Scientists at Victoria University are developing eco-friendly waste treatment technology that will help New Zealand keep
its clean, green image.
The project, which is being carried out by Professor Jim Johnston, Dr Peter Northcote and Michael Richardson (PhD
student) of the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, aims to make recycling operations more environmentally
friendly and cost-effective.
Private sector companies Protein Ventures Ltd and Pure New Zealand Ltd have taken an interest in the technology, are
providing some financial support for the research and are involved in the commercialisation of the technology.
The new technology will improve the treatment of waste effluent from New Zealand dairy sheds and from meat, fish and
vegetable processing factories.
“New farming practices, with larger dairy herds and a smaller number of larger processing industries, have led to larger
quantities of organic waste being disposed in concentrated areas, to the detriment of the local environment,” says
However, the technology being developed at Victoria could hold the answer. “It reduces the waste from these sources to a
clear solution of simple organic acids, somewhat like vinegar, substantially reducing the chemical and biological oxygen
demands and the impact on the environment.”
A pilot waste treatment plant utilising the new technology has been designed and is currently being constructed. “This
plant will be operated at Victoria to test the technology on an industrially meaningful scale, and provide information
for the design of a commercial plant,” says Professor Johnston.
"Waste disposal is a costly problem for industry, and a number of meat and food processing industries both in New
Zealand and offshore are waiting anxiously for the commercial plants to become available,” says Professor Johnston.
“Organic waste material in most countries can no longer be dumped on land or in surface waterways. There is a cost to
sewage ponds and treatment -- look at what the Wellington City Council had to pay for its new treatment system.”
“The cost of disposal is a very real one and any technology that does it better or cheaper provides industry with a
competitive advantage. Our technology has this potential," he says.
“Commercialising the technology will also be of financial benefit to Victoria, as it has the potential to earn a
substantial amount of money. It is also consistent with the Government’s desire to move New Zealand to a technology and
The new technology has been developed from work done by Professor Johnston and the University of Manchester’s Professor
Nicholas Wiseman on paper recycling and filler mineral recovery. This programme is also being worked on at Victoria by
Professor Johnston and Dr Northcote with postgraduate students Michael Richardson and Craig Milestone, and in
collaboration with Professor Wiseman and a number of British paper industries.