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Biomass and Bioenergy 27 (2002) 7177

Continuous co-digestion of cattle slurry with fruit and

vegetable wastes and chicken manure
F.J. Callaghana , D.A.J. Wasea , K. Thayanithya , C.F. Forsterb;
a School

of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

of Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

b School

Received 27 March 2000; received in revised form 17 August 2001; accepted 12 September 2001

Anaerobic digestion is a well established process for treating many types of organic waste, both solid and liquid. As such,
the digestion of cattle slurries and of a range of agricultural wastes has been evaluated and has been successful. Previous batch
studies have shown that based on volatile solids (VS) reduction, total methane production and methane yield, co-digestions
of cattle slurry (CS) with fruit and vegetable wastes (FVW) and with chicken manure (CM) were among the more promising

combinations. A continuously stirred tank reactor (18 litres) was used as a mesophilic (35 C) anaerobic reactor to examine
the e5ect of adding the FVW and CM to a system which was digesting CS. The retention time was kept at 21 days and
the loading rate maintained in the range 3.19 5:01 kg VS m3 d 1 . Increasing the proportion of FVW from 20% to 50%
improved the methane yield from 0.23 to 0:45 m3 CH4 kg1 VS added, and caused the VS reduction to decrease slightly.
Increasing the proportion of chicken manure in the feed caused a steady deterioration in both the criteria for judging digester
c 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
performance. This appeared to be caused by ammonia inhibition. 
Keywords: Solid wastes; Fruit and vegetable wastes; Chicken manure; Anaerobic digestion; Co-digestion; Performance;
Inhibition; Cattle slurry

1. Introduction
Organic wastes are produced by a range of industries; for example, agriculture, food processing and
drink manufacture; and their quantities are appreciable. Dagnall [1] has reported that the waste produced
by the UK livestock industry (cattle, pigs and poultry)
amounts to about 34,000 tonnes of dry solids per day.

Corresponding author. Tel.: +44-121-414-5069; fax: +44-121414-3675.

E-mail address: c.f.forster@bham.ac.uk (C.F. Forster).

Agriculture and the food processing industry also generate a signiFcant amount of waste. In addition, domestic waste must be considered. In the UK, the solid
household wastes generated in 1995=96 were some
24 106 wet tonnes and it has been estimated that between 20% and 45% of this type of waste is organic
in nature [2].
Over the years, an array of ideas for the utilisation of these wastes have been put forward. These
have ranged from the chemical hydrolysis of the cellulose in refuse to provide a fermentation feed-stock
for the manufacture of single cell protein [3] to the
use of earthworms for the recycling of organic wastes

c 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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F.J. Callaghan et al. / Biomass and Bioenergy 27 (2002) 7177

[4] materials. However, anaerobic digestion of organic

wastes to produce energy in the form of biogas is,
arguably, the most likely option to be of commercial
interest, provided that the economics were favourable.
A recent review, however, has demonstrated that the
use of anaerobic digestion for the treatment of the
organic fraction of municipal solid waste would reduce the emission of carbon dioxide [5]. Therefore,
in the light of the emission reductions agreed at the
Kyoto Summit, environmental considerations may be
of greater signiFcance than economics.
Anaerobic digestion of cattle slurry (CS) has been
assessed over the last 25 30 years and is now an established waste management technique in the UK [6]
and there are 18 installations around the UK successfully processing CS. Fruit and vegetable waste (FVW)
has also been evaluated as a digester feed-stock
by a number of workers [7,8] with a methane production of 0:37 m3 kg1 VS being reported [7].
However, it has been suggested that the nitrogen
and phosphorus in FVW can be low and this is one
reason why it has also been used in co-digestions
with other wastes, for example, chicken manure (CM)
[9]. Indeed, it has been suggested that CM is best
treated with other wastes because of its high nitrogen
content [10].
The wide range of waste solids=slurries which
would be amenable to anaerobic biodegradation is
such that a series of centralised digestion centres receiving a variety of these wastes might realistically be
considered. Co-digestion as a process has been examined for a number of waste combinations [11,12] and
the concept of a centralised facility, which co-digested
a base material, for example, CS, together with a
number of waste products, is not a new idea [1,3].
What is not clear is whether some wastes would have
adverse e5ects when added to a stable digester or
were used in conjunction with another waste. Also,
it is not clear how well a digestion system would
operate under non-steady-state conditions, which is
what would be likely to happen with a commercial
centralised facility.
Previously, a series of batch (1 l) co-digestions
were used as screening trials to determine which
wastes could best be used with CS. These showed
that CM, Fsh o5al and FVW were the most promising
[13]. The results of an evaluation of the bench-scale
(18 l) co-digestion of CS with FVW and CS with

CM using non-steady-state conditions are compared

in this paper.
2. Experimental
2.1. Waste sources
The FVW was collected from a group of student
vegetarians. Each item of waste was weighed before
being placed in the bin so that the overall composition
was known. The bin was emptied once a week and
the contents macerated (Magimix SA, Montceau en

Bourgougne, France) and stored at 10 C. During

the pilot-plant operation, a quantity suIcient for 1
weeks operation was thawed at the beginning of each
week. Immediately before use it was diluted to 10%
total solids (w=v) to aid mixing. Its characteristics are
described in Tables 1 and 2.
The CS was obtained from a local farm. After collection, long ( 50 mm) straw was removed and the
residue was macerated (Magimix SA, Montceau en

Bourgougne, France) and stored at 4 C. Its characteristics are described in Table 2.

