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Featured News Profitable poo? Investigating uses for our waste 💩

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Wed, 19 Aug 2020

Profitable poo? Investigating uses for our waste 💩

Close up photo of a female scientist in a lab coat holding two beakers, one with blue liquid and one with clear liquid
Dr Elsa Antunes is examining how to create useful products from biosolids, a by-product of treating sewage. Photo: Bethany Keats, JCU Media.

A researcher at James Cook University wants to help North Queensland councils get more value out of wastewater and sewage, by converting it into energy and fertiliser.

Dr Elsa Antunes is examining how to create useful products from biosolids, a by-product of treating sewage. Currently, these biosolids may contain pollutants, viruses, and other chemical and biological hazards that make them unfit for re-use.

“Biosolids are what’s left after water is cleaned from sewage and they can be an expensive environmental burden for local councils,” she said.

“This is why I’m investigating ways to treat the biosolids to reduce these hazards while simultaneously producing useful products and also reducing carbon emissions.”

Dr Antunes said similar research is being trialled in Logan, and has shown substantial economic, environmental and social benefits to the local community. However, because sewage and waste conditions are different across regions, Dr Antunes wants to identify solutions that are tailor-made for a North Queensland context.

“Ideally we want to create a circular economy where we turn our waste into useful and valuable products,” she said. “In turn, this leads to more sustainable communities, but they need to be appropriate for each situation.”

Dr Antunes anticipates the findings could come with a range of benefits for North Queensland.

“New businesses and employment opportunities, less waste, less carbon emissions and safer communities are a win-win for Queensland,” she said.

Dr Antunes is a recipient of an Advance Queensland COVID-19 Industry Research Fellowship, announced as part of this year’s National Science Week.

Contacts

Dr Elsa Antunes

elsa.antunes1@jcu.edu.au