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Waste Biomass Valor

DOI 10.1007/s12649-016-9645-7


Co-composting of Municipal Sewage Sludge and Landscaping

Waste: A Pilot Scale Study
Zulnaim Dzulkurnain1 • Mohd Ali Hassan1,2 • Mohd Rafein Zakaria1,3 •
Puteri Edaroyati Megat Wahab4 • Muhamad Yusuf Hasan2,5 • Yoshihito Shirai6

Received: 6 January 2016 / Accepted: 28 July 2016

Ó Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Abstract Compost with nutrient-rich organic matter can gave an index result of 7, which indicated that the product
be produced from renewable biomass materials such as was matured. Pathogenicity test of the compost confirmed
municipal sewage sludge, landscaping waste and others. In that coliforms and Escherichia coli were eliminated within
this study, co-composting of municipal sewage sludge and 15 days of composting at the thermophilic stage, making
landscaping waste as a soil amendment using 10 m3 pilot the compost safe to be used in the natural environment.
scale bioreactor system was tested. The temperature, oxy-
gen level, moisture content and pH were monitored Keywords Bioreactor composting  Compost 
throughout the composting process. Proximate and ultimate Biofertiliser  Municipal sewage sludge  Landscaping
analyses of the compost were determined for nutrient waste
availability. The matured compost produced has nitrogen,
phosphorus and potassium content of 3.01, 0.27 and
0.68 %, respectively, which made it suitable for the growth Introduction
of ornamental plants. The SolvitaÒ compost maturity kit
Compost is a product that is produced from the degradation
& Mohd Ali Hassan
of organic materials under controlled conditions by bio- logical treatment [1, 2]. Compost can be produced from
various types of biomass, including municipal solid waste,
Department of Bioprocess Technology, Faculty of agricultural waste and others with the addition of bulking
Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, Universiti Putra
Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
agents or amendments. Composting process has many
advantages including sanitation of the product produced,
Department of Process and Food Engineering, Faculty of
Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang,
mass and bulk reduction of the biomass, and the decrease
Selangor, Malaysia of carbon to nitrogen ratio at the end of the process [1, 3].
Laboratory of Biopolymer and Derivatives, Institute of
Adequately stabilised and matured compost is beneficial
Tropical Forestry and Forest Products, Universiti Putra for agricultural applications and the growth of ornamental
Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia plants.
Department of Crop Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Municipal sewage sludge is still a significant environ-
University Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Selangor, mental problem in the world with regards to human health
Malaysia and environmental pollution. In Malaysia alone, it is esti-
Section of BioEngineering Technology, Universiti Kuala mated that 3.2 million cubic metres of domestic sludge are
Lumpur, Malaysian Institute of Chemical and produced annually [4]. Municipal sewage sludge is a waste
BioEngineering Technology, Vendor City, Taboh Naning,
from the wastewater treatment that is rich in macro and
78000 Alor Gajah, Melaka, Malaysia
micronutrients comprising of organic and inorganic mate-
Department of Biological Functions and Engineering,
rials as well as trace elements that are essential for plant
Graduate School of Life Science and System Engineering,
Kyushu Institute of Technology, 2-4 Hibikino, Wakamatsu- growth [5]. The common practice in some of European
ku, Kitakyushu-shi, Fukuoka-ken 808-0916, Japan countries to eliminate municipal sewage sludge by burning

