food waste pulper
Pulpmaster machines capture food waste and turn it into pulp before it goes to a biogas facility to be used for bio fuel and more.

The staggering amounts of waste generated by food courts and other shopping centres tenants is no longer going unnoticed. One shopping centre operator in Sydney thinks it’s now got the answer. How about a machine that weighs your waste?

One shopping centre in Sydney’s inner west suburb of Leichhardt is due to install two Smartweigh machines this week that will weigh tenant’s waste and charge 29 cents a kilogram.

Once the machines are installed, tenants will only be able to access the centre’s bins with an access card.

The machines are set for installation in MarketPlace Leichhardt, a centre owned by Local Government Super that’s part of its carbon neutral shopping portfolio, and is managed by JLL. The new weighing machines are just part of the centre’s tech-enabled waste strategy.

Importantly, the pay-per-kilo system is paired with the “Pulpmaster” machine, which captures food waste at the point of generation from the food court, juice bars and fresh food and vegetable retailers.

The pulped food waste is then collected by tankers and taken to a biogas facility to be used for bio fuel and an organic fertiliser to grow more crops.

The idea is that food retailers, which typically produce a lot of waste, have the opportunity to use the pulping machine and reduce their waste before paying for what remains.

“Now that food waste can be separated and put into the Pulpmaster, less waste will need to go to landfill. Tenants will only start paying to dispose of their waste a month after the Smartweigh machines are installed, giving them time to get used to the new systems,” JLL operations manager John Ainsley said.

“We expect to see less waste go to landfill and a reduction in costs for both tenants and owners.”

Mr Ainsley also said that the system will help stop unauthorised dumping because the bins are now locked.

“This had been an ongoing problem at the centre.”

The shopping centre also has new equipment for co-mingle waste and cardboard. The cardboard attracts a recycling rebate, which incentivises the tenant to use the service to avoid the usual costs of disposing of the cardboard.

On the consumer side, the plan is to install a “reverse vending machine” for drink containers.

“Reverse vending machines are the centerpiece of modern deposit systems and the figures show the demonstrated return rates range from 70 per cent to almost 100 per cent of sold beverage containers,” Mr Ainsley said.

A Tomra container recycling machine will be available to customers, tenants and the general public, who will receive a deposit refund for putting their containers in the machine.

Next up will be better waste sorting practices. “We think that by keeping the waste stream separate, particularly organics, the weight going into landfill will decrease.”

This will involve replacing all the mall bins throughout the centre, both for general waste and recycling, along with a redesign of food court bins to help customers identify which bins they can use for the various streams: landfill, recycling and organics.

The scheme is working well so far, and in the first month of the new service with a new contractor, the centre had already managed to beat its 20 per cent waste reduction target.

Mr Ainsley said the ultimate goal is to get a Waste Rating from NABERS for the centre.

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