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Little fish turn into big fish thanks to energy from waste

Posted on 05 November 2014.

In Woodlawn, Australia, a fish farm is producing 2,5 tons of fish per year. Its main source of energy? Mountains of waste.

"Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything can be transformed." It could be the motto for Tarago, a city in south-eastern Australia with some 500 inhabitants. From the late 1970s until 1998, it was only known for its rich bedrock, which was mined for gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc in the Woodlawn mine. After the operator went bankrupt, the mine was destined to become a waste dump for the 4.7 million inhabitants of Sidney, 250 miles away. Woodlawn could have fallen into oblivion like so many other abandoned mines. But a "green" conversion put paid to that. Today, the Woodlawn site provides electricity, compost and even fresh fish - all from the garbage produced by people living in Sydney!

« Pour nous, les déchets sont une ressource que l’on peut exploiter », Justin Houghton, directeur du site de Woodlawn.

The story begins in 2005 when Veolia installed a bioreactor (french). The decomposition of waste - Woodlawn receives 1800 tons daily - produces methane, which is recovered by a bioreactor that generates enough electricity to power 2,500 homes all year round. But that's not all! In 2010, Veolia tested a unique type of aquaculture system. The heat from the generators is used to warm the breeding ponds for the barramundi, which are fish that require water at 28°C. Since 2014, and after 4 years of testing, these fish are being sold in Canberra. Woodlawn has an annual production capacity of 2,5 tons of barramundi. In addition, from among all the garbage, organic waste is collected and turned into compost to rejuvenate the mined soil, which was impoverished by 20 years of operation.

In Woodlawn, waste is a valuable resource. The methane it generates is used to produce clean electricity - thereby also avoiding emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere - and the heat generated by the operation provides warmth for a fish farm which raises fish that can then be found on Australian plates, the remains of which end up in the garbage! In a country where fish consumption is very high, it is what could well be called the perfect example of a successful circular economy. The project has won two awards this year from the Australian Business Awards in the Innovation and Sustainable Development categories.

Find out more:

- Food cycle: Veolia wins awards in Australia
- Veolia wins Australian Business Awards
- An article in English in The Australian
- Video, Woodlawn MBT Facility : The transformation of organic waste into compost in Woodlawn, Australia