Over the last decade much progress has been made in anaerobic digestion of solid waste: advances in research and development, construction of new plants, more favourable legislation. Key features of this progress are reported in these proceedings. While the selected papers cover a wide range of work on 'solid' organic wastes, there is a particular focus on the organic fraction of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).
Many landfills are set to close and there is a significant increase in separate collection of MSW. Biological treatments can maximise recycling and recovery of its components; anaerobic digestion, with its high energy recovery and limited environmental impact, is frequently the most cost-effective of these treatments.
The future of anaerobic digestion of solid wastes is increasingly seen in the integration of this unique unit process in overall sustainable waste treatment. In Life Cycle Analysis anaerobic digestion offers several interesting features: energy recovery (a particularly important factor in third world countries); and a significantly lower contribution to global warming.
Problems remain (as for all types of wastes treatments), particularly concerning the fate of micro-pollutants and overall end-product quality, but anaerobic digestion offers major potential in the long-term environmental management. These proceedings offer an unrivalled authoritative view of the present and future of anaerobic digestion of solid waste.