Source segregated food waste was collected from domestic properties and its composition determined together with the average weight produced per household, which was 2.91 kg per week. The waste was fed over a trial period lasting 58 weeks to an identical pair of 1.5 m(3) anaerobic digesters, one at a mesophilic (36.5 degrees C) and the other at a thermophilic temperature (56 degrees C). The digesters were monitored daily for gas production, solids destruction and regularly for digestate characteristics including alkalinity, pH, volatile fatty acid (VFA) and ammonia concentrations. Both digesters showed high VFA and ammonia concentrations but in the mesophilic digester the pH remained stable at around 7.4, buffered by a high alkalinity of 13,000 mg l(-1); whereas in the thermophilic digester VFA levels reached 45,000 mg l(-1) causing a drop in pH and digester instability. In the mesophilic digester volatile solids (VS) destruction and specific gas yield were favourable, with 67% of the organic solids being converted to biogas at a methane content of 58% giving a biogas yield of 0.63 m(3) kg(-1) VS(added). Digestion under thermophilic conditions showed potentially better VS destruction at 70% VS and a biogas yield of 0.67 m(3) kg(-1) VS(added), but the shifts in alkalinity and the high VFA concentrations required a reduced loading to be applied. The maximum beneficial loading that could be achieved in the mesophilic digester was 4.0 kg VS m(-3) d(-1).
Copyright IWA Publishing 2008.