UW Anaerobic Digester: Food Waste, Renewable Energy & Public Health (Phase 2)

Project Size: Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $35,000

Letter of Intent:

Summary: This is the Phase 2 (Full Proposal) of UW Anaerobic Digester project. The Phase 1 (Feasibility study) evaluated a) Site Location b) Gas usage c) Compost/Fertilizer usage d) Ongoing Maintenance requirements for building a 160-square foot anaerobic digester on the UW Seattle Campus. The Feasibility study is still underway, but is tentatively moving forward with the following: a) Site Location = UW Farm b) Gas usage = Power a small generator to provide electricity for appliances in the UW farm building (no electricity currently) c) Compost/Fertilizer = UW Farm/Grounds Management will share fertilizer output d) Ongoing maintenance = digester will be maintained by the UW Sustainability Coordinator (position within Grounds Management). The anaerobic digester would utilize food waste to produce renewable energy (biogas) and compost. The biogas and compost will be used for research projects by professors/students and by the UW Farm. The food waste would be provided by the UW Farm and UW Husky Union Building (HUB).

*Important change in the project proposal: We had originally planned to purchase an anaerobic digester from Impact Bioenergy (cost = ~$100,000), but we think a better alternative would be to form a lease agreement or lease-to-purchase agreement with Impact Bioenergy. Leasing is a good idea because: 1) There is no UW entity that is currently willing to “agree to take over the operational costs of this project” (CSF Project Approval Form). By leasing the digester, Impact Bioenergy will own/be liable for continued costs of the digester. 2) By leasing, we would be able to test having the digester on campus for 1-2 years, rather than permanently committing to having a digester on campus. The budget request in this proposal is to cover the leasing costs of the digester for 1-2 years. 

Environmental Impact: An anaerobic digester would have three main environmental impacts on the UW Seattle Campus: 1) Carbon Emissions: the anaerobic diges would utilize approximately 135lbs of food waste per day, so less food waste would be hauled from the UW campus to Cedar Grove Composting Facility. Reducing the amount of food waste that is hauled to Cedar Grove would reduce carbon emissions from garbage/waste disposal trucks that drive from UW to Cedar Grove. 2) Soil Health: an anaerobic digester would produce nutrient-rich compost that could be applied to the UW farm and Center for Urban Horticulture (and other locations on campus). 3) Renewable Energy: an anaerobic digester would be a small-scale model of how to generate renewable energy from food waste. The food waste is broken down by microbes, which produce methane gas, and the methane gas can be used to power a generator for electricity.

Student Leadership/Involvement: Student interest and leadership is primarily coming from a UW Registered Student Organization (RSO), called Global Sustainability Initiative (GSI). The undergraduate members include: Caelan Wisont, Zhaoyi Fang, Yushan Tong, and Kyler Jobe. GSI focuses on promoting sustainability on a global scale, emphasizing household-scale anaerobic digestion projects to create methane gas for stoves. There are also several UW MBA students involved in this project: John Turk (Class 2019), Robert Leutwyler (Calls 2019). These students are interested in examining the business model of the anaerobic digester, marketing of the fertilizer/compost produced, and scalability of small-scale anaerobic digester projects.

Education, Outreach & Behavior Change: Global Sustainability Initiative (GSI): GSI will conduct outreach to UW undergraduate students to build their membership and raise awareness about the anaerobic digester project. GSI will conduct outreach using tabling events, Facebook posts, and flyers. The UW Farm will also conduct outreach to students that are involved at the farm.

Feasibility, Accountability & Accessibility: This is the Full Proposal to move forward with building an anaerobic digester on the UW Seattle Campus. This project has a lot of support and is a collaboration between the Undergraduate/Graduate students, Professors, UW Facilities, UW Husky Union Building, UW Farm, UW Anaerobic Digester Project Leadership Team, UW Grounds Management, UW Landscape Architects/Design Review Board, and Impact Bioenergy. Impact Bioenergy (http://impactbioenergy.com/) is a business located in Seattle, WA that designs/builds anaerobic digesters to utilize food waste and produce renewable energy and compost.


Leadership Team:

Dr. Heidi Gough, PhD, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, hgough@uw.edu

Dr. Sally Brown, PhD, School of Forest Resources, slb@u.washington.edu

Aaron Flaster, BA, Research Coordinator, Department of Psychology, aflaster@uw.edu

Global Sustainability Initiative (Registered Student Organization), gsiuw@uw.edu


Budget Estimate: $35,000


Contact Information:

Aaron Flaster, B.A.

Research Coordinator, Department of Psychology, University of Washington

Work email: aflaster@uw.edu

Personal Email: aaronflaster@gmail.com

Cell #: 415-497-5877

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Aaron Flaster