Codisposal of Garbage and Sewage Sludge--A Promising Solution to Two Problems

CED-79-59: Published: May 16, 1979. Publicly Released: May 16, 1979.

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The process of using thermal techniques in the codisposal of sewage sludge and municipal garbage was examined in order to determine why the implementation of codisposal has been limited. Codisposal is the integrated processing of garbage and sewage sludge through burning in which garbage is used as a fuel in sludge drying. The volume of both wastes requiring ultimate disposal is greatly reduced. Two basic codisposal approaches exist: one uses garbage incineration equipment, while the other uses the combustible portion of processed garbage as the auxiliary fuel source in sludge incinerators. Coincineration in garbage burning incinerators appears to be the most developed of the technologies.

Numerous factors have limited codisposal development, including early technological failures and the availability of less costly disposal methods. By the mid-1970's, only a handful of facilities were operating. A restrictive federal funding policy and institutional barriers have also hindered implementation. Codisposal requires a major capital investment; therefore, the availability of federal construction money can strongly influence whether or not codisposal will be implemented. Institutional barriers have limited codisposal development because sludge and garbage are often disposed of by different governmental departments or political subdivisions. A similar lack of coordination exists to some extent within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should undertake research to identify and analyze the impact of thermal codisposal on health and the environment. Results of the research should be disseminated to agency regional offices and to cognizant state and local officials. The Administrator should require that planned agency evaluations of codisposal projects provide for developing and disseminating actual operating cost data which cognizant officials can use in evaluating disposal options. A construction grants funding policy should be established which, to the extent allowed under existing legislative authority, would provide at least the same level of funding for deserving codisposal projects as for single-purpose sludge-only disposal options. The Administrator should require that states and local communities consider codisposal technology as a possible alternative during the areawide planning program authorized under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and also as part of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act planning activities.

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