Waste Biomass Valor

in the incinerator, not disposing into the landfill since the to human beings and the environment. In order to reduce
spreading of sewage sludge material on land was banned those potentials, the small-scale or windrow composting of
[6]. This action was taken due to the limitation of organic sewage sludge has become one of the solutions for stabi-
matter content of the sludge itself which may pollute the lized the sludge. The study of the usage of small-scale or
environmental if not treated properly. In Malaysia, windrow composting of sewage sludge has been widely
municipal sewage sludge needs to be dealt with first using reported by numerous authors [13–16]. However, there are
chemical and biological treatment before being transported very few reports on the treating of sewage sludge by the
to the landfill. Therefore, one of the alternative methods to bioreactor composting system. Issues rises when deals with
solve the problems of municipal sewage sludge disposal is the usage of bioreactor when there were significant dif-
composting, which reduces the mass, destroys the weed ferent in terms of the process and heterogeneity. Different
seeds, provides sufficient sanitation effect and produces a wastes have certain characteristics that need to be studied
valuable end-product. Moreover, composting is the most in terms of rate of degradability, process factors limita-
popular way for treating solid organic wastes by converting tions, and degree of completion. Issues of compost com-
them into relatively stable products for fertilizer or soil pletion measurement still have yet to be standardized due
amendment usage. to its complexity. Therefore, rigorous studies of compost
Amendment agent is a carbon-based material that adds process in pilot scale have to be done in order to serve the
structure or bulk to the pile for an effective composting basis of full-scale operations. The objective of the present
process. A common amendment agent used is a land- study was to investigate the effectiveness of pilot-scale co-
scaping waste. Examples of landscaping waste are fallen composting of municipal sewage sludge and landscaping
leaves, grass clippings, herbaceous pruning, branches, waste to produce compost that can achieve thermophilic
brush, garden material, weeds, tree trunks and others. In condition for the elimination of pathogenic microorgan-
Malaysia, about 18 % of the total solid waste generated isms within the perspective of appropriate compost quality
comprises of landscaping waste [7]. Landscaping waste for the safe use.
was not entirely utilized practically in Malaysia and is
usually disposed in the landfills. Landscaping waste has
been used as a bulking agent or amendment in the com- Materials and Methods
posting process to produce a good product that is suit-
able for the natural environment, which also helps to Preparation of Raw Materials
lighten the burden to the municipalities to dispose of it.
Besides that, the usage of bulking agent or amendment The mixed municipal sewage sludge was collected from
during co-composting can shorten the maturing duration the disposal tank of Indah Water Konsortium (IWK)
and the thermophilic condition will eliminate or reduce wastewater treatment plant in the form of solid cake and
the pathogenic microorganisms in the compost [8] There partially dried to 80–85 % moisture content prior to the
were several reports on the usage of the bulking agent composting process. The proximate and ultimate analysis
while composting in small and large-scale bioreactor of the raw material and mixed municipal sewage sludge
systems [9, 10]. However, reports on co-composting of plus sewage sludge were shown in Table 1. The land-
municipal sewage sludge with landscaping waste as an scaping waste was collected from Taman Pertanian
amendment in bioreactor system on a pilot scale to Universiti, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Per-
achieve thermophilic stage with the elimination of badanan Putrajaya, Malaysia. The fresh landscaping waste
pathogens were still limited. was chopped into smaller pieces (2–5 cm) using wood
The most common composting process was the open chipper (SIMA Taiwan, model FC-6500). The chipped
windrow system where the process takes place on the open landscaping waste was placed and segregated on the
ground or under shelter. However, windrow composting cement floor under shelter roof and partially dried to
requires longer operating time compared to other methods, 50–60 % of moisture content prior to the composting
with the incomplete destruction of pathogenic microor- process.
ganisms due to the lower temperature at the surface of the
windrow, leading to unsanitary and low quality product Bioreactor Set-Up and Co-composting Process
[11]. According to Garcia et al. [12], the stabilization of
municipal sewage sludge was vital due to the potential The co-composting of municipal sewage sludge and land-
phytotoxic or pathogenic substances present in their natural scaping waste were performed at the Biorefinery Pilot
form. Plant, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Serdang, Malaysia
Application of stabilization of sewage sludge may using 10 m3 pilot-scale bioreactor system as described by
introduced to the hazardous and pathogen potential threats Wan Razali et al. [17] with slight modification. The block

Waste Biomass Valor

Table 1 Proximate and ultimate analysis for raw material and compost in bioreactor composting
Parameter Landscaping wastes Sewage sludge Bioreactor system USEPA SIRIM [35]
Initial Final

