Materials Management - Anaerobic Digestion
Anaerobic digestion is the natural process in which microorganisms break down organic materials in the absence of oxygen. Biogas is generated during anaerobic digestion. Biogas is mostly methane generated during anaerobic digestion and carbion dioxide with very samll amounts of water vaport and other gases. The carbon dioxide and other gases can be removed, leaving only the methane, the primary component of natural gas. The material that is left after AD happens is called “digestate.” Digestate is a wet mixture that is usually separated into a solid and a liquid. Digestate is rich in nutrients and can be used as fertilizer for crops. In recent years, the number of anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities that accept food waste, including food and dairy processing waste, has been increasing in the northeast, and by 2021 there were about 70 of these AD facilities in the region.
The capacity is in part due to efforts by state environmental agencies to support renewable energy development and promote increased diversion of food waste by large generators. However, AD facilities must apply for air, water, waste, and possibly other permits and to comply with a complex set of varying requirements. State regulations are evolving as states learn more about AD operations, what regulations are demonstrated to be effective, and as environmental justice (EJ) priorities are advanced. AD operators need to be knowledgeable about these requirements and responsive to EJ community concerns. NEWMOA partnered with the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), Clean and Healthy New York, and the Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice to launch a Project in 2022 that is designed to develop and implement strategies for overcoming these challenges, and, thereby, support expansion of AD capacity in the northeast. The Project is funded by a grant from EPA Region 2.
The Project Team has engaged a group of stakeholders, including government officials, AD companies, NGOs, consultants, researchers, and others in providing input and oversight for the Project. The Project Team is developing and combining a series of documents and training materials into an online toolkit that will be shared with waste companies and programs throughout the U.S. via the partners websites, social media sites, and other outlets. The written materials include:
- A Guide to successfully navigating environmental regulatory requirements and related state EJ policies/laws
- A best practice guide on effective engagement with EJ communities in planning for AD operations
- A short “What’s AD and How Can I Get Involved?” Road Map designed to help municipal officials and residents in EJ communities where AD facilities may be located understand the basics of AD, the overall regulatory landscape, and the opportunities available for meaningful engagement in decision-making
The Project will involve a series of webinars for targeted audiences, including AD operators and consultants and community groups, on the topics covered in these written materials.