The biological conversion of yard wastes and municipal solid waste by aerobic composting is an established technology. Anaerobic conversion of these wastes is less practiced but is being widely advocated for the next generation of bioconversion systems. Although the operational characteristics of both types of systems is well known, there is a lack of quantifiable data in the literature on the environmental effects of these technologies. It is widely assumed that they are environmentally benign, especially as compared to other processing and conversion technologies such as incineration or mechanical processing. The process microbiology, design, and operational characteristics of aerobic and anaerobic composting systems are compared and contrasted in this paper. Environmental effects such as odor and VOC emissions. pathogen destruction, energy and water consumption will be evaluated. Environmental impacts which may arise from the usage of compost off-site such as heavy metal uptake by plants will not be discussed.
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