Food waste is a multifaceted issue that has proposed solutions as complex as the problem itself. New York State recently announced a food waste ban, effective January of 2020, that will require large scale food waste producers to manage the waste through alternative methods as opposed to disposal in a landfill. One of those methods is through Anaerobic Digestion, a process in which organic matter chemically reacts with bacteria to produce a biofuel along with an associated byproduct, namely digestate. The biofuel in most cases is used to produce electricity to feed back to the grid acting as a net benefit, but the management strategies and economics of digestate are variable. Digestate is a material high in nutrients beneficial to soil health, making it a viable option to use as a fertilizer. The matter of whether usage of digestate as a fertilizer is a net benefit or cost for the process of Anaerobic Digestion is not well known at the current state of research as assumptions are often made for this value. Scenarios comparing digestate management as a fertilizer against when it is deemed as a waste product was the main premise of the model. Research in this work will determine what the net benefit or cost of digestate is in different usage scenarios. Policies affecting the processing steps of digestate in each of the use cases are also reflected on and related to the economic analysis conducted. Digestate was found to either pose as a net benefit or cost in the fertilizer scenarios and always was a net cost in the waste management scenario. The overall goal of conducting this research is to provide key information for a solution to the overarching problem of food waste.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Food waste--Management; Waste products as fertilizer; Sewage--Purification--Anaerobic treatment; Cost effectiveness

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Science, Technology and Public Policy (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Public Policy (CLA)


Eric Hittinger

Advisor/Committee Member

Callie Babbitt

Advisor/Committee Member

Kristina J. Owens


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes