What is AJ Bush & Sons?
AJ Bush & Sons are a 100plus year old family owned Australian meat retailing and animal by-product processing (meat-rendering). Bush’s Proteins is the meat-rendering division of the group.
What is meat-rendering?
Render, from the French verb rendre, meaning “to give back,” is the act of processing and cooking undesired, or uneaten livestock and poultry meat and used cooking oil that remains after a meat animal has been slaughtered, and the meat used for consumption has been harvested. Rendering then safely and hygienically processes it to create new products upcycling that unused material (fat, protein, feathers, bone, etc.) for new, secondary uses.
What does the plant at Riverstone do?
The plant at Riverstone is a protein and oil extraction plant. It carries out a process commonly known as rendering. The plant is essential in reusing products that remain after manufacturing of products for retail consumption.
How long has the plant been operating?
The plant at Riverstone has been operating since the 1950s and has been a valuable contributor to the local area since that time, supporting jobs and the local community.
What is the large water pond next to the plant?
As part of the recovery process at the plant, water is a major by product. Wastewater from the plant is treated through a number of processes and is discharged to the storage pond near the plant before being released in accordance with our irrigation plan.
What hours is the site in operation?
The plant operates in consideration of the upstream processors, therefore, the plant will be in production from early to mid-morning 6 days a week, Monday to Saturday.
What products does the plant make?
The plant processes meat and poultry by-products from abattoirs, retail butcher shops and meat processors, into high-grade protein meals and fats/oils.
Why is Bush’s Proteins & Sons an essential service?
Bush’s Proteins processes material that is generated from the food production stream – not just abattoirs and meat processors, but butcher shops, chicken shops, restaurants, clubs, etc. This material is classed as a putrescence in nature and, if not processed in a timely manner, could create a great environmental challenge. If Bush’s Proteins is not able to handle the material from the abattoirs and meat processors, then there will be pressure on the food supply chain, which will impact on food security. Time is a critical component to handling the animal by-products, therefore the plant must be operating to support the food production supply chains.
What will happen if the plant is shut down?
If the plant is closed, then the only alternative for the material processed will be diverted to landfill. This will remove the proteins and the oils from a current supply chain and cause a significant increase in the emissions and odours from landfills. There are limited facilities that can handle the material that Bush’s Proteins processes.
How does Bush’s Proteins support the local community?
Bush’s Proteins is in the process of developing a community sponsorship program to show our longstanding commitment to the local community.
What causes the odours coming from the plant?
The plant includes processes that convert by-product material into protein and oil products that are beneficially reused such as stock feed, pet foods and other products. While measures are in place to ensure odours are controlled, occasionally neighbours of the plant may notice odours. These are from the recovery processes and potentially from the treatment of wastewater, which is a significant by-product of the process.
I have noticed a cooking smell, what is it?
The plant processes meat, fat and bone which are by-products from the meat and poultry industry producing food for human consumption. The process involves cooking these by-products at high temperatures to recover proteins and oils that are used as pet and stockfeed ingredients to benefit our community. As the process is at high temperatures, the process can result in the release of localised fugitive cooking odours. Bush’s Proteins has systems in place to manage odours and continuously assesses best practise solutions for odour mitigation.
What is being done about the cooking smells?
Bush’s Proteins have measures in place to mitigate cooking odours from our facility, which is equipped with air handling systems that capture and treat odorous air. We have invested in a number of technologies and practices including biofilters and thermal oxidisers which is part of the odour mitigation system of our operations. In addition, we monitor the area in and around our facility to ensure that the odour management systems are working effectively.
Are any of the odours harmful?
Any odours generated in our production process are from the cooking of meat, fat and bone which are the by-products of food produced for human consumption. Similar cooking odours exist within the community from many commercial operators in the fast food and hospitality sectors. As with these operators there are no known health concerns with any odours produced by our operation.Our plant is audited annually in accordance with the industry code of practice and the Australian Standard for Hygienic Rendering of Animal Products.
Is the plant currently meeting its EPA licence operating conditions?
