New report finds European mechanical biological treatment systems provide valuable lessons to North America
Findings released by SWANA's Applied Research Foundation
A new report issued by the Solid Waste Association of North America's (SWANA) Applied Research Foundation (ARF) presents valuable lessons that can be learned from the implementation and operation of Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facilities in Europe.
The report has been developed in response to the growing interest in the implementation of zero waste systems in North America, as many zero waste systems will utilize some type of MBT facility to process waste that is not recovered through recycling programs. Later this year, the first MBT facility in the eastern United States will open in West Virginia.
"This report should serve as a valuable resource to the growing number of communities that are considering or implementing additional mixed waste processing systems in North America," stated Jeremy O'Brien, P.E., SWANA's Director of Applied Research. "These communities can benefit by from the experiences and lessons learned in Europe over the last 25 or so years with MBT facilities."
MBT facilities combine mechanical waste sorting with a biological treatment process such as composting and/or anaerobic digestion. These systems are used to recover additional materials for recycling and/or energy recovery as well as to stabilize the waste.
"Important lessons include the fact that the compost produced from MBT systems is generally of poor quality and not usable for agricultural applications," said O'Brien. "Also, the diversion rates have been on the order of 20% without energy recovery."
MBT systems have been implemented in Europe over the last 25 years to meet the requirements of the 1999 European Union Landfill Directive, which requires waste to be treated so that it is biologically stable before being disposed in landfills. The full report, "Mechanical Biological Treatment of Residual Waste - Lessons from Europe," is currently only available to SWANA ARF subscribers. SWANA members receive free access to ARF industry reports one year after publication.
Traditionally, waste management companies have operated using a simple "management of waste" approach to operating a MRF. Throughput targets and continuous operation (minimal downtime) were the main driving forces. The industry has changed however, and the focus moving forward is now on optimizing system performance and reliability, in conjunction with increasing recycling rates and a drive for a "greener" and more sustainable tomorrow.
When considering the addition of, or upgrade to, an "intelligent" MRF, for municipalities or private operators, the main factors should always be the client's (operator) current requirements, and evolving market needs, which include throughput, reliability, output quality, and adaptability. Equally important is a full understanding of what is really expected from any proposed system. Having an engaged and focused mindset for the project with the client from the beginning, will impact and drive the entire design process. This then impacts the overall project result, through to the productive, efficient, ongoing operation of the facility itself.