Anaerobic Digestion – Beyond Composting

Anaerobic Digestion is the process by which plant and animal material is converted into methane and digestate for soil enhancement by naturally occurring micro-organisms in the absence of air. The methane produced by AD reduces fossil fuel use and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The material left over at the end of the process (digestate) is rich in nutrients so it can be used as fertilizer. AD is not a new technology – it has been used in the Europe since the 1800s – and there are a growing number of AD plants in the Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the UK processing waste and producing energy. Landfilling and composting organic waste releases vast amounts of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. It is a waste of the energy potential as well as an environmental tragedy. Burning the waste in an incinerator reduces the GHGs emitted, but wastes the energy and organic potential of the feedstock. AD is the choice of the future for British Columbia. This discussion will cover the reasons AD is preferable to other ways of managing our organic wastes, and the roadblocks and opportunities in developing a viable AD industry in British Columbia.

Eric Partridge is a retired Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment for BC, a retired lawyer and a businessman. He has been interested in anaerobic digestion for the past decade and is the Project Development Manager for Vantreight Integrated Resource Management Ltd., a company that is developing a $20 million anaerobic digestion plant on lower Vancouver Island.