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Frequent Questions: EPA Reports on Anaerobic Digestion Facilities Processing Food Waste in the United States

Frequent Questions: Anaerobic Digestion Facilities Processing Food Waste in the United States

Why did EPA collect this data?

There is little publicly available information about the number, location, and operational characteristics of anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities that accept food waste in the United States. EPA recognizes that better data is needed to support efforts to divert organic wastes from landfills. Therefore, under ICR (No. 2533.01), EPA developed electronic data collection surveys for stand-alone food waste digesters, on-farm digesters that co-digest food waste and digesters at WRRFs that co-digest food waste.

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Who will use the information in these reports?

The reports are useful to many stakeholders engaged in efforts to reduce food loss and waste. These stakeholders include: state, local and tribal governments, non-profits interested in diverting food waste from landfills, the biogas industry, renewable energy and wastewater treatment researchers, universities, and more.

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Does the data presented in these reports reflect the entire universe of anaerobic digestion facilities in the United States?

This data collection only covers AD facilities that accept food waste as a feedstock. However, there are many AD facilities that process only manure or wastewater solids, and they are excluded from this data collection. Additionally, it is unlikely that EPA has identified all AD facilities in the U.S. that accept food waste, and not all AD facilities that process food waste responded to the EPA survey.  

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Is any of the data estimated or projected?

The data in these reports summarizes information reported in survey responses for the specific year in which the data was collected. Projecting or predicting volumes processed at non-reporting facilities is not within the scope of this project. Food waste capacity and food waste processed that was reported in gallons was converted to tons to quantify the total capacity available for processing food waste. EPA converted the data from gallons per year to tons per year because tons is the industry standard for measuring food waste.   

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Does EPA provide operational data about individual facilities in these reports?

No. The collected data has been aggregated so that operational data from individual facilities cannot be ascertained. 

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What does EPA plan to do with the data in these reports?

EPA has approval to collect data for a period of three years. The first two phases of data collection are complete and the third phase is underway. In 2019, EPA will collect data for the years 2017 and 2018, to provide the public with information about:

  • The number and location of operational AD facilities in the U.S. as of 2019 and information on current processing capacity, amount of food waste and non-food waste processed, and biogas production;
  • Efforts to decrease landfilling and increase beneficial uses of AD digestate and biogas; and,
  • Pre-processing/de-packaging activities, operational specifications, and gas cleaning systems.

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Do the reports cover all the biogas that is produced at Water Resource Recovery Facilities (WRRFs)?

No. Only the WRRFs that currently co-digest food waste and WRRFs with co-digestion systems that are under development (combined approximately 80 WRRFs) are covered in these reports. However, there are more than 1,200 WRRFs that have digesters and produce biogas in the U.S. Documenting the biogas produced in all 1,200 WRRF digesters was beyond the scope of this project.

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Where can I find more information about each digester type identified in these reports?

See EPA’s AD Website – Types of Digesters for basic information about the different types of digesters and their characteristics.

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When will data from additional years become available?

EPA will collect data for calendar years 2017 and 2018 during the calendar year 2019. We anticipate the report containing these data to be released in late 2020.

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Can I directly compare the results of one year's report to another year's report?

No. The facilities that respond to the survey are different each year, and EPA does not estimate or extrapolate for facilities that do not report. So, it is not possible to directly compare the results from year to year. It may be helpful to see the list of facilities that have responded each year which are located in the report appendices.