The University of Georgia Bioconversion Research and Education Program

The Bioconversion Research and Education program, developed in 1996, is intended to support state efforts in converting and utilizing industrial, municipal, and agricultural by-products as value added products. Personnel associated with the program have three main activity areas: (1) Research, (2) Demonstration and (3) Outreach/training. Personnel provide assistance to industry, agriculture, and local government agencies in identifying recoverable organic by-products presently going to landfills. The success of the program will result in greater use of low cost, environmentally safe biological processes to further process by-products, therefore reducing landfilling and increasing appropriate reuse.

Research – The research component of the program includes laboratory pilot testing, engineering analysis, chemical pre-processing, process control, and computer modeling. Examples of current projects are enhancing nitrogen availability from wool by-product and its use as a horticultural amendment, investigating strategies for the further processing and reuse of pulp and paper mill solid wastes, and in-situ biodegradation and recovery of solid wastes in a landfill cell. Facilities include an 8 acre state of the art research and demonstration center in Athens, Georgia.

Demonstration – The demonstration component is focused on small and large scale demonstration of previously tested technologies. Projects identify reusable by-product streams within agricultural, industrial, and municipal streams and demonstrate the feasibility of treating and reusing these materials. Documentation of procedures, evaluation of the process, and product quality and use are performed. Collaborating groups benefit by the information gathered during demonstrations and will then be able to implement the process with little further assistance. Examples of past and current projects include the feasibility of composting old wax corrugated cardboard boxes with poultry industry solid wastes, the establishment of a composting program at the City of Douglas, GA (Recycling yard waste, biosolids, and cotton gin trash), and the further processing and reuse of solid wastes at the Weyerhaeuser Flint river facility in Oglethorpe, GA.

Outreach/Training – The outreach/training aspect includes answering questions on organic waste recovery and reuse, as well as site visits to farms, municipalities, and industries around Georgia. Visits are focused on allowing the program personnel to learn about waste management problems and opportunities and letting citizens know of the resources available at the University of Georgia. A training workshop for compost facility operators is being offered twice a year to waste management professionals and facility operators in Georgia. The success of this training workshop will ensure that latest information on facility management, quality control, and regulations will be disseminated to people in direct need of this information. A regional composting conference (Web site at was held in Athens, GA on Sept 9-11, 1998. This was a forum for information exchange on case studies in organic waste treatment and recycling from around the Southeast United States.

The Bioconversion Center’s activities do not stop at processing. Often a major impediment to greater land application of many by-products is that the agronomic benefits of these by-products are not fully understood. Many potential users are also unsure of the market and the long term environmental impacts of certain materials. To overcome some of these impediments, several small and large scale plots are being established throughout the State. The small scale plots will be used to document the impacts of various by-products such as animal manures, sewage sludge, municipal waste composts, and other industrial by-products on soil quality and crop yields. The larger scale plots will be used to demonstrate practical and technical aspects of application as well as economic considerations to farmers or land owners who are wondering exactly how to use by-products on a larger scale. Plans are currently focused on establishing forage plots at University Experiment Stations in Calhoun and Irwin. Ultimately, the program would also like to add water quality monitoring to the study and expand the number of locations to include cropped and forested plots in a wider variety of locations. For more information about these programs, please contact Dr. Mark Risse at (706) 542-1628.