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Anaerobic Digestion Tools and Resources

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Anaerobic Digestion Data Collection Project

Of the almost 103 million tons of wasted food generated in the industrial, residential, commercial and institutional sectors, EPA estimates that 35.6 percent is sent to landfill, 21.3 percent is sent to animal feed, 10.4 percent is managed by codigestion/anaerobic digestion, and smaller amounts are managed by other management pathways. In 2018 alone, about 44 million tons of wasted food went to landfills and combustion facilities.  It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of resources to produce food that ends up going to waste. To help reduce these costs and environmental impacts, EPA promotes diversion of food waste from landfills. Anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities can process food waste that would otherwise go to landfills and combustion facilities.

EPA recognized that better data about AD facilities was needed. Approval to collect this AD data was obtained from the White House Office of Management and Budget in December 2016. This data is important for EPA, the states and other stakeholders seeking alternatives to landfilling wasted food. Three phases of data collection are complete. Most of the data collected this past year is current as of December 2019. However, the following three data points are specific to an operating year: (1) Amount of food waste processed; (2) Amount of non-food waste processed; and (3) Amount of biogas produced. For these data points, the first phase represents data from calendar year 2015 and the second phase represents data from calendar year 2016. During the third phase, data was collected for both 2017 and 2018 for these three data points. EPA collected this information using electronic surveys.

The data collected allows EPA to:

  • Identify the names and locations of AD facilities processing food waste;
  • Document the processing capacity at AD facilities;
  • Track the growth of this capacity; and
  • Verify the end-uses of AD products such as digestate and biogas.

Phase 1 data is summarized in a report titled: Anaerobic Digestion Facilities Processing Food Waste in the United States in 2015: Survey Results. This report was the first annual report that EPA published on this topic. Phase 2 data is summarized in a report titled: Anaerobic Digestion Facilities Processing Food Waste in the United States (2016): Survey Results. Phase 3 data is summarized in a report titled: Anaerobic Digestion Facilities Processing Food Waste in the United States (2017 & 2018): Survey Results.

EPA will continue to gather data and seek to verify data received in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to clarify this information over time. EPA will begin collecting a fourth round of AD data in 2021.

The information collected will help EPA and other stakeholders develop future activities designed to support the use of anaerobic digestion as a management option for wasted food.    

Co-Digestion Economic Analysis Tool (CoEAT)

Although CoEAT was initially designed for use at Water Resource Recovery Facilities, it is a valuable tool for anyone operating an anaerobic digestion system.  Use of the term Water Resource Recovery Facility (or WRRF) in this context is intentional.  The term is indicative of the movement toward managing facilities previously called “Wastewater Treatment Plants” to produce clean water and reduce the nation’s dependence upon fossil fuel through the production and use of renewable energy.  EPA-developed tools like CoEAT play a role in this transition.

CoEAT is designed for decision-makers with technical experience in anaerobic digestion, including municipal managers, engineers, and operators of anaerobic digestion systems.  CoEAT helps users  evaluate the costs and benefits of accepting and processing wasted food, fats, oils and greases (FOG) or other organic materials.  CoEAT uses data and specific parameters from the facility under evaluation.  The tool generates economic and operational data to help users understand the impacts and costs of digesting more than one type of feedstock at their facility.  The data includes:
  • Fixed and recurring costs
  • Solid waste diversion savings
  • Capital investments
  • Biogas production and associated energy value

Co-digesting with wasted food and FOG will increase biogas production at a single-source digestion facility, such as a WRRF or farm digester.  This is beneficial to the facility because biogas can be used to generate energy which can offset costs.  Biogas has many beneficial uses.  There is also the added bonus of less wasted food/FOG being disposed of in landfills and therefore less methane gas being emitted to the atmosphere (from landfills).

The original version of the CoEAT tool was published in July of 2010.   The tool was updated in 2017 and an accompanying user's manual was also developed.  Both the Tool and the manual can be accessed using the links below.