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Where there are million of animals, there are millions of tons of waste. In a clever solution to a major waste disposal problem, Australian researchers have found a way to convert 1.4 million tons of Chinese pig excrement into fertilizer and a source of alternative energy. The project, which is operated by the Adelaide, Australia Cooperate Research Centre For Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), has won a national science award for its solution for pig waste in China.
CRC CARE has collaborated with Chinese firm HLM Asia PL and Huazhong University of Science and Technology to take care of one of the globe’s largest sanitation challenges. The group won a Federal Government 2013 Star Award for finding a solution for China’s 1.8 million pig farms and 700 million pigs. Pork, which makes up 67 percent of the country’s meat consumption, generates over 1.4 million tons of feces and 7 million tons of urine every year. However, only 10 percent of the waste is actually treated.
The technology, trademarked as “pooCARE,” uses a two-step anaerobic biodigester that can convert waste in large quantities with settings for loading and digestion time. The group has also found a highly effective combination of anaerobic treatments that can produce biogas from nutrient-rich material. The biodigester can process 200 tons of waste every day and 73,000 tons each year. This translates into 380 cubic meters of biogas per day which is worth about $41,000 annually as a heating fuel. The system can also create 5,600 tons of fertilizer each year worth $550,000.
“Pig poo might seem like simple stuff, but it creates a very complex set of environmental problems, which I am pleased to say CRC CARE/ China team has managed to overcome with some lateral thinking and sound, practical, affordable technologies.” said Prof. Ravi Naidu, managing director of CRC CARE.
CRC CARE has also been working with farms in Australia to transfer the technology from China and help the piggeries find an extra source of revenue. With meat consumption on the rise around the world, their research is helping to close an important biological loop, improve sanitation, and bolster local economies.
Image via US Dept of Agriculture.