Co-digestion is the process in which wastes from various sources are treated together. Therefore, more organic carbon is added to make efficient use of existing digesters. The objectives of this study were to compare potential co-digestates, determine synergistic and antagonistic co-digestion outcomes and estimate economic benefits for preliminary screening. Over 80 wastes were identified from 54 facilities within 160 km of an existing municipal digester. Synergistic, antagonistic and neutral co-digestion outcomes were observed for the various wastes. A simple economic comparison resulted in the greatest potential benefits for four co-digestates: yeast flavorings production waste, meat production dissolved air flotation float, acid whey from cheese production and thin stillage from corn ethanol production. Performance was investigated using bench-scale digesters receiving primary sludge with and without co-digestates. Methane production rates were 105 and 66% higher when co-digestates were present, but were anticipated to increase only 57 and 23% due to the additional chemical oxygen demand. Therefore, significant synergistic outcomes were observed during co-digestion. Co-digestion of the most promising wastes with primary sludge in full scale was estimated to generate enough electricity to power more than 2,500 houses.
Keywords: anaerobic digestion, biochemical methane potential, co-digestion, greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy