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Waste Management
33, No. 10, 2013; Pages: 1982 - 1992

Microbial diversity and dynamics during methane production from municipal solid waste

Christopher A. Bareither, Georgia L. Wolfe, Katherine D. McMahon, Craig H. Benson

Civil & Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO 80532, USA.

The objectives of this study were to characterize development of bacterial and archaeal populations during biodegradation of municipal solid waste (MSW) and to link specific methanogens to methane generation. Experiments were conducted in three 0.61-m-diameter by 0.90-m-tall laboratory reactors to simulate MSW bioreactor landfills. Pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes was used to characterize microbial communities in both leachate and solid waste. Microbial assemblages in effluent leachate were similar between reactors during peak methane generation. Specific groups within the Bacteroidetes and Thermatogae phyla were present in all samples and were particularly abundant during peak methane generation. Microbial communities were not similar in leachate and solid fractions assayed at the end of reactor operation; solid waste contained a more abundant bacterial community of cellulose-degrading organisms (e.g., Firmicutes). Specific methanogen populations were assessed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Methanomicrobiales, Methanosarcinaceae, and Methanobacteriales were the predominant methanogens in all reactors, with Methanomicrobiales consistently the most abundant. Methanogen growth phases coincided with accelerated methane production, and cumulative methane yield increased with increasing total methanogen abundance. The difference in methanogen populations and corresponding methane yield is attributed to different initial cellulose and hemicellulose contents of the MSW. Higher initial cellulose and hemicellulose contents supported growth of larger methanogen populations that resulted in higher methane yield.

Keywords: Bioreactor landfill; Methane; Methanogen; Municipal solid waste; Quantitative PCR



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