M.S. Thesis: Anaerobic Digestion of Food Waste: Current Status, Problems and an Alternative Product

By Ljupka Arsova

Advisor: Prof. Nickolas J. Themelis,
Co-advisor: Prof. Kartik Chandran

Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
Columbia University

May 2010

In recent years there has been increased interest in diverting the food waste fraction of the municipal solid waste (MSW) from landfills, due to the high decomposition potential and production of methane as a final product. Recently, anaerobic digestion (AD) has been recognized as one of the best options for treating this waste stream since it results in two valuable final products, biogas and compost that may be utilized for electricity production and as soil fertilizer respectively. Also, the wastewater utilities have shown increased interest for identifying an alternative supplemental carbon source to the use of methanol for enhancing the process of denitrification and meeting regulatory nitrogen standards.
The objectives of this thesis were threefold:

  • Identifying the best available AD technology by analysis of the number of existing plants, operating capacity, process efficiency, feedstock flexibility, and the experience of plant managers of the foremost technologies in North America (Toronto, Canada), and in Europe (Barcelona, Spain).
  • On the basis of the above information, determine the challenges and problems associated with the application of AD technology as part of the integrated solid waste management systems.
  • Conduct an experimental investigation of the possibility of using the products of the anaerobic acidogenesis of food waste as supplemental carbon source for the process of denitrification in wastewater treatment plants (WWTP).

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