Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Time to make more out of waste

Date:
July 1, 2011
Source:
Eureka
Summary:
Dumping all our household waste on landfill is bad for the environment. Engineers are working to find the best way to ensure more of our organic rubbish is turned into biogas and compost.

Dumping all our household waste on landfill is bad for the environment. A Spanish company teamed up with European Scientists and engineers to find the best way to ensure more of our organic rubbish is turned into biogas and compost.

Related Articles


Hundreds of years ago, humans discovered flammable gas could be produced from rotting organic matter like food -- a process called anaerobic digestion. Today, EU laws are pushing governments to use that ancient knowledge to turn household organic waste into compost to enrich soil or biogas for energy. Our environment would be the winner since less waste would end up being dumped in diminishing landfill sites.

However, while the scientific theory is simple, treating the flow of thousands of tonnes of rubbish in ways that are commercially feasible for businesses can be a headache, as the participants in EUREKA project BIO-EXPERTISE knew from their experience in the industry. "On paper, the theory works well, but the practice on an industrial scale is different," explains Catherine Milhau, project co-ordinator, who heads scientific development at the environmental services division of Spain's FCC Medioambiente.

The Spanish factor

With more and more Spanish local authorities offering contracts to companies able to treat waste, FCC increased its efforts to make the process of making biogas, also known as biomethanisation, more effective. The firm realised industrial plants had previously imported processes from northern Europe, failing to take account of the specific circumstances of Spain where recycling organic waste was relatively new and where the percentage of fresh food in waste was relatively high due to Spanish culinary tradition.

"Rubbish is very diverse and varies from region to region and from country to country," says Milhau. Even an economic crisis can change the composition of our rubbish. "Now you see less organic matter because often ready meals like pizzas work out cheaper than fresh ingredients," says Milhau.

Waste treatment equipment manuals did not make much allowance for changes in the composition of rubbish or cultural factors. The bacteria that break down urban waste are also sensitive to a whole range of factors like temperature. "You're not dealing with a mechanical process like a clock," she says. "Small changes in the parameters of the process can stop it, and in the plant we haven't got time to experiment: rubbish doesn't stop; it arrives every day."

After winning EUREKA backing and securing funding totalling €3.41 million, the firm got engineers and researchers on board from Spain and France to evaluate the methodology used in treating solid waste in anaerobic digestion plants in order to improve it. The team chose an FCC treatment plant in Valladolid, in the north of Spain, which handles 200,000 tonnes of rubbish a year, as its industrial pilot plant.

Problem solving

Researchers at Huelva University in southern Spain investigated the procedure used in anaerobic digestion plants. In France, the research and development centre CREED at environmental company Veolia Environment built a pilot plant. The National Agronomical Research Institute INRA and Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory LBE helped CREED test treatment plant samples. Back in Valladolid, an industrial engineer from FCC oversaw extensive testing and investigation at the firm's plant.

The scientists and engineers compiled endless databases on factors affecting the biological processes of composting and biomethanisation, and began feeding their conclusions back to the Valladolid plant supervisors to enable them to improve daily operations there.

Through five years of meticulous research and testing, the EUREKA project developed a methodological guide to biomethanisation. At Valladolid, the biogas produced is converted to electricity. Part of it is used to run the installations and the rest of it is sold to the Spanish grid system.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Eureka. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Eureka. "Time to make more out of waste." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110701132246.htm>.
Eureka. (2011, July 1). Time to make more out of waste. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110701132246.htm
Eureka. "Time to make more out of waste." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110701132246.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins