City awards contract for cutting-edge recycling facility

29 Apr 2020

City of Newcastle has awarded a contract for an advanced organics recycling facility as part of a 25-year commitment to revolutionise food and garden waste treatment.

The project at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre by Barpa Pty Ltd, in partnership with a company that has designed 120 composting facilities worldwide, will over 25 years:

  • Divert about 900,000 tonnes of food and garden organics from landfill
  • Slash greenhouse emissions by 900,000 tonnes, equal to eliminating 250,000 cars
  • Save ratepayers $24 million in operational costs
  • Reduce the section 88 levy paid to the NSW Government by $32.5 million

Onsite recycling of garden organics will begin at Summerhill in a fully enclosed facility in 2022 before food organics are added four years later, following comprehensive community consultation.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the project would generate major environmental and financial benefits for the city and community.

“With food and garden organics accounting for around 30 per cent of waste streams, we are embarking on the largest waste commitment ever made by the City: to divert almost a million tonnes of organic material from landfill,” the Lord Mayor said.

“When properly processed into compost, recycled organics can be sold as fertiliser that improves soil quality and productivity, displacing artificial chemical-based fertilisers on crops, sporting fields and in public and household gardens.

“Initially diverting around 20,000 tonnes of garden organics from landfill each year, the Summerhill facility will grow in capacity to process around 50,000 tonnes annually.
“It will see us begin processing all food organics material instead of continuing to landfill them at a prohibitive cost. After paying more than $230 million in waste levies over the past 12 years, the organics recycling facility will save ratepayers $32.5 million over the next 25 years.
“We intend to start processing food organics in 2026 following extensive planning and community engagement. In the meantime, work is continuing on the development of a program to roll out subsidised worm farms and community compost bins across the city.”

Barpa’s proposal for a fully enclosed recycling facility, which will be the first of its kind in the Hunter, was recommended in favour of three rival bids.

Elimination of odours through longer composting times and superior ventilation technology and systems, together with bid partnerWaste Treatment Technologies’ expertise in breaking down biodegradable material and converting waste to compliant, marketable compost, gave Barpa the edge.

The organics recycling facility will lower carbon emissions by ending the costly transfer of garden organics to the Upper Hunter in up to 45 return truck journeys of 173km a week.

Manager of the City’s Waste Services Troy Uren said higher regulatory standards loomed large over such traditional waste practices and that the project also stood to save ratepayers many millions of dollars more in deferred landfill expansion, in addition to $24 million in operational costs, over a quarter of a century.

"Garden organics are currently trucked from Summerhill to a Ravensworth site that can’t process food organics, and at significant cost to the ratepayer in what was only ever intended to be a temporary solution,” he said.


  • While the $120 million operating costs of the facility amount to $26.5 million more than continuing to just recycle garden waste offsite at Ravensworth, $32.5 million will be saved from no longer paying a levy for food organics. This creates an overall saving of $6 million
  • This $6 million saving grows to $24 million with projected compost sales of up to $18 million, with scope to divert more waste from neighbouring councils and other commercial sources
  • Processing food organics will also defer the need to develop landfill ‘air space’ equal to 840 Olympic swimming pools, which would cost up to $18 million to excavate and prepare
  • The City of Newcastle received a $1.5 million grant from the NSW Government in 2017 for early planning and is confident of sourcing additional grant funding from both the state and federal governments
  • Even with construction costs, the organics recycling facility remains cheaper than landfill by more than $50 a tonne
  • The contract with Barpa has been divided into two stages – design and approvals and construction and commissioning