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Natural Solution To Waste

12 March 2002

An Auckland environmental technology company has developed a simple sustainable organic waste solution that is munching through waste in NZ, Australia and the UK.

Vertical composting units (VCUâ) from VCU Technology is providing industrial, municipal and commercial waste producers with a cost-effective way of managing the organic waste stream naturally. It also minimises landfill charges facing large-scale waste producers such as poultry and food processing industries.

Research involving the VCU was helped with a $59,000 grant through Technology New Zealand's Grants for Private Sector Research and Development scheme (GPSRD), part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology

VCU Marketing Manager, Carl Beck, says the 14-person company, set up specifically to develop and market the VCU, has taken a simple idea and turned it into a commercially successful product.

"Essentially it's a 'hands off' philosophy. We take the approach that composting as it occurs in nature is a very successful and time-honoured method of waste management. However, we produce more waste, nastier waste and in a more confined area than natural composting can cope with.

"It needs a helping hand to stay on top of odour, leachate and pathogens, which the VCU does, but with minimum intervention," says Mr Beck.

The result is a system that takes up little space and has very low operating costs due to low energy, labour and maintenance requirements. Compatible waste materials such as green waste and food waste are blended together and fed into the top of the 8m high chamber, emerging from the bottom 7 to 14 days later as dark, sweet smelling compost mulch.

"It's not rocket science, yet there are important biophysical, mechanical and structural aspects of the system that require on-going research and development. This is particularly so when processing new and highly odourous kinds of waste such as those from the meat processing industry.

"A big part of the research was all about finding the best method for dealing with these wastes that was low cost, controlled odour and produced a valuable end product. and the research has been very successful," says Mr Beck.

The company has its largest installation in Waitakere City, processing 30 tonnes of green waste daily, with three others in New Zealand and eight smaller installations in Australia and the UK.

The VCU is also well suited to remote locations because of its low space, energy and maintenance requirements. Mr Beck says the company has had orders from Lord Howe and Christmas Island and is are about to install a system in the Mackenzie Country.


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