Business Cases for WRRF Co-Digestion of Food Waste: Lessons Learned
Co-digestion of food wastes with wastewater solids at water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) can provide financial benefits to WRRFs, as well as a broad range of environmental and community benefits. Co-digestion is a core element of the wastewater sector’s Utility of the Future initiative, which envisions a new business approach for WRRFs to create valuable energy and nutrient products via the recovery and reuse of residuals from the wastewater treatment process. With fewer than one in 10 WRRFs using anaerobic digestion to process wastewater solids, and about one in 10 of those co-digesting high-strength organic wastes, there may be significant untapped potential for co-digestion. A contributing factor is the various financial, operational, regulatory, stakeholder/political, and organizational risks and impediments WRRFs face with the adoption of co-digestion and energy generation projects, which are outside core wastewater treatment services. Our speakers discussed WRF’s project, Developing Business Cases for Food Waste Co-Digestion at Water Resources Recovery Facilities (4792), which offers general principles and case study examples of how to create value and manage the risks of adopting co-digestion of food waste (e.g., fats oils and grease, food manufacturing residuals, and food scraps) with wastewater solids to enhance recovery of biogas, soil amendments, and nutrient products. They presented a diagnostic framework that WRRFs can use to analyze the opportunities and business case for co-digestion in their organizational, market, and policy contexts.