Anaerobic digestion of biowaste in Indian municipalities: Effects on energy, fertilizers, water and the local environment
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Anaerobic digestion (AD) of biowaste seems promising to provide renewable energy (biogas) and organic fertilizers (digestate) and mitigate environmental pollution in India. Intersectoral analyses of biowaste management in municipalities are needed to reveal benefits and trade-offs of AD at the implementation-level. Therefore, we applied material flow analyses (MFAs) to quantify effects of potential AD treatment of biowaste on energy and fertilizer supply, water consumption and environmental pollution in two villages, two towns and two cities in Maharashtra. Results show that in villages AD of available manure and crop residues can cover over half of the energy consumption for cooking (EC) and reduce firewood dependency. In towns and cities, AD of municipal biowaste is more relevant for organic fertilizer supply and pollution control because digestate can provide up to several times the nutrient requirements for crop production, but can harm ecosystems when discharged to the environment. Hence, in addition to energy from municipal biowaste - which can supply 4-6% of EC - digestate valorisation seems vital but requires appropriate post-treatment, quality control and trust building with farmers. To minimize trade-offs, water-saving options should be considered because 2-20% of current groundwater abstraction in municipalities is required to treat all available biowaste with 'wet' AD systems compared to <3% with 'dry' AD systems. We conclude that biowaste management with AD requires contextualized solutions in the setting of energy, fertilizers and water at the implementation-level to conceive valorization strategies for all AD products, reduce environmental pollution and minimize trade-offs with water resources.