Urban Biogas for Queen Victoria Market

This projects aims to investigate the feasibility of ‘closing the loop’ for food and human waste and energy production through the use of anaerobic digestion in Melbourne and the potential to partially de-centralise waste management and energy generation.

This project applies the ‘living lab’ concept to the generation of energy and management of food and human waste in urban precincts in Melbourne. It will investigate how and at what scale anaerobic digestion could be integrated into the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) precinct to produce an energy positive outcome, be acceptable to the community and reduce the pressure on existing urban waste infrastructure. It will require working closely with local government partner, City of Melbourne and other stakeholders such as C40 and Resilient Melbourne.

By 2050, the population of Melbourne will grow to seven million. Unless consumption is reduced, overall energy demand will increase. At the same time, existing centralised energy and waste management infrastructure will be put under increasing pressure from new urban development precincts and the necessity of mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Recent findings from the Foodprint Melbourne project estimate that 900,000 tonnes of food waste are generated in Melbourne each year, with significant associated greenhouse gas emissions. QVM is an iconic area in Melbourne that generates large amounts of food waste from its fresh food market. It is also a site for new urban development.

At the same time, Melbourne is heading towards the limit of its current waste water treatment infrastructure. To meet the needs of a growing population, the current centralised system would require both greater carrying capacity and upgrading of existing plants. Installation of larger scale infrastructure would be expensive, cause significant disruption to other urban systems such as transport, and potentially require more land in areas where it is already contested.

Urban biogas generation turns organic waste and human waste into energy. It has been used in urban areas in other countries such as Linköping in Sweden, where biogas is produced from waste and used as public transport fuel, and the Lanxmeer community in Culemborg, The Netherlands, where anaerobic digestion is used as part of a combined heat and power system.

This projects aims to investigate the feasibility of ‘closing the loop’ for food and human waste and energy production through the use of anaerobic digestion in Melbourne and the potential to partially de-centralise waste management and energy generation. It will focus on new developments that are not yet connected to the existing sewer system to avoid technology ‘lock in” issues.

Image credit: Kimberly Lai