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Effluent treatment in the Australian meat industry

Project start date: 01 January 1989
Project end date: 01 August 1991
Publication date: 01 August 1991
Project status: Completed
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The meat industry in Australia will have to operate in a climate of increased environmental awareness, with tougher regulations and harsher penalties controlling its operations and discharges. Industry will have to move away from the "end of pipe" treatment philosophy and explore opportunities to reduce those emissions requiring treatment through waste minimisation and recycling technologies.

In order to audit the range of effluent treatment technologies used by the Australian meat industty and identify the environmental issues facing the industry, a total of 45 meat processing plants were visited in New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. The appropriate Regulatory Authorities in these States were also visited.

In addition, the opportunity was taken to review those processes, such as blood processing, gut cutting and rendering operations, that can have a significant impact on the characteristics of the effluent produced by a meat processing plant. Air pollution problem~ relating to the operation of rendering plants have been identified as an issue that concerns all Regulatory Authorities spoken with.

Key findings were as follows:

Primary effluent treatment at many plants can be improved. At many plants, increases in plant throughput have not been matched by an upgrading of these treatment facilities.
The most common secondary treatment systems employed in the Australian meat industry are anaerobic/aerobic lagoons with final treatment being by irrigation.
Problems were identified with the operation of anaerobic lagoons and these were attributed in part to overloading of the lagoons due to poor primary treatment. Many aerobi: lagoons were either not properly designed or were overloaded, a situation that .contributed to air pollution problems.
A number of irrigation systems were visited, some of which were operating outside State Regulatory Authority guidelines. This is an area that will require attention in the near future. as protection of groundwater resources and the concepts of sustainable operation are implemented by the Regulatory Authorities.
Air pollution issues relating to rendering plant emissions will receive increasing attention from the Regulatory Authorities.
Meat processing company operations will be subjected to considerable scrutiny from the Regulatory Authorities through environmental and process audits.

This report discusses the major processes that contribute to effluent loads and individual treatment processes under separate headings. In each section existing technology is discussed, problems are identified, Regulatory Authority concerns are
highlighted, Research and Development needs and technology transfer requirements are listed and a list of background reading is given.

More information

Project manager: Douglas McNicholl
Primary researcher: MIRINZ