Anerobic digestion is a very practical method of reducing waste and creating energy. Many wastewater treatment plants have incorporated this process to efficiently reduce the volume of sludge produced by the plant and the number of pathogens it contains. The methane gas that is produced from the process is used to heat the digester for optimum gas production and waste reduction. However, the excess gas is usually used to produce electricity, but it can also supplement natural gas after being scrubbed of impurities. Once gas production has stopped in the digester, the treated sludge can be dried and used as fertilizer. There are regulations that govern land application of treated sludge or bio-solids which require additional treatment of the bio-solids to further reduce pathogen concentrations.
In the developing world, very humble anaerobic digesters are utilized on small scales by people for waste management. The methane produced is then used for heating, cooking, and lighting. Use of methane biogas in this manner has many beneficial aspects for health and economics. It burns cleaner and more completely, contributing to less particulate air pollution. CO2 produced by burning methane is a less potent greenhouse gas than methane itself, which would be naturally produced in landfills and septic systems. Time spent gathering firewood and making charcoal for cooking and heating is eliminated or educed, freeing up labor (especially women and children) for higher value but less immediate needs such as education, and market activities.
- Humanure Handbook
- Composting of Solid Waste During Extended Human Travel and Habitation in Space
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