Biodegradable waste

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Biodegradable waste is a type of waste which can be broken down, in a matter of weeks or few months, into its base compounds by micro-organisms and other living things, regardless of what those compounds may be.

Biodegradable waste can be commonly found in municipal solid waste (sometimes called biodegradable municipal waste, or BMW) as green waste, food waste, paper waste, and biodegradable plastics. Other biodegradable wastes include human waste, manure, sewage, sewage sludge and slaughterhouse waste. In the absence of oxygen, much of this waste will decay to methane by anaerobic digestion.[1]

Climate change impacts[edit]

The main environmental threat from biodegradable waste is the production of methane and other greenhouse gases.[2]

Uses of biodegradable waste[edit]

Biodegradable waste can be used for composting or a resource for heat, electricity and fuel by means of incineration or anaerobic digestion.[3] Swiss Kompogas and the Danish AIKAN process are examples of anaerobic digestion of biodegradable waste.[4][5] While incineration can recover the most energy, anaerobic digestion plants retain the nutrients and compost for the soil and still recover some of the contained energy in the form of biogas. Kompogas produced 27 million Kwh of electricity and biogas in 2009. The oldest of the company's own lorries has achieved 1,000,000 kilometers driven with biogas from household waste in the last 15 years.[6]

Areas relying on organic waste[edit]

Featured in an edition of The Economist that predicted events in 2014, it was revealed that Massachusetts creates roughly 1.4 million tons of organic waste every year. Massachusetts, along with Connecticut and Vermont, are also going to enact laws to divert food waste from landfills.

In small and densely populated states, landfill capacity is limited so disposal costs are higher ($60–90 per ton in MA compared to national average of $45). Decomposing food waste generates methane, a notorious greenhouse gas. However, this biogas can be captured and turned into energy through anaerobic digestion, and then sold into the electricity grid.

Anaerobic digestion grew in Europe, but is starting to develop in America. Massachusetts is increasing its production of anaerobic digesters.

See also[edit]