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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 3 (2014 Deadline)

CLEAN project: converting municipal solid waste leachate into energy

PI:  Wiratni Budhijanto (, Universitas Gadjah Mada
U.S. Partner: Largus T. Angenent, Cornell University
Project Dates: October 2014 to April 2018
3-21 Batch Reactors
The complete set of batch reactors with three variations of media (carbon, zeolite, and the mixture of carbon and zeolite).
In the Bantar Gebang Landfill Site, which handles the municipal solid waste (MSW) from Jakarta, the total emitted volume of MSW is 5000-6000 tons/day, with leachate volume reaching 100-1000 m3/day. If treated appropriately, the MSW and leachate potentially produce 500,000 Nm3 of biogas per day, which is equivalent to 200 MWh of electricity per day. Leachate is still considered one of the largest environmental problems in Indonesian landfill sites that are closely surrounded by inhabitants. This research project aims to overcome the leachate problem by transforming the Bantar Gebang Land Fill Site into an environmentally friendly renewable energy plant. The energy plant will include an anaerobic reactor system that will convert MSW to biogas, and the leachate treatment will produce additional biogas and fresh inoculums to accelerate the conversion. The long-term goal will be converting problematic MSW landfill sites into integrated industries to produce energy and other side products beneficial for the surrounding community. The expected scientific achievements will include production of biocarrier materials to improve the efficiency of leachate conversion into renewable energy and development of a systematic scale-up procedure by means of a deterministic mathematical model to apply the results of this research in the sector. Project activities will include laboratory experiments, mathematical model-based computer simulation, year-long operation of the pilot project, and outreach programs involving graduate students, workshops for stakeholders, and training of junior staff and technicians. Collaboration with the U.S. partner, who will provide technical and scientific advice, is expected to open more possibilities for acceleration of clean energy initiatives in Indonesia.

The project developed in a low-carbon energy system framework addresses one of USAID’s current focus areas in support of low-carbon development in Indonesia. This clean energy research project will support efforts to build clean energy capacity by aiming to minimize leachate emission, which has been hazardous for residents in the surrounding area. The developmental impacts expected from this project include: (1) strengthening institutional capacity as one of the prime vehicles for implementing the Indonesian clean energy vision; (2) enhancing international collaboration in the institution's academic activities; (3) promoting environmental cleanup using appropriate technology at an affordable budget, so that the pilot project can be implemented in other landfill sites in Indonesia; (4) triggering new industries to produce the "start-up kit" to accelerate the process and to stabilize the up-flow anaerobic sludge (UASB) reactor treating high organic liquid waste, such as the landfill leachate and industrial liquid wastes, (5) promoting the establishment of an "energy extraction complex," which consists of one biogas reactor, an UASB, an anaerobic filter, and a testing pond, to process MSW into a useful product (biogas plant, biogas liquefaction plant, and organic fertilizer plant), and (6) presenting a method of technology development that would be most appropriate for the Indonesian situation, the community, and the stakeholders.
Final Summary of Project Activities

The Complexity of the Organic Waste Problem video produced by the research team (Indonesian).
By the time the project ended as of April 30, 2018, the PI Dr. Wiratni Budhijanto reported that both units of the pilot plant at the Piyungan Landfill Site (the aerobic treatment section and the anaerobic fluidized bed reactor) had been operating since September 2017. The level of pollutants eliminated from the treated leachate flowing from the landfill has stabilized around 70-80% of initial content, and the management of the site is pleased with that result.
The PI and her team are currently collaborating with other groups at UGM whose work is also related to municipal solid waste to write a comprehensive monograph about Indonesian municipal solid waste from various perspectives. The book includes chapters on (1) the current situation in municipal waste management in Indonesia, (2) a review on regulations, (3) best practices in waste reduction and sortation, (4) a review on technology (the Indonesia context), (5) leachate treatment technology (the PEER CLEAN Project), (6) an evaluation of economic aspects, and (7) a life cycle analysis on municipal waste technology. The book is in the process of final editing before being submitted for review by Universitas Gadjah Mada Publisher. In the meantime, the PI and her colleagues already have nine peer-reviewed publications resulting from their work on the project.
Training for undergraduate and graduate students both from Indonesia and other countries has been an important aspect of this project, with five international students and 25 Indonesians taking part at some point during the project. The PI also designed and launched a new course on bioprocess engineering for undergraduates at UGM, as well as a new concentration in an existing Master’s program there. Several of Dr. Wiratni’s students who have graduated during the project have already become faculty members in various universities, thus extending the vision of this project into the future. Some of them have already received small grants to continue the research they were learning in the PI’s research group. Even though the PEER funding has ended, the educational efforts will continue. In April 2018 the PI applied for a grant from the Indonesian government to conduct a summer course in water sustainability, including waste water treatment. The request was granted, and she and her team will collaborate with Dr. Samir Kumar Khanal of the University of Hawaii to conduct the course in August, bringing together 20 Indonesian and 20 U.S. students.
Networking and linkage building with key stakeholders from the government and private sectors has been another particularly successful aspect of this project, helping to ensure its sustainability. Dr. Wiratni and her group organized workshops and focus group sessions and hosted site visits from industry and government officials interested in their technologies and methods. The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), a leading governmental research institute, has teamed up with UGM to submit a joint proposal to collaborate on the production of methane from the wastes of a bioethanol plant located in Yogyakarta. The PEER researchers have also conducted a feasibility study for the possibility of producing methane from the organic waste of Kramatjati Market (the biggest fruit/vegetable supply market in Jakarta) and have explored the possibility of producing biogas from organic wastes with the Research Division of PT. Pertamina (Indonesian Oil Company). In May 2018, the PEER/CLEAN Project team have also been involved in consultancy work with local government to conduct a feasibility study to analyze the possibility of a public private partnership in municipal solid waste management, including leachate treatment and biogas production at landfill sites. Through this work, they can explicitly suggest to the government what technology should be applied and how the government should manage it.
A PEER Evidence to Action Supplement awarded in January 2016 made it possible for Dr. Wiratni and her colleagues to focus on private sector connections in particular, complementing their scientific approach with business coaching and new economic perspectives by inviting industrial practitioners to help them to find their niche in the industrial community. Through these extra workshops, focus groups, and consultations, the PI notes that although scientists cannot be converted into business people, they can learn new ways of presenting their research results in the form of actual benefits for the private sector. For instance, researchers can do things like conducting feasibility studies on technologies the industry sector might be interested in, conducting research on the applicability of new technologies, helping business people filter several choices to determine the most appropriate technical options, and developing technologies to fit their needs, especially to solve problems for which existing technologies had not been suitable. According to Dr. Wiratni, “At the end of the day, we concluded that the best way to collaborate with industry was not ‘selling’ our research product to them, but ‘working together with them’ from the very beginning of the research so that the product was guaranteed to be in their very best interest.” She and her colleagues continue moving forward on their efforts, including with follow-on funding they have already secured from non-PEER sources.
A YouTube video on the leachate problem at the Piyungan Landfill Site and the introduction of the CLEAN Column Anaerobic Fluidized Bed Reactor is available at