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Turning waste into profit and clean energy

Waste products may be Australia’s secret weapon to lower greenhouse emissions and shore up energy security.

Researchers at USQ's Centre for Agricultural Engineering are investigating organic waste products that can be used to create valuable biofuels and bioproducts.

USQ Principal Scientist Professor Bernadette McCabe has spent her research career looking at using waste products as a renewable energy source.

“Thanks to biogas technology, Australia’s relationship with organic waste – human and animal excreta, plant scraps and food-processing waste – is changing, turning waste into a commercial source of renewable energy,” she said.

“Organic waste, when broken down by bacteria, produces a methane-rich “biogas” that can be used to generate electricity and heat.”

Professor Bernadette McCabe is now heading USQ’s role in a $14 million project, investigating ways to capture market opportunities by converting animal industry wastes

“Australia’s animal industries produce significant quantities of wastes from on-farm production, intensive feed and processing sectors,” Professor McCabe said.

“This not only has significant financial impacts but also detrimental environmental effects such as the degradation of organic waste in landfill which generates potent greenhouse gases.

“We have been working on ways to capture a market opportunity in excess of $100 million per annum by turning these wastes into valuable products

“It brings together a cross section of industries, technology companies, and research providers to develop advanced technologies to create energy, fertilisers, soil conditioners, animal feeds and chemicals.”

It is part of a four-year project which will provide an assessment of wastes, business models and pathways to adoption.

USQ is working with project lead Queensland University of Technology, along with other research partners including the University of Queensland and Murdoch University.

The ‘Wastes to Profits’ project is managed by Meat & Livestock Australia through $6 million funding from the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, as part of its Rural Research & Development for Profit program.

woman in lab coat smiling
USQ Principal Scientist Professor Bernadette McCabe has spent her research career looking at using waste products as a renewable energy source.