Critical components of odors in evaluating the performance of food waste composting plants

I. Fang Mao, Chung Jung Tsai, Shu Hung Shen, Tsair Fuh Lin, Wang Kun Chen, Mei Lien Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


The current Taiwan government policy toward food waste management encourages composting for resource recovery. This study used olfactometry, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and gas detector tubes to evaluate the ambient air at three of the largest food waste composting plants in Taiwan. Ambient air inside the plants, at exhaust outlets and plant boundaries was examined to determine the comprehensive odor performance, critical components, and odor elimination efficiencies of various odor control engineering. Analytical results identified 29 compounds, including ammonia, amines, acetic acid, and multiple volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (hydrocarbons, ketones, esters, terpenes and S-compounds) in the odor from food waste composting plants. Concentrations of six components - ammonia, amines, dimethyl sulfide, acetic acid, ethyl benzene and p-Cymene - exceeded human olfactory thresholds. Ammonia, amines, dimethyl sulfide and acetic acid accounted for most odors compared to numerous VOCs. The results also show that the biotrickling filter was better at eliminating the concentrations of odor, NH3, amines, S-compounds and VOCs than the chemical scrubber and biofilters. All levels measured by olfactometry at the boundaries of food waste composting plants (range, 74-115 Odor Concentration (OC)) exceeded Taiwan's EPA standard of 50 OC. This study indicated that the malodor problem continued to be a significant problem for food waste recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-329
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2006


  • Food waste composting
  • Improving engineering
  • Odor determination


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