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Shakira Hobbs

Clemson University, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2016

Strategic Sustainability Assessment of Enhanced Aerobic and Anaerobic Digestion of Food and Bioplastic Waste for MunicipalitiesProject Description:
Conventional methods of sending food waste to landfills have environmental, social and economical impacts. The significant amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted from food waste has led to states, such as Massachusetts, limiting the amount of food waste that can go to landfills. Food waste leftovers from restaurants, residences and grocery stores can be redirected from landfills to three waste management alternatives: a) converted to nutrient rich grey water via aerobic digesters that send effluent directly to wastewater treatment facilities, b) composted to produce nutrient rich soil amendments, and c) used as a substrate at anaerobic digestion facilities which produce methane gas that is transformed into fuels and energy.

The aim of this research is to assess and optimize the sustainability of bioplastic and food waste handling via anaerobic and aerobic digestion, composting and landfilling. The goal of this novel research is to develop solutions that minimize environmental impacts while reducing cost of implementation for communities. Shakira’s research will account for unintended consequences and co-benefits through experimental design that optimizes anaerobic digestion systems such that they can accept both food waste and bioplastic. She will use life cycle assessments (LCA) and technoeconomic analysis (TEA) to quantify the environmental and economic impacts of aforementioned waste management technologies, and apply to a case study.

The results of this research will help cities and facilities managers evaluate a wider range of organic waste and biopolymer treatment options and provide concise guidance highlighting sustainable waste handling techniques.

Shakira R. Hobbs is a Ph.D. candidate and earned her B.S. in Environmental Science and Technology from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012. She participated in the NSF IGERT-SUN Fellowship program, LSAMP Undergraduate Research Program and NSBE. She completed her M.S. program in Engineering at Arizona State University, and transferred to Clemson University with her advisor, Dr. Amy E. Landis, to complete her Ph.D. She has presented her research at numerous national meetings and conducted research in Belize and Trinidad & Tobago. Her thesis research consists of assessing and optimizing the sustainability of bioplastic and food waste handling via anaerobic digestion (AD), composting and landfilling.