Yes. The plant is regulated by an Environmental Protection Licence (EPL#1100). This includes conditions on all processes at the plant, including odour control and water treatment and release. The plant is regularly inspected by the EPA. As is the case with all companies operating similar processes, if any matters are raised by the EPA, the company is required to address these in accordance with licence requirements.
Does the plant use toxic chemicals and are the fumes dangerous?
The products at the plant are put through common audited and certified processes for meat rendering. The process is driven largely through heat rather than chemicals. All activities on site are regulated by the EPA and careful management measures are in place to ensure the plant is safe. The only ‘fumes’ released by the plant are steam. There are no toxic fumes.
What else is being done to ensure regulations are met?
Bush’s Proteins will be assessing the performance of the wastewater treatment through sampling, testing and consultation with industry specialists to ensure the ponds remain working efficiently and to required standards.
Can’t these by-products be treated somewhere else?
There are limited facilities in NSW to treat by-products from the meat manufacturing process. If plants like this did not exist or were shut down, the by-products would need to be disposed of in landfill.
Why is the plant located near residential areas – is this allowed?
The plant has been located at its current site in Riverstone since the 1950s. For much of its existence, the plant has been in a sparsely populated area. Over time, the area has gradually started to develop into a residential area. The plant is regulated under an Environmental Protection Licence set by the EPA and its uses are fully allowed subject to the licence conditions.
Why were homes allowed to be built so close to the plant?
The plant has been located in Riverstone since the 1950s, and the surrounding area has developed into a residential area over time. Bush’s Proteins cannot comment specifically on the reasons behind development in the area, as these have been matters for various governments over time.
Does Bush’s Proteins have any plans to close down or move the plant in future?
Bush’s Proteins does not have any plans to close down or move the plant. We are a valuable contributor to the local and NSW economy, and we are a local employer. Our process is a critical part of the meat industry, pet food supply chain and the renewable and sustainable biofuels market, and we intend to continue to operate. We want to work with the surrounding neighbours to ensure we can coexist in the area.
Current works being conducted to mitigate odours at the Riverstone site
What is aeration and how does it reduce odours?
Aeration is the process of increasing the dissolved oxygen in a body of water. As part of the wastewater system, aerobic ponds are a vital part of the treatment of water and are used to reduce nutrient loading as part of the handling and irrigation of the water. Recent aeration improvement works has been successful in reducing odours.
How does the aeration process work?
In wastewater treatment, an aerobic pond is commonly referred to as a finishing pond because it usually provides the final level of treatment. Pond aerators supply dissolved oxygen directly to ponds either through venturi arrangements or coupled to blowers as in the case of the recently installed aerator. Mechanical aerators provide dissolved oxygen throughout the entire depth of the pond. This dissolved oxygen supports the biological process which breaks down any organic matter which may be present in the water. Healthy microbial activity and aeration also allows sunlight to enter the pond and aid photosynthesis to occur by algae which can be present in the upper layers of an aerobic pond.
What else is being done to manage odours?
Bush’s Proteins has biofilters for odour mitigation and are continually assessing ways to improve their processes. They are currently installing a bespoke engineered capture system to further manage odours. This new system will be installed in stages over the next few months and will complement their existing biofilters to further mitigate odours long term. Works are due to be finished mid 2023.
Does the plant use clean energy?
Our Riverstone facility is a SEDA Energy Smart Business Partner. Natural gas conversion of previously coal-fired boilers was completed in September 1999 resulting in a cleaner alternative saving over 20,000 tonnes per annum of CO2 equivalent. Through the treatment of wastewater onsite, we capture biogas (methane) from covered anaerobic ponds, which is then used in our gas boilers as an alternative fuel source. As a business, Bush’s Proteins is constantly looking at new technology to improve and increase our green energy production and consumption.
How is meat-rendering sustainable?
Rendering has existed for centuries and is one of the oldest “recycling” practices as the rendering process “gives back” in the form of new, high value, rendered goods. Instead of wasting half of the meat we farm and buy, rendering reclaims these unwanted “leftovers” and transforms them into ingredients for countless products.