pH 5.7 ± 0.2 7.3 ± 0.1 6.3 ± 0.1 7.4 ± 0.2 5.0–8.5 n.a.
Moisture content (%) 65.0 ± 3.1 84.4 ± 0.2 77.0 ± 1.0 68.9 ± 1.1 30–60 \30 % (final
Major nutrient
C (%) 37.3 ± 2.6 30.4 ± 0.3 44.3 ± 0.8 29.2 ± 3.8 n.a. n.a.
N (%) 1.8 ± 0.1 5.8 ± 0.1 2.5 ± 0.1 3.0 ± 0.8 n.a. [1.5
NH4 (%) 0.1 0.2 ± 0.1 0.1 ± 0.1 0.1 n.a. n.a.
NO3 (%) 0.2 0.3 ± 0.1 0.9 ± 0.2 0.5 n.a. n.a.
C:N (%) 21 ± 2 5±1 18 ± 2 10 ± 1 n.a. \25:1
Sulphur, S (%) 0.6 1.4 0.1 ± 0.1 0.1 ± 0.1 n.a. n.a.
Sodium, Na (ppm) 273.1 ± 23.6 624.5 ± 10.0 395.4 ± 6.4 328.7 ± 53.0 n.a. n.a.
Phosphorus, P (%) 0.1 ± 0.01 1.7 ± 0.1 0.4 ± 0.1 0.3 ± 0.2 n.a. n.a.
Potassium, K (%) 0.3 ± 0.1 0.3 ± 0.1 0.8 ± 0.1 0.7 ± 0.2 n.a. n.a.
Magnesium, Mg (%) 0.1 ± 0.01 0.3 ± 0.1 0.4 ± 0.1 0.3 ± 0.2 n.a. n.a.
Calcium, Ca (%) 1.3 ± 0.01 1.2 ± 0.1 2.3 ± 0.4 1.8 ± 0.4 n.a. n.a.
Boron, B (%) 27.7 ± 0.4 21.6 ± 0.4 14.3 ± 2.7 7.5 ± 2.8 n.a. n.a.
Copper, Cu (ppm) 8.9 ± 1.4 76.6 ± 3.7 17.2 ± 2.5 34.6 ± 19.1 1500 n.a.
Zinc, Zn (ppm) 17.0 ± 5.0 754.1 ± 27.2 181.6 ± 1.6 282.9 ± 112.4 2800 n.a.
Iron, Fe (ppm) 3581 ± 1458.1 25,017 ± 1888.0 21,192 ± 664.7 48,117 ± 6229.6 n.a. n.a.
Aluminium, Al (ppm) 5264.5 ± 1769.7 12,591 ± 537.4 6669.2 ± 600.1 12,834.1 ± 1304.4 n.a. n.a.
Manganese, Mn (ppm) 34.1 ± 1.2 236.3 ± 13.7 182.4 ± 2.1 521.1 ± 129.8 n.a. n.a.
Heavy metal
Arsenic, As (ppm) n.d. n.d. n.d. n.d. 41 50
Cadmium, Cd (ppm) n.d. n.d. n.d. n.d. 39 5
Cobalt, Co (ppm) n.d. n.d. n.d. n.d. n.a. n.a.
Chromium, Cr (ppm) 46.6 ± 10.5 26.5 ± 0.4 17.7 ± 2.7 39.7 ± 5.4 n.a. 200
Molybdenum, Mo (ppm) n.d. n.d. n.d. n.d. 75 n.a.
Nickel, Ni (ppm) 2.1 ± 0.1 15.4 ± 0.6 8.5 ± 0.2 17.9 ± 5.0 420 150
n.a. not available, n.d. not detected, USEPA U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, SIRIM Standards and Industrial Research Institute of

design of the 10 m3 pilot-scale bioreactor system temperature (Fig. 1b). The increase of temperature process
(3.0 W 9 3.0 L 9 8.0 H metres) for co-composting pro- was kept by the insulation of the bioreactor through the
cess was shown in Fig. 1a. The ratio of sewage sludge and composting period.
landscaping waste for the initial composting process was Initial moisture content of the composting process was
set at 1:1 wet basis (84.4 ± 0.2 % moisture content of adjusted within 60–70 % by tap water addition. Additional
sewage sludge and 65.0 ± 3.1 % moisture content of tap water was added into the composting mixture during
landscaping waste). Ratio 1:1 was selected as sewage co-composting process when the moisture content level
sludge acted as the major feedstock for composting process was below 50 %. Moisture content was measured by dry-
whereas landscaping waste acted as an amendment mate- ing the samples at 105 °C using moisture analyser (AND
rial for the process, which means more sewage sludge are MX-50, USA). Initial mixed sample of compost was cal-
been treated as been reported by Zhu et al. [18]. Intermit- culated based on Cundiff and Mankin calculation [19].
tent mixing by screw type impeller installed in the biore- Tap-water was pumped into the bioreactor periodically as
actor to provide a homogenous mixture of both materials. required in order to control the moisture content. Aeration
Six temperature probes were installed at the surrounding of was provided intermittently at a flow rate of 1.7 m3/min
bioreactor system (position 1, 2 and 3 at different sites; manually and was regulated by O2-probe at several biore-
0.59 m from each sampling point) to monitor the process actor sampling positions (Fig. 1b). Mixing and aeration

