WE&RF awards research contract to support co-digestion

By Water Environment & Reuse Foundation | September 27, 2017

The Water Environment & Reuse Foundation recently awarded a contract to the Environmental Law Institute to begin Food Waste Co-Digestion at Wastewater Resource Recovery Facilities: Business Case Analysis (ENER19C17). The project goal is to develop alternative sustainable business cases for wastewater resource recovery facilities to co-digest food waste, including fats, oil, and grease (FOG), food manufacturing residuals, and source separated organics. The research team will use the “innovation ecosystem” framework to manage risks as clean water utilities deal with increasingly valuable resources.

Food waste is the largest component of municipal solid waste entering landfills in the U.S. Co-digestion of food waste at water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) has multiple advantages compared to independent anaerobic digestion facilities. A previous WE&RF project with the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority indicated that co-digestion could be very beneficial to WRRFs, however adoption is limited due to economics such as cost of digestion and solids processing, waste characteristics, and technology choice and operations.

The key project objectives are to:

- Identify several sustainable business models focused on operational and environmental risk management and return on investment for co-digestion of food waste at WRRFs.

- Apply the innovation ecosystem framework to identify current drivers, impediments, and solutions to adoption of these business models.

- Develop a report and short briefing documents on research findings to inform and stimulate adoption by the wastewater sector.

The project is anticipated to be completed in 2018.