Energetic and environmental benefits of co-digestion of food waste and cattle slurry

Banks, Charles J. Salter, Andrew M. Heaven, Sonia and Riley, Keith (2011), Energetic and environmental benefits of co-digestion of food waste and cattle slurry: a preliminary assessment. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 56 (1) 71-79. (doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2011.09.006).

The research evaluated the feasibility of centralised pre-processing and pasteur-isation of source-separated domestic food waste followed by transport to farms for anaerobic co-digestion with dairy cattle slurry. Data from long-term experiments on the co-digestion of these two substrates was used to predict gross energy yields; net yields were then derived from full system analysis using an energy modelling tool. The ratio of cattle slurry to food waste in the co-digestion was based on the nutrient requirements of the dairy farm and was modelled using both nitrogen and phosphorous as the limiting factor.

The model was run for both medium-size and large farms in which the cattle were housed either all year round or for only 50% of the year. The results showed that the addition of food waste improved energy yields per digester unit volume, with a corresponding increased potential for improving farm income by as much as 50%. Data for dairy farms in the county of Hampshire UK, which has a low density of dairy cattle and a large population, was used as a stringent test case to verify the applicability of the concept. In this particular case the nutrient requirements of the larger farms could be satisfied, and further benefits were gained from the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions avoided through improved manure management and fertiliser imports. The results indicated that this approach offered major advantages in terms of resource conservation and pollution abatement when compared to either centralised anaerobic digestion of food waste or energy recovery from thermal treatment.

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