anaerobic digestion of food wastes for biogas production

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  • December, 2010 Int J Agric & Biol Eng Open Access at Vol. 3 No.4 61

    Anaerobic digestion of food wastes for biogas production

    Xiguang Chen, Rowena T. Romano, Ruihong Zhang(Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA)

    Abstract: Five types of food wastes were investigated as feedstock for a potential centralized anaerobic digester system in thearea of Sacramento, California to produce biogas energy. The wastes were from a soup processing plant, a cafeteria, acommercial kitchen, a fish farm, and grease trap collection service. Digestibilities of the food wastes, individually and inmixtures, were conducted at mesophilic (35) and thermophilic (50) temperatures and at two food to microorganism ratios(F/M) of 0.5 and 1.0, for 28 days. A continuously fed mesophilic single-stage anaerobic digester was evaluated using amixture of the five food wastes at organic loading rates of 0.5 to 1.0 g VS/L/d. In the batch digestion tests, fish and grease trapwastes required longer time to complete the digestion and had higher biogas yields than the other wastes. Thecontinuously-fed digester required the addition of sodium hydroxide to maintain pH at proper levels in the digester. Alkalinityof about 2,500 mg CaCO3/L and pH above 7 was maintained by adding 0.2 g NaOH/g VS. The results of this study indicatedthat it was necessary to use the chemicals, such as NaOH, to control the pH of the single-stage anaerobic digester treating thefood waste. For commercial applications, the cost of chemicals and proper management of additional salts in the digestereffluent need to be carefully considered.Keywords: anaerobic digestion, bioconversion, biogas, continuous digestion, food wasteDOI: 10.3965/j.issn.1934-6344.2010.04.061-072

    Citation: Xiguang Chen, Rowena T. Romano, Ruihong Zhang. Anaerobic digestion of food wastes for biogas production.

    Int J Agric & Biol Eng, 2010; 3(4): 6172.

    1 Introduction

    Food waste is the third-largest component ofmunicipal solid waste generated from the United States.According to a report by U.S. Environmental ProtectionAgency[1], approximately 32 million tons of food wastewas generated annually. Less than three percent of thefood waste was separated and treated, primarily throughcomposting, and the rest was disposed of in landfills.Due to increasing needs for renewable energy generationand diversion of organic residuals from landfills to reducethe greenhouse gas emissions and other environmentalimpacts, treatment of food waste using anaerobicdigestion technologies has become a more attractive

    Received date: 2010-03-03 Accepted date: 2010-10-11Corresponding author: Ruihong Zhang, Department ofBiological and Agricultural Engineering, University of California,One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616-5294, Tel: 1-530-752-9530.Fax: 1-530-752-2640. Email:

    method for food waste management.Anaerobic digestion is a controlled biological

    degradation process and allows for efficient capturing andutilization of biogas (approximately 60% methane and40% carbon dioxide) for energy generation. Thedigestate from anaerobic digesters contains manynutrients and can thus be used as plant fertilizer and soilamendment. Anaerobic digestion of different types offood waste has been studied extensively. Cho et al.conducted batch digestion tests of food wastes at 37and 28 days retention time[2]. The methane yields were0.48, 0.29, 0.28, and 0.47 L/g VS for cooked meat, boiledrice, fresh cabbage and mixed food wastes, respectively.Heo et al. evaluated the biodegradability of a traditionalKorean food waste consisting of boiled rice (10%15%),vegetables (65%70%), and meat and eggs (15%20%)and showed a methane yield of 0.49 L/g VS at 35 after40 days retention time[3]. Zhang et al. analyzed thenutrient content of food waste from a restaurant, showing

  • 62 December, 2010 Int J Agric & Biol Eng Open Access at Vol. 3 No.4

    that the food waste contained appropriate nutrients foranaerobic microorganisms, as well as reported a methaneyield of 0.44 L/g VS of food waste in batch digestion testunder thermophilic conditions (50) after 28 days[4].Anaerobic digestion of food waste is achievable; howeverdifferent types of food waste result in varying degrees ofmethane yields, and thus the effects of mixing varioustypes of food waste and their proportions should bedetermined on a case by case basis.

    The objective of this study was to determine thedigestibility of five food wastes individually and as amixture under mesophilic and thermophilic conditions.The five food wastes were selected based on the results ofa previous survey that indicated that these were thelargest food waste streams in Sacramento, CA. The Cityof Sacramento was interested in developing a centralizedanaerobic digester for these food waste streams. Thedigestibility was evaluated in terms of biogas yield,methane yield, and volatile solids reduction. The secondobjective was to evaluate the performance and operatingrequirements of a single stage, mixed digester for treatingthe mixture of five food wastes.

