BioCycle - mechanical biological treatment trends

COMPOSTING mixed municipal solid waste has a long tradition in Germany. In 1953, the first large-scale facilities in Baden- Baden and Blaubeuren started operating, followed later by plants in Heidelberg, Duisburg and other locations across the western part of Germany. Facilities were being opened to provide alternatives to landfilling MSW, and to produce compost for agricultural use. The quality of the compost made from MSW was very poor, however, and the product was never accepted for use in agriculture, despite a significant amount of research and optimization of the waste treatment process.

Composting of source separated organic waste from households has not had as long a history in Germany. The first pilot test in Witzenhausen started in 1983; two years later, a total of 100,000 tons/year of source separated organics (SSO) were collected in all of Germany. The “brown bin,” dedicated to collection of SSO from households, started being rolled out across Germany in the early 1990s. Today, nearly half of all German households use the brown bin system for source separation of organics, capturing about 35 to 50 percent of all waste generated in these households, or about 9 million tons of SSO annually. There are about 800 composting facilities in Germany, with a total input capacity of nearly 10 million tons of organic waste per year. A little more than half (422) of those facilities take part in the quality assurance system of the German Composting Association, producing 5 million tons of high quality compost annually.

Although the separate collection system for organic waste is well developed in Germany, a larger portion of organics still remains in the mixed solid waste, collected in the grey bin. This is attributed to only about half of German households participating in SSO programs and sorting behavior in apartment buildings; local management of waste collection systems; and households not taking the extra steps to empty packaged food that is out of date, or separating food from containers that are not completely empty. This organic waste ends up in the grey bin.

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