BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department

Degree Name

BS in Agricultural Systems Management




Richard Cavaletto


This project was undertaken to identify and study alternative technologies for converting waste streams available on the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus into energy. As a large campus on the Central Coast of California Cal Poly not only produces lots of waste, but has limited options for its disposal. Furthermore, the campus is in the midst of an on-going green initiative, and more efficient use of its waste products would be a welcome development for the entire campus community. This report gathers information on waste streams originating at Cal Poly and information about waste to energy conversion technologies. The purpose of the report is to combine the two avenues of study and assess the viability of using any or all of the technologies discussed in order to reduce outgoing waste and increase energy independence of the campus. Some added benefits would be to give students another opportunity to learn by doing in a real world scenario. The University Community of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo is constantly changing. The population increases and decreases and the composition changes over time depending on many variables. One of the many trends the campus is experiencing is increasing enrollment over time. As more people frequent campus the waste produced on campus increases also. The campus population was calculated to produce approximately 25,000 pounds of waste per day in 2005 and was recorded to produce approximately 10 million pounds of waste over the course of the 2008 school year. There are many methods that the campus could use to dispose of this waste. The campus currently uses a combination of some traditional as well as non-traditional methods to solve the issues associated with campus waste production and disposal. Although the campus is fairly progressive in its methods there is always room for improvement. Some alternative technologies that show promise for use are gasification and anaerobic digestion. Neither of these two technologies is currently used on campus to dispose of waste but both are widely used in industry. The two technologies would provide students and faculty the chance for research, development and could allow the campus community to benefit economically from the processing of various waste streams.