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The US waste industry could learn valuable lessons from the implementation and operation of Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facilities in Europe, according to a new report issued by the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) Applied Research Foundation (ARF).

MBT systems have been implemented in Europe over the last 25 years to meet the requirements of the 1999 European Union Landfill Directive, which requires waste to be treated so that it is biologically stable before being disposed in landfills.

The facilities combine mechanical waste sorting with a biological treatment process such as composting and/or anaerobic digestion. These systems are used to recover additional materials for recycling and/or energy recovery as well as to stabilize the waste.

The report has been developed in response to the growing interest in the implementation of zero waste systems in North America, as many zero waste systems will utilize some type of MBT facility to process waste that is not recovered through recycling programs. Later this year, the first MBT facility in the eastern United States will open in West Virginia.

“Important lessons include the fact that the compost produced from MBT systems is generally of poor quality and not usable for agricultural applications,” explained Jeremy O’Brien, P.E., SWANA’s Director of Applied Research. “Also, the diversion rates have been on the order of 20% without energy recovery.”

“This report should serve as a valuable resource to the growing number of communities that are considering or implementing additional mixed waste processing systems in North America,” he continued. “These communities can benefit by from the experiences and lessons learned in Europe over the last 25 or so years with MBT facilities.”

The full report, “Mechanical Biological Treatment of Residual Waste – Lessons from Europe,” is currently only available to SWANA ARF subscribers. SWANA members receive free access to ARF industry reports one year after publication.