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  • Eminent Visiting Scholar Presentation - Anaerobic Digestion of Food Waste for a Circular Economy

Eminent Visiting Scholar Presentation - Anaerobic Digestion of Food Waste for a Circular Economy

Presented by Professor Charles Banks and Professor Sonia Heaven, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

Date: 14 August 2019
Time: 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Venue: Toowoomba - Y103 (TV Studio) or via Zoom webinar
Contact: For more information, please contact Bernadette McCabe.
Booking: Please register via HR UConnect.
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There is increasing awareness of the quantities of food that are lost every year across the globe; while the quality of available data varies, estimates suggest the total is around 1.3 billion tons. These losses occur at all stages of production, from pre-harvest on the farm through to post-harvest losses during processing, distribution, retailing and consumption. By far the largest proportion of this material is generated at the point of consumption, in the home or in cafeterias, canteens and restaurants. The method of choice to treat food waste is anaerobic digestion (AD) which is now undertaken commercially at a large scale internationally. It is most widespread in the UK, where there are currently 94 digesters producing over 220 MWe of power from food processing residues, supermarket wastes and curbside collected source-separated domestic food waste. These processes are efficient, with as much as 85% of the degradable material being turned into biogas. In order to use food waste in anaerobic digestion, it is preferable to separate food waste from other waste streams. Australia currently does not offer any schemes that support source separation of food waste. Notwithstanding this, there are upwards of five commercial scale plants currently treating food waste and substantial scope exists to increase this provided appropriate waste management strategies are put in place. This presentation will provide an international perspective of the role of AD of food waste in driving a circular economy and it’s potential growth for Australia in reducing the 4 million tonnes of food that reaches landfill each year.

Professor Charles Banks: Charles Prof Banks is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Biotechnology in the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton. He has interests in the areas of:

  • Innovative technology for environmental protection and resource management
  • Renewable energy from biomass and wastes
  • Waste management
  • Wastewater treatment

He is Head of the Bioenergy and Biomass Resources Research Group which has led and participated in a number of EU and UK projects on anaerobic digestion including energy crops, food waste, agro-wastes and micro-algae as sources of renewable power and fuel. His research interests are in technology innovations for optimising biological processes used for environmental protection and sustainable development: these include municipal and industrial effluent treatment systems, waste management processes, bioenergy projects, biorefineries, and technology for pollution remedi

Professor Sonia Heaven: Prof Heaven is Director of the UKRI-funded Environmental Biotechnology Network (, She was Coordinator of the EU FP7 VALORGAS project 241334 on valorisation of food wastes to biogas and is co-investigator on a range of national and internationally funded projects. Current research interests include comparative performance of a range of process configurations and operating regimes for anaerobic processing of wastewater and biowaste substrates, including single and multi-phase operation; high and low solids contents; and low temperature, mesophilic and thermophilic temperatures. She has published extensively in the area of food and has an interest in collection logistics.