Feasibility Studies of Organic Waste Facilities

This report aims to understand how best to establish organic waste facilities by reviewing seven organic waste facility feasibility studies to establish best practices for replicability. It addresses the aspects relevant to a successful feasibility study by incorporating both the structure of a good study and the necessary details that should be integrated. These aspects include:

·       The best outlining for the development of a feasibility report

·       The importance of feedback

·       Determining appropriate infrastructure based on scale

·       Best practices in keeping the feasibility study organized

·       How to improve cost efficiency

·       Policy challenges of waste diversion

·       Cost benefit analysis of implementing legislation

·       Finally establishing an end market

Addressing all components described above serves as the key to creating a successful organic waste feasibility study. The scope of infrastructure capacity in the feasibility studies ranged from 2,500 tons per year to 40,000 tons per year on large scale units.

The studies reviewed in this article include:

1.     Anaerobic Digestion of Municipal Solid Waste: Environmental Research and Education Research

2.     DC Compost Feasibility Report: District of Columbia Department of Public Works (DPW)

3.     Third Assessment of California’s Compost and Mulch-Producing Infrastructure – Management Practices and Market Conditions: CalRecycle

4.     Regional Food Waste Recovery Outlook: Global Green USA

5.     Economics of New York City Commercial MSW Collection and Disposal and Source-Separated Food Waste Collection and Composting: Global Green, Coalition for Resource Recovery

6.     Benefit-Cost Analysis of Potential Food Waste Diversion Legislation: NYSERDA

7.     A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent: ReFED

The goal across all of the feasibility reports is to assess logistical and processing options for diverting most, if not all, organic waste from landfills. The EPA reported that in 2012, U.S. food waste comprised 14.5% of the total Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation. If food waste were diverted correctly, there can be reduction to waste sent to landfills.[1] Diverting organic waste from landfills will result in a reduction in methane off-gassing, a decrease in the waste being sent to overcrowded landfills, and improvements to soil nutrition. Potential composting technologies reported include anaerobic digestion (AD), covered aerated static piles (ASP) and windrowing. The challenges faced with development of organic waste facilities are numerous and can include regulatory, economic, land use and market barriers. In particular, the state of California has a major concern in lack of processing capacity. This concern stems from California’s goal to divert 50% of organic waste from landfills by 2020.[2]

[1] EPA. (2012) “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012.”

[2] Cotton, M. (2010) “Third Assessment of California’s Compost and Mulch-Producing Infrastructure -- Management Practices and Market Conditions.” Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, Integrated Waste Management Consulting, LLC, Sacramento, CA

Elizabeth Taveras