Waste Biomass Valor

Fig. 1 Schematic diagram of the bioreactor system: a bioreactor system layout; b sampling points located on the bioreactor

was done for an hour every day for first week, followed by Sampling and Analysis Method
an hour for every 2 days interval. The composting process
was monitored for 45 days and the analyses were per- Monitoring and sampling were performed every day. The
formed according to the explanation below. samples were collected from six different sampling ports and

Waste Biomass Valor

mixed up with a total weight of 1 kg to ensure homogeneity determined within the samples by using FDA-BAM
prior to analysis. The samples were analysed in triplicates. Chapters 14 and 18 respectively.
Monitoring of temperature, oxygen content, moisture con-
tent and pH were performed as reported by Ahmad et al. [20].
Temperature and oxygen level were analysed at certain depth Results and Discussion
of the 6 different sampling points using a Digital Tempera-
ture-Oxygen probe meter model DMS-30LCD-1-5 Co-composting Process in 10 m3 Pilot-Scale
(DATEL, USA). Five g of mixed samples was dried at Bioreactor System
temperature of 105 °C for the moisture content determina-
tion, until all the moisture content within the samples was Table 1 shows the physicochemical characteristic of raw
evaporated using a moisture analyser (AND MX-50, USA). materials, initial and final compost during the composting
pH level was determined by diluting sample with distilled process such as temperature, oxygen level, moisture con-
water (1:8 w/v) and measured using pH meter (DELTA 320, tent and pH in this study compared to other studies. In
Mettler Toledo, USA). These analyses were performed comparison to research that been conducted using windrow
throughout the composting process. system in treating biomass, the use of bioreactor system
Two grams of dried compost sample were burned and was crucial in order to achieve the maximum performance
oxidised at temperature of 1000 °C for carbon and nitrogen of the composting process. The control environment pro-
content using CHNS/O analyzer (Leeco CHNS932, USA), vided an advantage for the composting process to support
same has been reported by Hock et al. [21]. Meanwhile, the bacterial growth and biodegrades the lignocellulosic bio-
trace elements and heavy metals analyses of the compost- mass. All the parameters monitored in this study were
ing material were determined using Inductively Coupled within the range of normal composting process and com-
Plasma (ICP)-OES (Perkin Elmer, USA) based on the ash parable with other studies [13, 16, 23].
content provided from digestion method.
Compost maturity test was conducted by using standard Temperature
method of SolvitaÒ compost maturity kit (Woods EndÒ
Research Laboratory, Inc., Mt Vernon, Maine) for carbon The temperature profile was the crucial parameter for a
dioxide evolution and ammonia emission tests by following successful composting process [8, 23]. Liang et al. [3]
manufacturer‘s instruction (Guide to SolvitaÒ testing for reported that the temperature range between 52 and 60 °C
compost maturity index). Before loading the samples into the were optimal for composting process. Temperature profile of
SolvitaÒ jars up to the fill line, the samples were allowed to composting process has a good indication of active degra-
equilibrate at 25 °C in partially closed bags. SolvitaÒ CO2 dation of microorganism throughout the composting period.
and NH3 test gel-paddles were carefully inserted into the In this study, the temperatures were recorded between 32 and
compost without touching the gels after tearing the packs. 60 °C throughout the composting process, with 15 days at
The sample jars were then closed tightly thereafter. After 4 h 50–60 °C, at thermophilic stage (Fig. 2). The thermophilic
of incubation at 25 °C, the observed gel colour was changed condition has to be achieved to ensure the destruction of
to determine SolvitaÒ CO2 and NH3 kit values and matched pathogenic microorganisms. The bioreactor system used for
with the colour on charts supplied with the kit. The gel colour composting process must be maintained at a minimum
change was used to determine SolvitaÒ kit CO2 values on a operating temperature of 55 °C for at least 3 days for the
scale of 1–8 and NH3 values on a scale of 1–5. Finally, the production of pathogen-free compost [24]. In other studies,
two values were used to determine the SolvitaÒ maturity the composting temperature of biosolids and green waste
index on a scale of 1–8 which then represents the maturity were maintained at about 50–65 °C for 23 days was proven
level of the compost samples. having active microbial degradation activity and eliminated
Analysis of pathogenic microorganisms (total plate the pathogenic microorganism [16, 23]. With the increasing
count, coliform, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, of temperature during composting process, it was reported to
Salmonella sp., Bacillus cereus, yeast and mold) were shorten the composting period [11] and the destruction of
carried out based on Bacteriological Analytical Manual pathogenic microorganisms, producing compost that con-
(BAM) under standard method of U.S. Food and Drug sidered safe to be used [25].
Administration (FDA) [22]. For total plate count, the
method used referred to FDA-BAM Chapter 3, coliform Moisture Content
and E. coli detection using method FDA-BAM Chapter 4,
presence of Salmonella spp. was detected using FDA-BAM As shown in Table 1, the other critical controlled parameter
Chapter 5. FDA-BAM Chapter 12 method was used for S. used in this study was moisture content, which was recorded
aureus presences. B. cereus as well as yeast and mold were between 62 and 68 % (Fig. 2). Liang et al. [3] reported that

