Cronulla sewage plant trials sludge generation

A thick sludge made from food scraps and sewage could soon become a viable source of renewable energy.

A sewage treatment centre in Cronulla, in Sydney’s south, is involved in a pilot program in which pulped fruit and vegetable scraps will be mixed with sewage to create methane gas.

The Cronulla Wastewater Treatment plant already generates about 50 per cent of its own power through methane developed on site. However, the food sludge project is hoped to deliver more than 60 per cent of the plant’s energy needs.

Environment Minster Mark Spearman said if the three-year trial works, the government will consider rolling it out elsewhere up and down the coast of New South Wales.

“The energy that we save here (the 60 per cent) would be equivalent to the energy that about 800 to 1000 homes would use every year,” he said.

Wastewater treatment is energy intensive and the NSW government says the trial is part of a push to help lower power bills.

Sydney Water energy manager Phil Woods says the plant may one day become a supplier of electricity.

“Further down the track … (with) the potential to take on more waste we could be a net generator of electricity and be exporting to the local network,” he said.

A Sydney business will supply the waste from grocers who use their food pulpers.

The NSW government says the trial will save 150,000 wheelie bins of fruit and vegetable scraps from going into landfill every year, as well as take trucks off the road.

It comes less than a week after a Climate Council report gave NSW one of the worst renewable grading out of all Australian states.