A complete mass balance of a complex combined anaerobic/aerobic municipal source-separated waste treatment plant

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In this study a combined anaerobic/aerobic full-scale treatment plant designed for the treatment of the source-separated organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) was monitored over a period of one year. During this period, full information was collected about the waste input material, the biogas production, the main rejects and the compost characteristics. The plant includes mechanical pre-treatment, dry thermophilic anaerobic digestion, tunnel composting system and a curing phase to produce compost. To perform the monitoring of the entire plant and the individual steps, traditional chemical methods were used but they present important limitations in determining the critical points and the efficiency of the stabilization of the organic matter. Respiration indices (dynamic and cumulative) allowed for the quantitative calculation of the efficiency of each treatment unit. The mass balance was calculated and expressed in terms of Mgy -1 of wet (total) matter, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Results show that during the pre-treatment step about 32% of the initial wet matter is rejected without any treatment. This also reduces the biodegradability of the organic matter that continues to the treatment process. About 50% of the initial nitrogen and 86.4% of the initial phosphorus are found in the final compost. The final compost also achieves a high level of stabilization with a dynamic respiration index of 0.3±0.1g O 2 per kg of total solids per hour, which implies a reduction of 93% from that of the raw OFMSW, without considering the losses of biodegradable organic matter in the refuse (32% of the total input). The anaerobic digestion process is the main contributor to this stabilization. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-805
JournalWaste Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012


  • Mass balance
  • Municipal waste
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Stability
  • Waste source-separation
  • Waste treatment plant


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