Functioning Industrial Symbiosis Model Application to Organic Waste: A Case Study of a Paper Mill Company in Cochambamba, Bolivia

Mendoza Abujder, Natalia

Wastewater treatment plants across the world can transform themselves from energy consumers into energy producers and not only convert their operations into a circular economy, but also reduce their disposal and energy costs, ultimately benefitting their triple bottom line. This field study and research created a model specific to a paper mill company in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Copelme S.A., to investigate if its waste streams can be converted into a value stream and if its organic sludge waste can be transformed into energy. The model included an analysis of the application of an Up-Flow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) reactor on the wastewater treatment plant to digest organic material and capture and burn gas to produce energy. Analysis of case studies, wastewater biometric sampling, and theoretical CO2 discharge and reduction estimations were used to validate environmental and economic feasibility. This study found that for Copelme S.A., adopting a UASB reactor in the current aerobic treatment plant would result in a theoretical incurred investment of at least $USD 1.362.980, with savings of $USD 90 per day. In turn, the company’s return of investment (ROI) would signify approximately 39 years. Using calculations taken from the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), an estimate of 171,3 Mt CO2/year would be expected. Although the ROI in years is high, the environmental impact that this signifies is enormous. This model could then be applied and used to power the company, resulting in an industrial symbiosis microcosm example with an additional financial and environmental benefit. The application of UASBs across other industries could take all of its waste streams and convert them into energy – benefiting the local communities, improving the health of the water systems and potentially sharing that energy generated through the creation of microgrids. By determining an initial model that works in transforming the company’s waste to energy, the same can be implemented on a larger scale, starting with a company and ending by converting itself into an example for future applications of energy recovery and waste management facilities.

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