We examine a process for biowaste that can offer considerable benefits over biowaste processing systems. Richard Aho gives us the lowdown on Accelarated Biological Organics Processing
by Richard Aho
Organic matter makes up the majority of all waste produced in the world. Accelerated Biological Organics Processing (ABOP) offers the opportunity for biological recycling of large quantities of organic materials at prices lower than the cost of landfilling it. By achieving an unnaturally optimized level of natural biological activity in an isolated vessel, ABOP processes a large amount of material economically. During the process, water resources are protected and greenhouse gases are treated. To meet the provisions of the Landfill Directive and the EU Sustainable Development Strategy organics must be processed and put to beneficial use. The landfill directive was a great step forward, but it is essentially a modification of landfilling procedures. Waste processing (to produce beneficial materials) is the elimination/minimization of landfilling, and the current strategies of the majority of members of the EU have recognized the need for this kind of technology as a logical step forward.
What exactly is Accelerated Biological Organics Processing?
The central operating principle of this process is the elimination of constraints to biological activity through control and manipulation. The development and use of an overwhelmingly large number of microscopic biological processors, that are bred and acclimatized to processing each facility"s site-specific organic materials, make the process work. ABOP increases the amount of material composted and minimizes negative impact. Current proven technology and equipment is utilized to facilitate an intense and systematic biological attack on targeted organics. The equipment is inexpensive, readily available and dependable. Processing relies on multiple generations of adapted micro-organisms, extracted and developed from the site"s own stock. Greenhouse gases are captured and treated, water is treated to make it clean, and solids are processed to humus. This article is designed to give an introduction to transformer waste processing, a powerful tool to facilitate both financial and ecological improvements to integrated waste management.
How is it done?
In an isolated and optimized environment, massive armies of talented and dedicated organics processors (bacteria) are given everything they require to process waste while exponentially breeding. The precise environmental pressures present in this environment cause selection and therefore specialization of the bacterial population, with each generation more specialized than the last. Population and biological adaptation are proportional to the system"s ability to process materials. The population doubles every 20 minutes.
What are the advantages?
Cost is the primary advantage here. The trillions of bacterial processors do the work of actual machines used in other processes. The process containment can be utilized multiple times and the facilities can be scaled to fit local or regional needs, minimizing transportation cost and carbon debt. Accelerated Biological Organics Processing produces humus which improves soil. The processors are isolated from humans and do not pose a threat to water or food supplies. Aerobic processors control the environment in the containments and the processing "facility" does not produce offensive odours or non-CO2 greenhouse gas.
Processor bacteria are adapted to the characteristics of the material placed in their containment. The specialized bacteria that are developed within the treatment system can process contaminants which are toxic to most micro-organisms. Many contaminants that are toxic to humans and other higher organisms pass through conventional wastewater treatment systems because those facilities do not feature processes to treat the toxins. Retention time, contact opportunity, biological diversity, and the sheer numbers of organisms control the toxin reduction of ABOP. The resultant compounds have reduced toxicity or form stable non-toxic materials.
Partially (aerobically) processed MSW being excavated to make a road and embankment for the deposition of new waste. Click here to enlarge image
Excess water from the process is treated to clean water standards by the system and is available for other uses such as irrigation. Processing of liquid waste is an excellent application of the technology. Even very high biological oxygen demand (BOD – the primary measurement of organic waste strength) liquids are suitable for processing. Solids are reduced to compost or humus which is ideal for protecting and retaining water resources when added to soils.
What are the tools required?
The primary tools utilized include pumps, aerators, plastic piping, and plastic membranes. The pumps and aerators are off the shelf equipment. Plastic membranes are utilized to contain organisms, gases, liquids and solids. The physically isolated processing facilities move media with pipes and channels such that the speed and quality of the processing is increased with a minimum of expense. Standard mining and environmental suppliers furnish and install the plastic components. Heavy equipment is used to fill and empty the treatment vessel. The finished humus is screened to remove inert materials. The removal of glass from the feedstock is desirable as it is difficult to remove later in the process. Any significant amount of glass in the finished humus dramatically reduces the value of material.
