Anaerobic digestion for a zero waste urban campus

EPA Grant Number: SU839284
Title: Anaerobic digestion for a zero waste urban campus
Investigators: Lishawa, Shane C.
Current Investigators: Lishawa, Shane C. , Baranovskis, Patrick , Dever, Monica , Erickson, Kevin , Monks, Andrew , Niosi, Olivia , Reese, Victoria , Ryan, John , Spehn, Nicole , Tomerlin, Mary , Waickman, Zach , Zhu, Zhenwei
Institution: Loyola University of Chicago
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: November 1, 2017 through October 31, 2018
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Energy


Loyola University Chicago (LUC) undergraduate students and faculty mentors will design, test, and implement a sustainable process to redirect waste streams from campus food, biodiesel, and wetland restoration into an integrated anaeobic digestion (AD) system to convert waste carbon into energy-generating biogas. This innovative project not only seeks a viable use for unused and underutilized waste products on campus, but it also seeks to contribute to the growing field of AD by investigating novel combinations of waste streams. An interdisciplinary team of students and faculty at LUC’s Institute for Environmental Sustainability (IES) will bring their unique expertise on energy innovation, economic sustainability, and pollution reduction potential to the project, in a collaborative effort to produce green energy. This project fits squarely into the broader sustainability objectives of LUC, which include creating a zerowaste and carbon-neutral campus by 2025. Our technologies will be transferable and scalable.


Our overarching goal is to make LUC a zero-waste and carbon-neutral urban campus, and a sustainability model for urban institutions in the United States and globally. The reduction of solid waste and the production of renewable energy are sustainability challenges for any institution, and are particularly difficult in urban environments with limited available space for organic matter recycling and energy production infrastructure. We propose to advance these institutional goals through an innovative EPA P3 project that will reduce pollution (carbon emissions and solid waste disposal) by producing energy for heating and electricity from all campus organic waste. Specifically, we will pursue the following research objectives: 1) quantify the anaerobic methane production potential of all campus waste streams individually and in combination, and determine optimal waste stream mixtures for solid waste reduction and energy production; 2) build a benchtop-scale continuous flow AD system to calculate ideal loading rate and retention time of our optimal waste stream mixture 3) evaluate the quality of AD digestate for secondary utilization as an agricultural soil amendment and sustainable landscaping fertilizer; 4) using data collected through student research, develop a comprehensive plan to acquire an AD system at LUC’s IES with advanced mixed-source technology to treat all campus organic waste material and 5) engage interdisciplinary IES students in highly experiential environmentally sustainable projects.


Our project is an innovative effort to integrate campus waste products into a new renewable energy source. By redirecting waste products from cafeteria food production, wetland restoration, and biodiesel production, we will reduce waste production while producing a new stream of carbon-neutral energy on campus. Our proposed system has the potential to produce higher energy yields than the sum of the individual feedstocks used, and is a potential paradigm shifting approach for anaerobic digestion, on-campus sustainability, and urban waste management. Through waste reduction and utilization, integration of feedstocks, energy production, and recycling of used digestate back into agricultural soils, we will create a sustainable, closed-loop waste-to-energy system.

Expected Results:

The primary long-term results of our P3 project include: a) designing an environmentally and economically sustainable AD system on campus; b) investigating combinations of three campus waste streams to maximize energy production potential of AD; c) developing value for spent AD digestate as a soil amendment for agriculture d) disseminating the design and innovations of our project to both universities and industry to maximize societal benefits of energy production from waste products through AD, and; e) increasing the number of students and teachers who have hands-on experience in exciting and meaningful environmental projects. We will develop and evaluate all phases of the design of the AD technology and its ultimate success will be validated by waste redirection resulting directly in energy production. Furthermore, our project will maximize the educational benefits of the P3 award. Approximately 20 undergraduate students will gain scientific research experience, and will be expected to take ownership of the entire process, from experimental design to publication and presentation.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Biogas, green energy, sustainable development, clean technologies, innovative technology, waste reduction, waste minimization, biochar, nutrient recycling, agriculture, invasive plants, ecological restoration.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report