A Wastewater Treatment Facility’s New Best Friend


Food waste is the second largest category of municipal solid waste (MSW) sent to landfills in the United States.  Over 30 million tons of food waste is sent to landfills each year.  Shrinking landfill space, escalating landfill taxes, and reducing harmful emissions from landfills, are creating strong incentives for local authorities and businesses to find other treatment options for their food waste.  Many are turning to wastewater treatment facilities.

The volume of organic waste that needs to be treated is growing due to an increasing population and more stringent regulations designed to reduce organic waste being sent to landfill.  For the treatment of food waste, Anaerobic Digestion (AD) offers the greatest environmental benefit of any treatment option.

Anaerobic digestion technology is commonly used throughout the United States to break down sewage sludge at wastewater treatment facilities already.  In the past few months, there has been a movement to start adding food waste.

So, why is it a better treatment option than sending the food waste to a composting facility?

  1. Because the energy capturing infrastructure is already in place at many waste water treatment facilities.

  2. Because wastewater treatment facilities already have the on-site expertise and years of experience dealing with anaerobic digesters which are difficult to operate without thorough knowledge.

  3. Wastewater treatment facilities are located in urban areas where compost facilities are typically located farther away.

  4. Wastewater facilities offer an opportunity to employ more people.

  5. Anaerobically digesting food waste prior to composting reduces the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which contribute to air pollution.

  6. Renewable energy is source of revenue and is in high demand.

As energy prices continue to climb, capturing the energy from food waste, using it to operate these facilities and selling the excess energy back to the grid is a great outcome for both the wastewater treatment plants and local municipalities.  In addition, the production of renewable energy will make wastewater treatment facilities eligible for Government incentives.

Organic waste is a hugely valuable resource, and the United States needs to get the most out of it.  Expanding the use of anaerobic digestion inside the wastewater industry is a great way to get this done.

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