food waste substrate.

Expected industry outputs
• Provision of best practice guidelines for collection systems for the separation of food waste to be treated by AD.
• Development of decision support tools to assess anaerobic digestion technologies forof food waste across Australia, based on project activities carried out in a given region.
• Development of institutional framework at all levels of government (state and federal) to guide sustainable and cost effective of conversion of food waste to energy.

Principal Supervisor

Associate Supervisors

Research Affiliations
  • Institute for Agriculture and the Environment
  • National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture
  • School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
  • School of Engineering and Built Environment

Field of Research
  • Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Science and Management
  • Industrial Biotechnology
  • Interdisciplinary Engineering
  • Other Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences
  • Other Chemical Sciences
  • Other Engineering

Available Academic Programs
  • Doctor of Philosophy (DPHD)
  • Master of Research (MRES)
  • Master of Research (MRES)

Application Open Date

Application Close Date

USQ Scholarship Applications

Pre-approved for Ethics
Not Applicable

Admission Requirements

Please review the admission requirements for the academic program associated with this Thesis Topic

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