Waste Biomass Valor

Fig. 2 Physicochemical
characterization of co-
composting process of
municipal sewage sludge and
landscaping waste

the minimal requirement for rapid microbial activity was at ensure adequate oxygen supply. Low oxygen concentra-
50 % moisture level and should be controlled at range of tion in the composting process will inhibit the aerobic
30–60 % of moisture content for better microbial activities. processes whereas high oxygen level leads to the decrease
The results obtained in this study indicates that by adding the of composting temperature [8]. In this study, the oxygen
landscaping wastes as the bulking agent into the composting level was maintained in the range of 4–19 % throughout
of municipal sewage sludge, it helps to improve the water- the composting period by air supply with aeration system
holding capacity by retaining the water within the compost manually at aeration point as described in Fig. 2. Four
itself to maximize the microorganism activity. Liang et al. percent of oxygen level recorded was resulted from the
[3] also reported that the moisture content gives significant thermophilic stage of composting process, supported by
influence compared to the temperature of incubation on the the fact that higher temperature can be achieved with the
aerobic microorganism activity of biosolid blends. There- decreasing of oxygen concentration. Low concentration of
fore, the optimal moisture content was necessary to increase oxygen level during day 15th to 18th have been reported
the rate of decomposition by microorganisms, depending on due to the mixing and aeration process was stopped for
what biomass that been used as feedstock for composting. In maintaining the thermophilic phase for ensuring the
contrast low moisture content will lower the microbial destruction of pathogenic microorganisms. Studies con-
activity during the decomposition process, thus giving ducted by Rodrı́guez et al. [8] concluded that 10 % of
physically stable but biologically unstable composts oxygen concentration was selected as the best oxygen
[26, 27]. Issues on anaerobic conditions from water logging concentration for composting process. Aeration process
interrupted the composting process due to the high level of required if the ratio of carbon dioxide concentration too
moisture content within compost [28]. On the other hand, the high compared to the oxygen concentration. The average
particle aggregation, porosity and volume of free air space O2 plus CO2 concentration inside the compost was about
which limit the essential oxygen transfer interfered the 20 %, with the varies ratio range of O2 concentration from
composting process when too high moisture content present 15 to 20.8 %, and CO2 concentration from 0.8 to 5.8 %
within composting process [26]. It has been stated that the [29]. Khalil et al. [30] found that aeration was required to
optimum range of moisture content for the composting provide oxygen to aerobic microorganisms and in order to
process was between 40 and 60 %, depending on the struc- control compost temperature and remove by-products
ture and water-holding capacities of materials used as (water, CO2 and CH4) from the composting process.
bulking agents [29]. Insufficient oxygen supply to the system, the process will
become anaerobic and produce undesirable odors,
Oxygen Level including the rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulfide gas
[31]. No such smell was detected in the present study
The presence of oxygen at sufficient level was also one of which indicates the successful control of composting of
the factors that should be maintained in the composting sewage sludge and landscaping waste at controlled envi-
process using both windrow and bioreactor system to ronmental condition.