What are the costs?
The costs to initiate and sustain these functions are less than those experienced during operation of a conventional landfilling operation. Combined capital and operating cost in the US is currently approximately €21 (US $31) per ton (€21.9 per tonne) while utilizing double composite or triple lined (with two leak detection zones) containments. The ability to reuse the containment system will further reduce costs. Processing containment design depends on local regulatory requirements. From an operational perspective, the processing unit must be watertight. Even if the containment requirements are excessive, the containment can be used for an unlimited number of cycles based on the life of the containment components. Local regulations may dictate stipulations on the feedstock of the process as well restrictions regarding the use of the finished material. Testing of liquids and solids removed from the system will vary and could be significant.
Part of the liquid phase of biological processing system. Click here to enlarge image
The current cost data does not include the value from the sale of the finished humus, which is highly variable. The finished organic matter can and should be suitable to the local region as a high value soil enhancement. Glass contamination should be minimized in the system feed, as it is difficult to remove from the humus. Small glass shards are costly to screen out or crush. Visible glass reduces the value of the humus to an unacceptable level at relatively low percentage concentrations. Simple screening should achieve a regional standard of excellence if glass contamination is not present.
What are the disadvantages?
The disadvantages of Accelerated Biological Organics Processing include the constant handling of water to facilitate processing. Subfreezing climates require additional care, and duties such as line evacuation. Monitoring, sampling, and laboratory testing require training and skilled operators. Discharges of water and sale of humus will likely require permits and documentation of testing. Testing and measurement is required for system monitoring and quality control. Processing is on a larger scale and to a greater degree when compared to a conventional composting operation and takes longer. The resultant material is considered an "overdone" compost. An overdone compost is between compost and topsoil characteristics.
Much of this proprietary process is simply the better use of current resources. It is another tool, a better tool, for sustainability efforts. By processing and therefore recycling the organics of the liquid and solid waste stream, when combined with conventional recycling options, diversions from landfilling or incineration in excess of 90% are achievable.
The second site to use the process (treatment of source-separated organics) has just recently been completed. Several other sites are in the planning stage in the US and Canada. An application of this technology will be in developing countries that are struggling to develop minimal infrastructure. EU countries that are attempting to achieve waste mandates can save millions, protect their citizens, treat or isolate contaminations, and rebuild their soil quality at the same time.
ABOP should be able to treat highly-contaminated brownfield sites with an adjacent communities" waste. The processes ability to attack highly toxic or otherwise harmful chemicals, pathogens, drugs residues and wastes will define the ultimate value of the process.
Richard Aho is the Principle of EWS LLC – the company that licenses the technology for Accelerated Biological Organics Processing
- This article is on-line. Please visit www.waste-management-world.com
Case study: Marquette County
Marquette County in Michigan is processing approximately 55,000 tons (49,890 tonnes) of new MSW per year and an undefined quantity of existing materials in a Subtitle D landfill cell. The facility is a 20-year-old municipal operation that has been retrofitted for processing. All excess liquids are treated and discharged as surface water. An examniation of the discharged liquids gives normal results. Incoming waste contains chlorinated compounds typical of MSW. These materials are processed by the system and are at nondetectable levels at discharge. Metals are oxidized and drop out of solution. The pH of the treated liquids and solids is between eight and nine. All discharges are tested and pass toxicity evaluation with both aquatic invertebrates and fish.
Solids produced by the processing of unsorted wastes are not permitted to be removed from the containment regardless of material quality. All digested organics tested have passed compost quality tests. Regulatory approval of the unrestricted utilization of processed source separated organics has recently been received. Organics make up approximately 60% of the incoming waste.
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The digested material, and materials being actively treated, serve as biofilter media. Older areas of the facility that are not currently being treated are covered with plastic, and emissions are vented through strategically placed digested media to eliminate greenhouse gases. Active areas are digesting emissions of older waste, or waste that is not currently being treated. The process is exothermic and continues despite ambient external temperatures that at times reach -30°F (-34°C). Processing has eliminated all fires at the facility. Odours are an indication of improper/inadequate processing and operators adjust the system to eliminate them.