What is an Anaerobic Composter?

Cheers to a new and improved composter! Breathe staff members, Patrick Guild and Katie Smet, celebrated the grand opening of Yolo County Landfill’s new anaerobic composter on October 22nd, 2019. Yolo County recently built seven anaerobic composter cells that will treat an annual capacity of 52,000 tons of green and food waste. In a sealed environment, the anaerobic composter uses anaerobic bacteria to decompose organic waste while generating renewable biogas (a type of biofuel that is naturally produced from the decomposition of organic waste) and producing nutrient-rich compost.

In a time when organic waste makes up the largest component of material in landfills, it is critical for landfill facilities to look at how to manage organic waste for sustainability. According to the U.S. EPA, organic waste sent to landfills decomposes and produces 18% of U.S. methane gas emissions. This new project seeks to preserve landfill space and reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by landfills.

Anaerobic composting is like decomposition of organic waste in a regular landfill with one big difference. The anaerobic composter cells are designed so that the final product can be removed and transformed into compost and the cells can be reused for the next round of organic waste. The decomposition process lasts six months and diverts organic waste from landfills, generates renewable energy, produces high-grade compost, lowers water usage, and decreases capital and operational costs.

Ramin Yazdani, the senior civil engineer behind the project, emphasized that the composter was more about output than storage of the waste. The composter captures 99.8% of methane produced during decomposition and has capacity to take all of Yolo County’s organic waste to transform it into clean energy and compost.

In attendance at the grand opening was the chair of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors Supervisor Don Saylor, Supervisor Oscar Villegas, Supervisor Duane Chamberlain, Supervisor Jim Provenza, Supervisor Gary Sandy, and State Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.

Not only is composting set to capture more methane and provide clean energy, but the soil created from the composting process is the gift that keeps on giving. Breathe staff received nutrient rich soil from the compost to supplement their own gardens. For more information on how food waste affects the quality of the air we breathe, watch this video created by Breathe here

Written by Katie Smet

Edited by Madison Lisle