Waste Biomass Valor

pH Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio

pH level acted as one of useful indicator to ensure that the Technically, most of the organic materials contain high
composting process progress well or not, as the composting concentration of nutrients and elements that can be used by
changes the material and their pH indicates the decompo- microorganisms. Therefore, it was important to provide
sition of organic materials occurred [32]. The result carbon and nitrogen in appropriate proportions which can
obtained in this work was in the range from 6.3 to 7.4 be referred as C:N ratio to provide sufficient nutrient for
(Table 1). The decrease in pH level (pH 6.3) caused by the microbial growth. According to Rynk et al. [32], one of the
ammonium loss throughout the volatilization and nitrifi- index to evaluate the maturation of the composting process
cation accompanied by the release of simple organic acids was the C:N ratio of the product. In the present work, it was
by biooxidation phase which temporarily lower the pH found that the N content increased gradually from 2.5 to
during early stages of composting (Fig. 2) [9]. On top of 3.0 % while C content decreased from 44.3 to 29.2 %
that, the ammonia production from nitrogenous compound throughout the composting period. The results obtained
may raise the pH of the composting process [32]. showed that the initial C:N ratio of compost was found to
According to Golueke [2], the optimum pH range for the be 18 and gradually reduced to the final ratio of 10 after
growth of the most bacteria was between 6.0 and 7.5 and 45 days of composting process probably due to the
for fungi between 5.5 and 8.0. Too acidic or alkaline degradation of organic materials by microorganism and the
environments inhibited the microorganism activity in the reduction of the carbon content up to 30 % from the initial
composting process, which can lead to the presence of value was recorded.
unpleasant smell due to the incomplete degradation pro- The reduction of carbon content from the composting
cess. Aerobic microorganisms were most likely to survive process was most likely from the landscaping waste
within this range in order to maintain their activities material where it consisted of the lignocellulosic compo-
[13, 16, 23]. nents. As parts of lignocellulosic materials, the active
microorganism usually degraded cellulose and hemicellu-
Initial and Final Analysis lose earlier in the thermophilic stage. As for lignin which
have a complex structure, the degradation was occurred
Table 2 shows the proximate and ultimate analyses for the later [17]. In order to accelerate the degradation of lignin,
raw material and compost from bioreactor composting. the mechanical turning process (by screw impeller) was
Nutrients such as carbon (C), nitrogen (N), phosphorus performed in the present work. Due to high N content
(P) and potassium (K) were the primary elements required (5.8 %) of raw sewage sludge, C:N ratio of the compost
by the microorganisms involved in the composting process reduced greatly from its initial value. According to
[32]. The primary elements necessary for the growth and Belyaeva et al. [23], the sewage sludge undergoes the
reproductive of plants were N, P and K. Therefore, their mineralization and subsequent processes of ammonification
concentration were also influenced by the quality of com- or nitrification of organic nitrogen present within it,
post produced. resulted in the high accumulation of NO3-–N in the

Table 2 Comparison of the physicochemical characteristics of composting process using bioreactor composting system with other studies
Total duration Duration of Types of biomass Capacity Temperature Oxygen level Moisture pH References
of composting thermophilic used (°C) content
process (day) stage (day) (%)

28 14 Municipal solid 150 kg 22–70 0.1–1.5 l per min – – Lu et al.

waste and columnar [13]
sewage sludge vessel
100 23 Barley straw and 100 L closed 28–65 0.5–1 l min-1 kg VS-1 65–80 7.1–8.2 Villaseñor
anaerobically- rotary drum et al.
digested reactor [16]
sewage sludge
60 23 Municipal green 250 L plastic 28–50 Turned every 7 days 60–70 5.3–7.2 Belyaeva
waste and composting et al.
biosolid bin [21]
45 15 Sewage sludge 10 m3 closed 32–60 4–19 % 62–68 6.3–7.4 This study
and landscaping bioreactor

Waste Biomass Valor

composts. The rate of compost application on-field need to molybdenum (Mo) were essential by the plant for the
take into account of the rate of nitrogen loading for sewage normal growth. Sewage sludge usually contain all of these
sludge feedstock as the composting feedstock [33], due to secondary nutrients which essential for plant, but not all of
the presence of NO3- which are highly mobile and as an these micronutrients in sewage sludge were plant-available
environmental concern when compost were used in bulk [35]. The concentration of Fe, Al and Mn recorded high
quantity. To support the increment of nitrogen content of concentration (25,017, 12,591, 236.3 ppm) from the raw
the compost produced, the usage of bioreactor by proper sewage sludge (Table 2). The presence of these micronu-
mixing of screw impeller helped to prevent nitrogen loss trients in excess amount was due to the wastewater treat-
during volatilization process. Hubbe et al. [34] reported the ment that used coagulation substances (Fe, Al, or Ca) in
nitrogen loss could be reduced if the mechanical turning excessive concentration. Moreover, the content of these
was applied using standard operation and the composting nutrients (Fe, Al and Mn) almost doubled from the initial
moisture content was maintained within the favorable concentration, due to the mineralization process of the
ranges for the microorganism activity. The increment of materials and also shrinking of the compost itself [11]. The
nitrogen and loss of carbon content through composting mineralization of the materials within the composting
period leads to the reduction of C:N ratio (18 to 10 ratio). process was due to the degradation process of microbial
The compost feedstock blended to provide a C:N ratio of activities, contributing to the increase in nutrient concen-
25:1 to 30:1 was an ideal for active composting, although tration in the final product especially for NPK compounds.
initial C:N ratio from 20:1 up to 40:1 consistently give All the nutrients reported were comparable to Stabnikova
good composting results [32]. et al. [36].

