The Environmental Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion
Anaerobic digestion has many environmental benefits apart for those associated with energy production, the ability of this process to produce renewable energy, and the associated sustainability benefits, which are discussed elsewhere on this web site.
It is recognised that electricity generation alone is not sufficient at present to justify the construction of these capital intensive plants.
Now we would place the second biggest environmental advantage after renewable energy production and greenhouse gas emission reduction, as the ability of anaerobic digestion to act on the putrid and putrescible fractions of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), to reduce the organic content of the waste which must then be sent to landfill, or otherwise processed.
Obviously the Anaerobic Digestion Process itself must be undertaken under tightly controlled conditions to avoid releases into the environment during the process, such as odours. However, as long as this is achieved the AD Process has considerable environmental benefits for subsequent landfilling operations.
- avoidance of production of strong leachates (particularly where you are operating close to major watercourses and sensitive underground water supplies).
- reduction in vermin and the discouragement of seagulls (which can be important especially as in some locations worldwide there do continue to be some operating landfill sites close to the end of airport runways).
- prevention of migration of methane gas (which can be particularly important if there are still operating landfills close to residential housing).
- more rapid restoration and recovery of the site (sooner or later someone will want the site back, possibly for building on, and society may not wish to wait 100 or more years for gas production to cease).