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THE trash being disposed into Toowoomba rate payers’ wheelie bins every week is being transformed into Professor Bernadette McCabe’s eternal treasure.

Prof McCabe, one of Australia’s most esteemed experts in energy and resource recovery of agro-industrial waste has been working diligently with Toowoomba Regional Council since 2015 with the united goal of leveraging landfill into waste levy reductions for ratepayers.

Principal Scientist at the University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Agricultural Engineering, Prof McCabe’s goal is multi-faceted, and she said the wide-reaching benefits would eventually trickle through the local economy until it reduced resident’s rates bills.

“We are essentially endeavouring to future-proof the local and surrounding area’s economies by turning rubbish into a reduction of waste levies,” Prof McCabe said.

“I started talking to Toowoomba Regional Council about the benefits of this project in 2015 and last year we commenced developing an organics business case and costing exercise to evolve landfill into smarter recycling options.

“We identified the pain and trigger points of waste circulation and we are now working toward transforming waste into valuable by-products.”

Prof McCabe said in addition to “real” cost reductions for Toowoomba Regional Council and its ratepayers, there would be a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as waste is transformed into a valuable commodity.

“One of the major motivators for this exercise is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” Prof McCabe said.

“Thanks to biogas technology, Australia’s relationship with organic waste – human and animal excreta, plant scraps and food-processing waste – is changing, turning waste into a commercial source of renewable energy.

“Organic waste, when broken down by bacteria, produces a methane-rich “biogas” that can be used to generate electricity and heat thus reducing greenhouse emissions.

“Australia’s animal industries produce significant quantities of waste from on-farm production, intensive feed and the processing sectors.

“The plan to reduce organic waste in landfill is twofold – reduce the financial impacts of waste management on the community and reduce the generation of potent greenhouse gases, as the organic waste degrades in landfill,” Prof McCabe said.

Clare Blain, CEO, Life Sciences Queensland said the University of Southern Queensland are one of Life Sciences Queensland’s Foundation Supporters.

“It is great to see the University of Southern Queensland embrace the circular economy to harness innovations that benefit the wellbeing of local communities, make regional economies stronger and improve the environment,” she said.

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Bernadette McCabe Principal Scientist
University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Agricultural Engineering