    2 Materials and methods

    2.1 Collection and characterization of food wastesand anaerobic inoculum

    The five food wastes were collected from July toOctober 2006. Food waste from a soup processing plantwas collected after it was dewatered during the pressingstage. The waste was sampled on three consecutivedays by manually collecting and placing the waste intoone-gallon zipped-locked plastic bags. The soupprocessing plant was reported to be processing beef,potatoes, clams, and mushrooms on the first day, chicken,corn, pasta, ham, and other vegetables on the second day;and mushroom, ham, pasta, and other vegetables on thethird day. For analysis, the three collections were mixedin equal proportions. Food waste from a cafeteria wassampled at a composting facility where the food wastewas delivered on two non-consecutive days. For eachsampling event, the waste was dumped from trucks ontothe tipping floor. Samples were collected by shovel andplaced into a five-gallon bucket. For analysis, the two

    collections were mixed in equal proportions. Foodwaste from the salad preparation line (pre-consumer) of acommercial kitchen was collected in a five-gallon bucketon one day. The waste consisted of melon rinds, bellpeppers, cucumbers, onions, and various meats. Thewaste was processed through a meat grinder to obtain ahomogenous mixture. Fish waste from a fish farmconsisted of five Sturgeon heads and fish viscera. Thefish waste was collected in a five-gallon bucket. Thefish heads were difficult to cut and/or grind, therefore theflesh and gills were first stripped, and mixed with the fishviscera in a meat grinder. Grease trap waste wasprovided by a grease collecting company. Two greasetrap samples were collected from two fast-foodrestaurants. The samples were shipped to the laboratoryin one-gallon plastic jars in coolers. For analysis, thetwo samples were mixed in equal proportions. All thefood waste samples were kept frozen at 20 until used.

    Mesophilic anaerobic inoculum were collected from aworking mesophilic anaerobic digester at wastewatertreatment plant in Davis, CA. Thermophilic culture wascollected from thermophilic anaerobic digesters at EastBay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) in Oakland, CA.All the five food wastes and anaerobic inoculum wereanalyzed for total solids (TS), volatile solids (VS), andfixed solids (FS) in duplicate prior to any digestion tests.For the batch tests, the entire content of the reactor wasmeasured for TS, VS, and FS at the end of the digestionperiod. Initial and final TS, VS, and FS were used todetermine solid reduction during the digestion period.All the analyses were performed according to thestandard methods[5]. Samples of the five waste streamswere also sent to A&L Laboratories (Modesto, CA) foranalysis of nutrients (N, P, K, S, Mg, Ca, Na), metals (Fe,Al, Mn, Cu, Zn), chloride, crude protein, crude fat, fiber,total carbohydrates, ash, organic matter, and carbon tonitrogen ratio (C/N).2.2 Batch digestion tests2.2.1 Experimental design and set-up

    Mesophilic and thermophilic batch digestionexperiments were conducted at (352) and (502)respectively. Each of the batch reactors had a total andeffective volume of 1,130 and 500 mL, respectively.

  • December, 2010 Anaerobic digestion of food wastes for biogas production Vol. 3 No. 4 63

    The reactors were loaded with 1.5 g VS of each foodwaste to obtain an organic loading of 3.0 g VS/L. Toachieve food to microorganism ratios (F/M) of 0.5 and1.0, 3.0 g VS and 1.5 g VS of inoculum was added toeach reactor, respectively. Tap water was used to bringthe working volume up to 500 mL working volume. Allthe reactors were tightly closed with rubber septa andscrew caps. The head spaces of the reactors werepurged with argon gas for five minutes to assureanaerobic conditions. In each of the experiments, blankreactors with only inoculum and tap water were alsoprepared to correct for the biogas produced from theinoculum only. All treatments were conducted induplicate. All the reactors were manually mixed once aday for 30 s prior to measuring biogas volume.2.2.2 Measurements and calculations

    Daily biogas production was calculated using theheadspace pressure of the reactor. Headspace pressurewas measured using a pressure gauge (WAL-Me -undRegelsysteme GmbH type 3150, Germany) with accuracyof 0.1%. After measuring the headspace pressure, thebiogas in the headspace was released under water toprevent gas exchange between the headspace and ambientair. Then the pressure in the headspace was measuredagain as the initial condition for the next measurement.Daily pressure differences were converted into biogasvolume using the following equation:

    ,initial -1,final head


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