The Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion of Organic Wastes

Anaerobic digestion is a biological process which stabilizes organic waste in the absence of air and transforms it into energy-rich biogas and biofertilizer. It is a reliable technology for the treatment of wet, organic waste. Organic waste from various sources is biochemically degraded in highly controlled, oxygen-free conditions circumstances resulting in the production of biogas which can be used to produce both electricity and heat. Almost any organic material can be processed with anaerobic digestion.

schematic of anaerobic digestion technology

Anaerobic digestion is particularly suited to wet organic material and is commonly used for effluent and sewage treatment. This includes biodegradable waste materials such as waste paper, grass clippings, leftover food, sewage and animal waste. The exception to this is woody wastes that are largely unaffected by digestion as most anaerobic microorganisms are unable to degrade lignin.

There are many advantages associated with anaerobic digestion technology which may be classified into three groups viz. environment, energy and economic:

Environmental Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion

  • Elimination of malodorous compounds.
  • Reduction of pathogens.
  • Deactivation of weed seeds.
  • Production of sanitized compost.
  • Decrease in GHGs emission.
  • Reduced dependence on inorganic fertilizers by capture and reuse of nutrients.
  • Promotion of carbon sequestration
  • Beneficial reuse of recycled water
  • Protection of groundwater and surface water resources.
  • Improved social acceptance


Energy Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion

  • Anaerobic digestion is a net energy-producing process.
  • A biogas facility generates high-quality renewable fuel.
  • Surplus energy as electricity and heat is produced during anaerobic digestion of biomass.
  • Anaerobic digestion reduces reliance on energy imports.
  • Biogas facility contributes to decentralized, distributed power systems.
  • Biogas is a rich source of electricity, heat, and transportation fuel.

Economic Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion

  • Anaerobic digestion transforms waste liabilities into new profit centers.
  • The time devoted to moving, handling and processing manure is minimized.
  • Anaerobic digestion adds value to negative value feedstock.
  • Revenues can be generated from processing of waste (tipping fees), sale of organic fertilizer, carbon credits and sale of power.
  • Anaerobic digestion plants increases self-sufficiency and foster sustainable development.

modern anaerobic digestion plant

Many industries produce liquid and solid wastes that are suitable for anaerobic digestion, such as food processing, pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, paper manufacturing and tannery industries. Some of the wastes might be difficult to digest as a sole substrate, but they can be biochemically degraded in combination with manure or sewage sludge or poultry litter. The combined digestion of different wastes is called co-digestion.

The relevance of anaerobic digestion technology lies in the fact that it makes the best possible utilization of industrial organic waste as a renewable source of clean energy. Diversion of industrial organic waste from landfill sites and taking it to waste management plants which can turn it into clean fuel and biofertilizer will ensure that it is treated in such a way that it becomes a useful product instead of a harmful one.

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA, and an international consultant, advisor, ecopreneur and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biomass energy, biogas, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. He has participated in numerous conferences and workshops as chairman, session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is the Editor-in-Chief of EcoMENA, and is a professional environmental writer with more than 300 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability in different parts of the world. Salman Zafar can be reached at or

3 Responses to The Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion of Organic Wastes

  1. Mohamed Sarifdeen Rakeeb says:

    Dear Mr. Salman
    Assalamu Alaikkum

    Thanks for the article.

    There is a huge potential to produce bio gas from organic waste which is adequately available in the GCC countries. As natural gas is available for cheaper rate in the GCC Countries, there is a question that how far the bio gas produced by organic waste will be succeeded?

    Mohamed Sarifdeeen Rakeeb

  2. zafarkhalid says:

    I am a Sri lankan. In the outskirts of Colombo there is a GARBAGE DUMP comprising of other matrials such plastc bags etc. which is about the hight of a half coconut tree and I believe almost a million tons in weight.

    What do you think is the best way of making bio gas far away from the site due to health hazards? Is bringing the waste in huge trucks to the converting site a good method?

    A rough sketch of the conversion unit or building or whatever would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Pingback: Animal Waste Management in Africa | EcoMENA

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