Mesophilic and thermophilic anaerobic digestion of source-sorted municipal solid waste

A change in existing collection systems for household waste is presently in progress in many Swedish municipalities. The objective is to separate the decomposable fraction from non-biodegradable waste in order to facilitate biological treatment and recycling of nutrients. The main reason for this development is the effort to replace landfilling of nutrient-rich, wet organic waste with sustainable alternatives. In accordance with the EU directive on landfilling, a tax on adding organic waste to landfills will most probably be introduced during 2000, together with a ban on landfilling organic waste by the year 2005. Anaerobic digestion is a biological waste treatment technology, which may fulfil the objectives of sustainable waste management. It provides renewable energy, thus reducing CO2 emissions and also facilitates recirculation of nutrients. Nordberg et al (1998) estimated that the digestion of sewage sludge, industrial organic waste, household and restaurant wastes in Sweden can potentially produce enough methane to generate ca 3 TWh•year-1.

Pilot studies and planning for anaerobic digestion of municipal solid waste are underway in many Swedish municipalities. Although anaerobic digestion studies of source-sorted municipal solid waste can be found in the literature, the results differ depending on the composition of the waste, depending on how source sorting is defined. Therefore, it is important to investigate the biological aspects of anaerobic digestion of this fraction to provide background data for further planning. The objective of this study was to determine the maximum conversion rate with respect to organic loading rate and hydraulic retention time for mesophilic and thermophilic conditions.

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