Science Inventory

Anaerobic Digestion and its Applications


Bassett, J., R. Bastian, A. Costa, B. Dunbar, C. Ely, A. Hong, M. Pennington, S. Rock, C. Staniec, AND J. Turgeon. Anaerobic Digestion and its Applications. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-15/304, 2015.


This paper provides a brief overview of the science of anaerobic digestion (AD), describes how increased implementation of AD systems supports current EPA priorities, and summarizes current applications of AD systems to achieve various environmental goals.


Anaerobic digestion is a natural biological process. The initials "AD" may refer to the process of anaerobic digestion, or the built systems of anaerobic digesters. While there are many kinds of digesters, the biology is basically the same for all. Anaerobic digesters are built systems that deliberately harness the natural process. AD systems can minimize odors and vector attraction, reduce pathogens, produce gas, produce liquid and solid digestate, and reduce waste volumes. Prior to January 2014, there were a number of EPA technical staff working individually on various aspects of AD projects in the Regions, and in different EPA Offices. As AD applications become more widespread and visible, the Agency began receiving an increase in the number of internal and external inquiries surrounding AD systems. As EPA integrates sustainability concepts into long and short term waste and wastewater management frameworks, AD continues to be identified as a useful tool. In February 2014, a true Cross-Agency AD Team made up of individuals from different EPA Offices and Regions was formed. In March 2014, a smaller group of individuals (Core AD Technical Team or Core Team) was formed to focus on the technical aspects of AD and its applications. Technical information is presented on AD and the connection between AD systems and EPA's strategic goals and cross-agency strategies. AD is both a natural process and an engineered technology. Concepts and nomenclature are introduced to show the range of AD system applications and describe the uses of AD products. Multiple uses of the various technologies and regulations are discussed, but the document is not intended as a handbook or a regulatory guide. The authors envision that the paper will serve as a framework for continued Agency discussions on how the use of AD systems can achieve strategic and programmatic goals.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 10/01/2015
Record Last Revised: 02/25/2016
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 310906