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Research collaboration explores turning local waste streams into regional income streams

A University of Southern Queensland led project is looking at ways to take the nearly 19,000 tonnes of organic waste that ends up in Toowoomba landfill every year out of the trash pile and turn it into treasured new revenue streams for the region.

Funded by the Fight Food Waste CRC, the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) and Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC), USQ’s Professor Bernadette McCabe is leading the project that aims to map out the quantity and quality of waste products that end up in local landfill and explore the technologies available for processing and converting it in to high-value products such as energy and solid or liquid biofertiliser.

“Ultimately the project is about putting a value on something that is otherwise a liability and what opportunities and technology exist to convert it into something that can produce an income stream,” Professor McCabe said.

“Toowoomba is home to significant agricultural and food processing sectors so with our project partners we want to get as clear a picture as possible around the overall organic waste stream situation in the Toowoomba region, and then work together to identify potential beneficial uses of waste that could inform investment attraction activities, and promote the opportunity to potential investors.”

Bruce McConnel, the General Manager of TSBE’s Food Leaders Australia, said the project offers a unique opportunity to Toowoomba and the Darling Downs.

“There’s a growing need for regional economies to create a circular economy out of traditional waste streams, and we’re well placed to capitalise on that need with the support of our local university working to a national agenda,” Mr McConnell said.

“This process of investigation will make sure we have the knowledge of quantity, and quality of our organic waste streams, allowing us to attract world leading technology and businesses to the region to grow our ‘clean, green’ image”

Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio said exploring the viability of various collection and processing options for organic waste material was an important exercise for a growing local government area.

“This partnership with USQ and other local stakeholders ensures that the type and quantity of organic waste in our region is properly understood so we can move forward with attracting organic processors to the region,” Mayor Antonio said.

One of the outcomes of the project is to undertake a feasibility study of business opportunities to inform future detailed investigations and investment under the Fight Food Waste CRC over the next 8 years.

November is Qld AgTech Month.

Three people standing and smiling
Research collaboration leaders Matt Torr, Manager Waste Services, Toowoomba Regional Council; Professor Bernadette McCabe, University of Southern Queensland; Bruce McConnell, Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (Food Leaders Australia).