Waste Management Infrastructure

2 x Lectures: Week 8 at 14/9/16

Waste Management Infrastructure and Food Waste and its Treatment

Waste Management Infrastructure

Storage of rubbish bins is super important: let’s think about it for a second; You’re more likely to use a bin that’s in a convenient location, clean, accessible, easy to lift the lid, not too full etc. Using bins correctly in the first place is the first step to efficient and effective waste removal. This can help towards reducing smell, rodents and unhealthy or unhygienic practices.

Innovation in waste collection:

  • underground systems
  • vacuum systems



Waste Processing

General waste occurs at landfill. A Material Recovery Facility (MRF) is used for recyclable waste, where waste is separated through a range of processes. Machinery can identify if it’s glass, plastic, cans etc.

The other option is Anaerobic Digestion where food waste is separated then put through is machine to be broken down without the use of air. Waste is eaten used microbes, which generates to be collected and used elsewhere.

Waste facilities can be appropriately designed and operated, to somewhat “hide” the activities that go on inside, to make the experience more palatable for the general public.


Progress can be slow due to lack of legislation in the areas of waste, collection and recycling, as well as pushback from the general community which can often be contributed to a lack of education.


Food Waste and its Treatment by Jayantha Sellahewa (CSIRO)

Putrescible waste is food waste that rots and attracts animals.

Food Supply Chain

  • Agriculture
  • Primary processing (storage and transport)
  • secondary processing (storage and transport)
  • Retailing (storage and transport)
  • Consumer

Waste occurs through the food supply chain, but it is important to note that some of it really is unavoidable. Total waste is generally estimated at 30 – 40% – most occurring during the pre-consumer stages.

  • 20% of food purchased is thrown away
  • 40% of average household garbage bin is food
  • 20 – 40% of fruit and vegetables are rejected before reaching the supermarket because of cosmetic reasons
  • Amount of food waste (in Australia):
    • 4 million tonnes per annum
    • 523kg per household per annum
  • Cost of food thrown away (in Australia):
    • $8 billion per annum
    • $1000 per household per annum

These problems will worsen with increased population, affluence and urbanisation.

  • 33% of food thrown away is fresh food
  • 27% of food thrown away is left overs
  • 15% of thrown away food is packaged products
  • 7% of thrown away food is takeaway

Why does this occur?

  • purchasing too much
  • cooking too much
  • not using leftovers effectively
  • not planning meals and shopping effectively
  • purchasing too much takeaway
  • confusion between “best before” and “use by” dates

Who are the biggest contributors to this waste?

  • Young adults 18 – 24 years old
  • Families earning upwards of $100K
  • Families with children

Global Food Waste

  • approximately 1/3 of food produced globally is thrown away
  • Each year, consumers in rich countries waste as much food (220 million tonnes) as almost the same amount of the net food production in sub Sahara Africa (230 million tonnes)

Environmental Impact

Most food waste goes to landfill. Food rotting in landfill produces methane, which is 55 times more potent as a GHG than CO2. The energy and water used to produce this food is also wasted (life cycle analysis). This is therefore not sustainable practice.

Impact of Packaging

Packaging can reduce food waste by extending the shelf life through the distribution chain. Bulk can also be more efficient than single packaging. But is this convenient when households are getting smaller? Packaging then solves the problem by reducing food waste, but generates another problem of increasing packaging waste.

Potential Solutions – Behaviour

  • menu planning
  • using shopping lists to prevent overbuying
  • purchasing smaller quantities
  • using leftovers
  • being mindful and responsible about food waste

Potential Solutions – Technological

  • most food material is biomass – can be a source of fuel (3 years payback time as an ROI)
  • a need to separate food waste from packaging waste
  • use of biodegradable packaging – can be expensive
  • Reduce proportion of packaging



Soft plastics, such as plastic bags from your local shopping centre, can’t be recycled because they jam the recycling machines. Soft plastics can be defined as:

Soft or flexible plastics are any plastics that can be easily scrunched into a ball or broken when crushed by hand and includes bread, pasta, chip and lolly packets, biscuit packs and trays and old ‘green bags’.

As an alternative, these can be taken back to large supermarkets (Coles and Safeway will have a large bin out the front of most of their stores) where these are collected together then more effectively recycled. Otherwise, you can take them to another recycling location which can be found here (Australia) or here (US and Canada) or here (UK).

The Problem

The petroleum used to make the 3.9 billion plastic bags that Australians use each year could power a car to drive around the Earth’s equator 112,000 times!

Further Resources

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