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Anaerobic Digestion of Municipal Solid Waste

Image shows the options for anaerobic digestion of municipal solid waste. (TUHH Anaerobic MSW Process)

The decision flowchart above, illustrates the design options for the anaerobic digestion of municipal solid waste.

Anaerobic Digestion of Municipal Solid Waste (black bag or mixed waste where no source separated or kerbside recycling is in-place) requires the separation of the organic material (organic or biological fraction) from everything else.

Anaerobic Digestion of Municipal Solid Waste is carried-out in so-called “MBT” plants on the organic fraction of the residual waste “black bag” waste collected from households, and businesses on behalf of Municipal Solid Waste Management bodies.
“MBT” plants, or “Mechanical Biological Treatment Plants” in full, are where the organic matter is separated from the other garbage. Once that has been done the MBT plant is usually provided with its own biogas plant (Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Plant). Here we introduce the MBT Plant concept, and how MBT Plants improve recycling. Plus, help avoid greenhouse gas emissions by diverting organic waste away from landfill as required by the EU landfill Directive.
For many people, they have have a pretty fair understanding of what an incinerator is, and they visit their local Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) quite regularly to dispose of their own waste items, so are reasonably knowledgeable about what happens there. But, would ask…

What is a Mechanical Biological Treatment Plant (MBT)?

It’s a combination of a recycling plant, which in most instances, also carries out the anaerobic digestion of municipal solid waste (MWS). However, some MBT plants simply compost the organic fraction so that the material can be considered to have been “processed” to make it a lower environment risk once it is inside the landfill. When MBT plants are built with only aerobic composting this is a huge missed opportunity, because AD plants are capable of generating renewable energy (biogas). This renewable energy, when used instead of fossil fuels is highly beneficial to the planet. It reduces fossil fuels which when burnt emit carbon dioxide which in-turn is blamed as being a source of climate change, due to its greenhouse gas properties.
Watch our video at the bottom of this page. We talk you through a flow chart – don’t expect a lot of pretty pictures!

Most people are able to grasp the concept of Waste Transfer Stations (WTS’). The name says it all, as it is simply where the small loads from the refuse trucks are made up into large “bulk” loads for cost effective transport to the landfill.

But, beyond that there is little public knowledge of MBT.

However, it is one of the waste management technologies which are being increasingly used by the local authority waste disposal contractors to avoid having to ship waste (especially organic waste) out to landfills. That means that there could be quite a lot of MBT facilities built, within the next 10 to 15 years.

“Many Mechanical Biological Treatment Plants are being to be built in the UK”.

Also, here are quite a number in the EU states already, and the Germans and the Austrians are the leaders in introducing them.

In Germany there are about 50 MBT plants, which were built and operating (January 2008), and clearly the local people have no concerns about them, or at least, very few, objections.

a_Vagron_Biogas_Plant_CiTEC_small

MBT Plants are designed for maximum recycling, and usually include a composting and/or an Anaerobic Digestion stage.

They also are intended to make the quality of the much reduced quantity of waste, which is the remaining fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW) which cannot be re-used or recycled much less damaging when the residual quantity eventually arrives at the landfill.

MBT plants are much more popular with the general public than incinerators, as there is no question that an MBT plant operator would not absolutely maximise re-use and recycling of the incoming materials.

We are certain that incinerator operators re-use and recycle to the maximum in accordance with the requirements placed upon them and to the best capability of their equipment, as well.

However, the public and environmental pressure groups don’t always see it that way.

In fairness to those people that run incinerators, though. Once built, they do need to pay-back their initial investment cost. Recycling rate targets are continuously being raised.

This can lead to older incinerators, having been designed for lower recycling rates than currently required, lacking the equipment to comply with the newer higher recycling rates. In such cases, those plants tend to act against raising recycling rates, until they reach end-of-life and are refurbished to cope with the new recycling rate requirements.

The Anaerobic Digestion Process

23 Responses to Anaerobic Digestion of Municipal Solid Waste

  1. Ademaro Cortés Mena December 22, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    The Spanish company finds place on this in UK. Gracias.

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  13. Jeremy Jordan June 21, 2017 at 8:55 am #

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  14. Phyllis Holmes June 21, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    Hi there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Many thanks

    • biogasman September 23, 2017 at 10:31 pm #

      Yes. No problem.

  15. Govind Bhargav ji September 19, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

    I discovered your blog web site on yahoo and checked some of your posts.

    The source separation of the digestible fraction of household waste and of other similar wastes from municipalities, prior to anaerobic digestion (AD) is a topic of increasing worldwide
    relevance, as nations seek sustainability in the management of their organic wastes.

    There is an interesting report at https://www.iea-biogas.net/files/daten-redaktion/download/Technical%20Brochures/source_separation_web.pdf

    Thank you Sir.

    • biogasman September 23, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

      Hi! Govind. Thanks for the heads-up on that report. Looks like an interesting one.

  16. David Helman September 29, 2017 at 5:52 pm #

    Our Council want us to put our food waste in a separate container and put all this food in our green waste bin with our garden waste. Then they will only collect it once a fortnight. Is this reasonable? Is it hygienic. I doubt it very much. I am against the anaerobic digestion plant for this reason.

  17. scarlet September 29, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

    You should advise against the use of compostable plastic bags for municipal organic waste. “They are indistinguishable from other plastics and usually are not made from corn starch, some may not even be compsotable”. We recommend paper bags. The paper bag is what should be used, not so called compostable.

  18. Tabitha May 25, 2018 at 3:04 am #

    Where is your evidence that the emission of carbon dioxide is a source of climate change? You guys just keep repeating this dumb idea without a shred of real evidence. when will you STOP. Listen to Trump, he knows.

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