Organic solid and liquid wastes contain large amounts of energy, nutrients, and water, and should not be perceived as merely waste. Recycling, composting, and combustion of non-recyclables have been practiced for decades to capture the energy and values from municipal solid wastes. Treatment and disposal have been the primary management strategy for wastewater. As new technologies are emerging, alternative options for the utilization of both solid wastes and wastewater have become available. Considering the complexity of the chemical, physical, and biological properties of these wastes, multiple technologies may be required to maximize the energy and value recovery from the wastes. For this purpose, biorefining tends to be an appropriate approach to completely utilize the energy and value available in wastes. Research has demonstrated that non-recyclable waste materials and bio-solids can be converted into usable heat, electricity, fuel, and chemicals through a variety of processes, and the liquid waste streams have the potential to support crop and algae growth and provide other energy recovery and food production options. In this paper, we propose new biorefining schemes aimed at organic solid and liquid wastes from municipal sources, food and biological processing plants, and animal production facilities. Four new breakthrough technologies—namely, vacuum-assisted thermophilic anaerobic digestion, extended aquaponics, oily wastes to biodiesel via glycerolysis, and microwave-assisted thermochemical conversion—can be incorporated into the biorefining schemes, thereby enabling the complete utilization of those wastes for the production of chemicals, fertilizer, energy (biogas, syngas, biodiesel, and bio-oil), foods, and feeds, and resulting in clean water and a significant reduction in pollutant emissions.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to express their appreciation to Department of Transport /Sun Grant, US Department of Agriculture /Department of Energy, Minnesota Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services , University of Minnesota MNDrive programs, University of Minnesota Center for Biorefining , and China Scholarship Council (CSC) for their financial support for this work.
- Anaerobic digestion
- Municipal solid waste
- Municipal wastewater