Maturity Test Heavy Metals

Compost maturity test was conducted by using SolvitaÒ The final concentration of heavy metals such as chromium
compost maturity kit to ensure the product in the present (Cr) and nickel (Ni) detected in the composts were low
study was matured at completion stage. The values showed enough (39.7 and 17.9 ppm) for the safe use of compost for
index of 7, which indicates that the compost was matured. soil application. Based on the data obtained, the compost
Elements such as phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) were produced in this study meets the standards as been set by
essential to determine the quality of the compost. The final P U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [24] and Standards
and K values for the compost were 0.3 and 0.7 % respec- & Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) [37].
tively, which makes it suitable for plant growth. The values The safety issues regarding the uptake of heavy metals by
of those elements were comparable with Haynes et al. [33] plant and subsequent accumulation of the food chain need
and Eghball et al. [35]. Raw municipal sewage sludge used as to be considered in the safe use of the compost [15].
the composting feedstock contained 1.7 % of P content and Application of sewage sludge and compost from waste
0.3 % of K content. Almost all of P content present in inor- materials for a long-term period on the topsoil should be
ganic form with lower P availability within raw sewage considered when there was a limitation by accumulation of
sludge due to the water treatment plant used coagulation harmful heavy metals and pathogens [36]. In this study, the
substances such as Fe, Al, or Ca types [33]. Therefore, due to absence of certain heavy metal elements such as arsenic
the high risk of P loss in runoff after wastewater treatment, (As), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co) and molybdenum (Mo) in
the application of P content for planting trial should be very the compost contributed to the product safety, comparable
high [35]. With 0.3 % of K content present within the raw to that reported by Stabnikova et al. [36]. Wong and Sel-
sewage sludge, generally this feedstock was considered to vam [15] suggested that the use of lime could be used as
have low of K content. The reason of having low K content is the suitable material at the rate of not more than 1 % to
due to its water solubility properties and it remained in the reduce the availability of heavy metals within the sewage
effluent or aqueous fraction during the sludge dewatering sludge composting,
process [33]. As for the plant uptake, K content in sewage
sludge was assumed to be 100 % available for this purpose Pathogenicity Test
and therefore, these resources can be used similar to com-
mercial K fertilizer [35]. Pathogenic analysis was carried out to monitor the presence
of pathogens in the final product compost. This analysis was
Micronutrients necessary to ensure that the compost was safe to be used with
no harmful effects to plants and human. Several pathogens
Micronutrients such as iron (Fe), aluminium (Al), man- can be used as indicators for the safety of the compost and
ganese (Mn) boron (B), chlorine (CI), copper (Cu) and also the health risk limitation which has usually present in the

Waste Biomass Valor

Table 3 Comparison of pathogenic microbiological test of compost with other studies

Sample Pathogenicity test for compost References
Total plate count Coliform Escherichia coli Staphylococcus Salmonella sp. Yeast and mold
(Cfu/g) (MPN/g) (MPN/g) aureus (MPN/g) (MPN/g) (Cfu/g)

Initial – 2.32 9 108 – – 4.94 – Bazrafshan

et al. [14]
Final – 28,840 – – 0.16 –
– 2–24 – – Absent – Belyaeva
Cfu g-1 et al. [21]
Initial 3.64 ± 3.65 9 107 [1100 [1100 \3 Absent 1.74 ± 0.40 9 107 This study
Final 6.43 ± 3.28 9 10 23 \3 \3 Absent 3.27 ± 0.48 9 105
[1100—present; \ 3 or 23—absent
MPN most probable number, Cfu colony forming unit

