Anyone who produces large amounts of food waste—whether it’s a business, educational institution, or other organization—needs to consider how that waste will be managed. Fortunately, there is an increasingly popular technology that can safely and efficiently turn such organic materials into something valuable: biodigesters. A biodigester works by breaking down organic matter through the use of bacteria and other microorganisms in a process called aerobic digestion. In this blog post, we will take a comprehensive look at the science and technology behind how a biodigester works and how these machines compare to traditional food waste management.
The Aerobic Digestion Process: An Overview
Aerobic digestion is a process in which microorganisms break down organic waste in the presence of oxygen. This process, which can happen naturally and in an aerobic biodigester machine, is significantly more efficient and environmentally friendly than other forms of food waste management, such as landfills.
When organic waste is sent to landfills, it is buried, where it decomposes anaerobically, meaning in the absence of oxygen. This process produces methane, the notoriously potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Landfills are also known for their other negative environmental impacts, including groundwater pollution, odor problems, and immense land use.
In contrast, aerobic digestion is a decomposition process that occurs in the presence of oxygen and microorganisms. When food waste is introduced into an aerobic digester, the microorganisms begin to break down the waste by consuming and metabolizing it. As they do this, they produce enzymes that help break down the complex organic compounds in the food waste into simpler compounds.
These microorganisms require oxygen to carry out the process of aerobic digestion. To provide this oxygen, air is injected into the digester, which creates an oxygen-rich environment for the microorganisms to thrive. The air is usually introduced into the digester using mechanical aerators or diffusers, which create a fine mist of air bubbles that circulate throughout the digester.
As the microorganisms consume organic matter and oxygen, they produce carbon dioxide and water as byproducts, which can simply be discharged into a municipal sewer system. They also produce heat, which helps to maintain the temperature inside the digester at an optimal level for microorganism growth and activity.
Microorganisms: The Protagonists
Now that we understand the crucial role microorganisms play in the breakdown of organic matter, let’s get to know them a bit. Some of the most common types of bacteria used in aerobic digesters include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, and Bacillus. These bacteria are capable of breaking down a wide range of organic materials, including fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
In addition to bacteria, other microorganisms such as fungi and protozoa may also be present in aerobic digesters. Fungi, for example, are known for their ability to break down lignin, a tough compound found in plant material. Protozoa, on the other hand, is important for consuming and breaking down other microorganisms present in the digester.
Together, these microorganisms work to break down the organic matter in food waste and other materials, producing effluent that is rich in nutrients and free of harmful pathogens. By creating an environment where these microorganisms can thrive, aerobic digesters offer an effective and sustainable way to manage organic waste while also producing a valuable resource.
In Syker System biodigesters, we house our microorganisms and enzymes in a porous medium called SykerStars. The only time a Syker System biodigester needs to be emptied is when the SykerStars are changed out every 24-30 months. To learn more about how we build our biodigesters, read: Syker Systems: How We Build a Better Aerobic Digester.
Applications of Biodigesters
Any business that generates organic waste, such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals, or manufacturing facilities, can benefit from using aerobic digestion to reduce disposal costs and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The Stratus and Nimbus by Syker Systems have been implemented in a variety of industries with great results, including but not limited to:
- Restaurants: By using aerobic digestion, restaurants can divert food waste from landfills which can reduce disposal costs and improve their sustainability. Learn more: How Syker Systems Is Helping Restaurants Revolutionize Food Waste Systems
- Supermarkets: Supermarkets are major producers of food waste and can also benefit from using aerobic digestion to offset their carbon emissions while reducing employee tasks and costs related to disposal.
- Schools and campuses: Schools and campuses that produce large quantities of food waste can use aerobic digestion to educate their students about sustainability and streamline food waste management.
Biodigesters: An Answer to Food Waste Management
As more businesses search for innovative ways to manage food waste management and hit sustainability targets, biodigestion is coming to the forefront as a promising solution. Aerobic biodigesters are far more efficient and cost-effective than traditional waste management methods as they allow businesses to manage organic waste sustainably and quickly on-site, which can reduce disposal costs and minimize environmental impact.
Reach out to us at Syker Systems via the contact form below to learn more about biodigesters! You can also read our FAQ for additional information.