Influence of the comminution of organic waste on their biodegradability

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Courtesy of ORBIT e.V.

Organic solids are present in very large quantities as products or waste from agriculture, food industry, household and many other fields. The disposal of organic waste can be realised using biological processes like anaerobic digestion or aerobic composting. The anaerobic digestion has advantages in comparison to composting such as a better handling of wet waste, the production of useful digester gas and the attenuation of odour.

The anaerobic degradation of organic solids is a four steps biological process, involving several micro-organism populations (Figure 1). The first step is the hydrolysis of the polymeric substrates by exoenzymes. In the following acid phase intermediates and soluble polymers are converted mainly to organic acids and also to hydrogen, carbon dioxide and alcohols. These products are then transformed to acetic acid and then to methane in the last step. In this reaction chain the hydrolysis of the particulate compounds is the rate-limiting step. Improvements are possible by modifying the properties of the materials by comminution. This mechanical treatment releases cell components and creates new surfaces where biodegradation can take place. Therefore an improvement of the biological hydrolysis can be expected.

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