Energy Source Creation from Diverted Food Wastes via Hydrothermal Carbonization

Investigators: University of South Carolina

Start Date:
Mar 2012

Award Amount:

Diversion of food wastes from municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills is being practiced and promoted in several states, at several commercial institutions/restaurants, and is becoming prevalent on many college campuses. The major driving forces associated with implementation of food waste diversion programs include policy requirements, such as state-wide diversion mandates, as well as a desire for environmental stewardship. It is expected that public desire and policies promoting food waste diversion will increase, necessitating the waste management industry begin evaluating, and in some cases reevaluating, potential food waste management approaches that promote sustainable treatment/conversion. Currently, diverted food waste is being either composted or anaerobically digested. Unfortunately, there are significant operational disadvantages associated with these techniques. Hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) is a thermal conversion technique that may overcome some of the challenges associated with composting and anaerobic digestion while converting the waste material to a valuable, energy-rich resource. The goal of this project is to evaluate the viability of conversion of food wastes to an energy source using HTC and to compare HTC to current technologies. The objectives of this project include:

1. Determine characteristics of the coal and liquid residue resulting from the carbonization of “real” food wastes to more accurately estimate potential energy yields from HTC.
2. Develop a module to assess the life-cycle impacts of HTC that can be integrated within an LCA framework.
3. Determine the conditions in which integration of HTC into a waste management scheme to treat diverted food waste is beneficial using a LCA tool (EASEWASTE), and identify the parameters that impart the largest impact on the success of the process.

Final Report


Food Waste





Reactors in Oven

Reactors in Oven