Lilydale Construction site

The new Lilydale food waste to energy facility is set to be fully operational in 2026. 

The new facility is expected to generate up to 39,000KWh of electricity per day – enough to power the equivalent of more than 2,200 Victorian households – and is designed to tackle food waste, generate electricity and slash emissions. 

The renewable electricity generated is designed to power both the facility itself and the Lilydale Sewage Treatment Plant, with excess energy exported to the electricity grid.

Yarra Valley Water Managing Director, Pat McCafferty, said it was great to see the project come to fruition.

“We’ve come a long way since we built Victoria’s first commercial scale food waste to energy facility at our Aurora Sewage Treatment Plant. Today, we’re proud to announce the start of construction of our second food waste to energy facility, which will be 50 per cent larger than our first,” Mr McCafferty said.

Yarra Valley Water has been successfully operating its award-winning facility in Wollert since 2017, which has diverted more than 175,000t of food waste from landfill to date.

Food waste is a growing problem, with Australians generating almost 300kg of food waste per person, according to the Federal Government’s National Food Waste Strategy.

“In Victoria, we’re generating more than two million tonnes of food waste per year. Almost half of that ends up in landfills – having a devastating impact on our environment,” Mr McCafferty said. 

“The good news is that these are figures that can be changed, thanks to innovative projects like this and a change in consumer and retailer behaviours.”

The new $48 million Lilydale facility is expected to start taking commercial food waste from as early as 2025, with full operation expected in 2026.

The second food waste to energy facility will divert about 55,000t of food waste from landfill every year. 

With the addition of this second facility, Yarra Valley Water said it is on track to meet its ambitious emission reduction targets to become net zero and using 100 per cent renewable energy from mid-2025.

Yarra Valley Water said it will be one of the largest food waste to energy facilities of its kind in Australia. Unlike some waste to energy plants, it will not use a gasifier or incinerator to burn waste. It uses a natural process to convert organic waste to energy.

The process begins when food waste is delivered from commercial suppliers. The organic waste can be anything from fruit and vegetables from markets, to fats and grease from a fast-food restaurant.

“It works just like a human stomach. The waste is fed into digestors, and as it breaks down it generates biogas which in turn powers electricity turbines,” Mr McCafferty said.

Many sewerage facilities already use anaerobic digestors to treat sewage, which makes them well placed to leverage this technology.

Mr McCafferty said that the new Lilydale facility will also benefit local businesses, the environment and the broader community.

“We’ve already started to work with local businesses who could benefit from using our facility. There are benefits for the broader community too.

“We heard through our consultation that people would like us to plant more trees in the area. Our project team is working closely with Yarra Ranges Council and we’ll plant around 1,600 trees with the help of local schools next winter.

“Melbourne is growing rapidly, we see our facilities as part of a wider effort to combat the problem of food waste to landfill and help Victoria’s transition to a circular economy.

“Turning food waste into energy helps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce landfill and reduce energy costs, which helps to keep pressure off customer bills,” Mr McCafferty said.

Victorian Minister for Water, Harriet Shing, said, “Food waste to energy is just one of the ways the water sector is helping to drive innovation in the circular economy, reduce costs and emissions, and keep water bills low for Victorians.”

“By recovering organic waste, we also boost growth and investment in our economy, create more Victorian jobs and meet the needs of our growing population, now and in the future,” Ms Shing said.

Featured image: Yarra Valley Water Managing Director, Pat McCafferty; Yarra Ranges Council Mayor, Sophie Todorov; Yarra Ranges Council Chief Executive Officer, Tammi Rose; Yarra Valley Water Chair, Gabrielle Bell; Victorian Minister for Water, Harriet Shing; Yarra Valley Water Director, Mary Kanavoutsos; Yarra Valley Water Director, Victoria Marles.

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