sewage sludge [6]. Examples of the pathogenic microor- Table 4 Yield and preliminary cost for 5500 tonnes per annum of
ganism such as Salmonella, faecal streptococci, Enterovirus, compost production
helminths eggs, Escherichia coli, and Enterobacteria. Costs RM/annum RM/kg % of total cost
Table 3 shows the results of comparative pathogenicity
test of compost with other studies. The initial mixed raw Feedstock – – –
materials of municipal sewage sludge and landscaping waste Supplies 6440.00 – 0
were not safe to be used, due to high concentration of Utilities 621,740.00 0.11 47
pathogenic microorganisms as shown by total plate count, Labour 64,400.00 0.02 5
yeast and mold and also the presence of coliforms and E. coli. Quality analyses 9660.00 – 1
After 45 days of composting period, those pathogenic Maintenance 621,740.00 0.11 47
microorganisms (coliforms and E. coli) were absent due to Total cost 1323,970.00 0.24 100
elimination at the thermophilic stages that occurred for
15 days as reported earlier. Other analyses such as total plate including building for open windrow with roof, turner,
count, yeast and mold tests showed that the reduction in underground piping system perimeter drain and other
concentration after 45 days of composting period. High equipment such as loader, pump and packaging. The annual
temperature ([50 °C) due to the effective microorganism operation and maintenance cost is estimated to be RM
activity results in faster composting, shorter residence times 686,140.00, with 3 workers for the composting operation and
and partial pasteurisation of the compost causing death of diesel for machineries such as skid-loader, turner, and fork
many pathogens [23]. The reduction of the pathogenic lift. Maintenance cost is calculated as 47 % of the total
microorganism (faecal coliform, E. coli, total plate count, operating cost, same for the utilities cost for 5500 tonnes
yeast and mold) within compost can be seen clearly after production per annum. The unspecified costs that are not part
45 days of composting period. In order to prove that the final of the study are capital, depreciation and transportation cost,
compost was in good condition and ready to be used in the similar to that reported by Acevedo et al. [39]. These
environment, European Commission stated that E. coli and unspecified costs have been neglected due to the cost
Salmonella were used to define the ecological quality of effectiveness which may increase the total investment cost
compost with limitation of \103 MPN g-1 and absence in for whole project. Compared to the data obtained from Jugra
50 g respectively [6]. The absence of E. coli and Salmonella Palm Oil Mill in year 2006 [40], the company sold the
sp. in this study showed that the final compost was safe for compost to the customer at RM 600.00 per ton. In this study,
use, and was in agreement with previous studies [8, 14, 38]. we estimated the cost price for 1 ton of compost is RM
240.00. Therefore, the compost produced in this study is
Economic Analysis
cheaper compared to the market price.
The yield and preliminary cost for 5500 tonnes of compost
production per annum are as shown in Table 4. Compost Conclusion
production of 5500 tonnes was calculated based on the
generation of raw sewage sludge from IWK wastewater The co-composting of municipal sewage sludge and land-
treatment plant every day. RM 1.32 million is an estimation scaping waste in 10 m3 bioreactor composting system was
of the total operating cost for 5500 tonnes production successfully obtained. Good quality compost with N, P and

Waste Biomass Valor

K content of 3.01, 0.27 and 0.68 % respectively, which 14. Bazrafshan, E., Zazouli, M.A., Bazrafshan, J., Bandpei, A.M.:
makes it suitable for the growth of ornamental plants. Evaluation of microbiological and chemical parameters during
wastewater sludge and sawdust co-composting. J. Appl. Sci.
Compost maturity test showed an index of 7 indicated that Environ. Manag. 10, 115–119 (2006)
the compost was matured. Thermophilic stage achieved in 15. Wong, J.W.C., Selvam, A.: Speciation of heavy metals during co-
the present study eliminated the pathogenic microorgan- composting of sewage sludge with lime. Chemosphere 63,
isms such as Salmonella sp., S. aureus, coliform and 980–986 (2006)
16. Villaseñor, J., Rodrı́guez, L., Fernández, F.J.: Composting
E. coli. Thus, the compost generated was a pathogen-free domestic sewage sludge with natural zeolites in a rotary drum
and safe for used in the natural environment. reactor. Bioresour. Technol. 102, 1447–1454 (2011)
17. Wan Razali, W.A., Baharuddin, A.S., Talib, A.T., Sulaiman, A.,
Acknowledgments The authors would like to thank Indah Water Naim, M.N., Hassan, M.A., Shirai, Y.: Degradation of oil palm
Konsortium (IWK) Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia for the financial and technical empty fruit bunches (OPEFB) fibre during composting process
support of this study. The authors also thank Taman Pertanian using in-vessel composter. BioResources 7, 4786–4805 (2012)
Universiti (TPU), Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia and 18. Zhu, N.: Effect of low initial C/N ratio on aerobic composting of
Perbadanan Putrajaya, Malaysia for their support throughout this study. swine manure with rice straw. Bioresour. Technol. 98, 9–13
19. Cundiff, J.S., Mankin, K.R. (eds.): Modeling the composting
process. In: Dynamics of Biological Systems, pp. 4.1–4.64.
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