Table 1
Composition of the FVW
Waste fraction

Percentage (w=w, wet weight)

Banana skins
Broccoli stalks
Brussels sprouts
Grapefruit pieces
Grapefruit skins
Kiwi fruit skins
Orange skins
Potato skins


Table 2
Characteristics of the feed solids as sampled

Total solids (g l1 )
Volatile solids (g l1 )
(mg kg1 )

Cattle slurry

Chicken manure


100 137
70 107
1040 1925

300 450
150 220
7000 12,800


F.J. Callaghan et al. / Biomass and Bioenergy 27 (2002) 7177

The CM was from laying hens and had a total solids

(droppings, feathers, broken eggs) content of 27.2%
(Table 2), which would make it unsuitable for digestion as it is diIcult to mix systems with solids levels
of above 10% by conventional methods. However, as
it is envisaged that co-digestion would involve adding
slurried CM as only a fraction of the total feed to a
digester, the other fraction being CS at 810% total
solids, slurried CM with solids levels greater than 10%
could be used without pushing the overall feed solids
concentration over 10%. The manure was, therefore,
diluted with water to 15% total solids (w=v). Because
of the variability in the composition of the wastes,
particularly the CS and the CM, the solids concentrations of each daily feed were measured to ascertain
the exact amount being added to the digester.
2.2. Digesters
The digester has been described previously [14].
Essentially, it was constructed from a QVF glass cylinder (300 mm 300 mm ID; wall thickness 10 mm)
Ftted with baMes, a six-bladed pitch-blade impeller
(150 mm diameter) mounted 75 mm above the base
of the tank and epoxy-painted mild steel end plates
(12 mm). PTFE O-rings (QVF) and silicone sealant
were used to e5ect a gas and water-tight seal. Wastes
were added and withdrawn through 50 mm ABS ball
valves (Capper PC, Birmingham). The working volume of the digester was 18 l with a headspace volume
of 3:2 l. The biogas was collected by the downward
displacement of acidiFed water (0:05 M H2 SO4 ) and
its volume was measured at STP. The temperature

was maintained at 35 C (0:5 C) by an external

water jacket.
Initially, two digesters were operated with a feedstock of CS (7.6% volatile solids), a loading rate of


3:62 kg VS m3 d 1 and a hydraulic retention time of

21 days. The choice of this value for the retention time
was based on the results reported for the digestion of
vegetable wastes [15]. This start-up phase lasted for
4 months. The operational regimes for the subsequent
co-digestion trials are given in Table 3. The ratios
used, which were quite arbitrary, were based on wet
weights. The trials were not run for the 3 4 hydraulic
retention times needed for steady state. Rather, they
were run for 28 days.

2.3. Analytical methods

Total and volatile solids and pH were measured
by the techniques described in standard methods
[16]. Ammoniacal nitrogen (NH3 plus NH+
4 ) was
measured with a speciFc ion electrode (Hach Model
HH=45400-00, Camlab Ltd.). The free ammonia concentrations (i.e. unionised NH3 ) are a function of the
total ammoniacal-nitrogen concentration, the pH and
the dissociation constant and formulae for the calculation of free ammonia concentrations are available
in the literature [17,18]. In this study, they were calculated using the formula provided by Abeling [17].
Alkalinity was measured by titration to pH 4.5 with
0:05 M H2 SO4 . Methane and carbon dioxide concentrations in the biogas were measured with a Pye
Unicam series 104 gas chromatograph Ftted with a
Porapak Q packed column (3 mm ID and mesh size
80 100) and a thermal conductivity detector (TCD).
Helium was used as a carrier gas, at a Pow rate of
40 ml min1 . Volatile fatty acids (VFA) were measured by the distillation method followed by titration
with 0:1 M NaOH with a phenolphthalein indicator.
All statistical analyses were done with the Analysis
ToolPak in Microsoft Excel 97.

Table 3
Organic loading rates (OLR) for the di5erent feed regimes
CS:FVW (wet weight)

OLR (kg VS m3 d 1 )

CS:CM (wet weight)

OLR (kg VS m3 d 1 )

100 : 0
80 : 20
70 : 30
60 : 40
50 : 50

3:62 0:15
4:22 0:10
4:52 0:11
5:22 0:10
5:01 0:07

100 : 0
70 : 30
50 : 50
25 : 75
10 : 90

3:19 0:14
3:83 0:19
3:97 0:26
4:44 0:21
4:75 0:42


F.J. Callaghan et al. / Biomass and Bioenergy 27 (2002) 7177

3. Results and discussion


METHANE YIELD (m3 kg-1 VS added)









TIME (weeks)

Fig. 1. A comparison of the methane yields obtained by the two

digesters treating a feed of CS (70%) and CM (30%).


METHANE YIELD (m3kg-1 VS added)

After start-up was achieved with CS as the feed,

a co-digestion was started with a feed of CS and
CM. The component ratio was 70% CS : 30% CM
(Table 3). Two digesters were used so that a comparison could be made between the duplicated systems.
The performance of the two digesters was very comparable, as can be seen from Fig. 1 which shows the
methane yields during this phase. This comparability
led to the decision to operate the digesters as separate
systems during the remainder of the study.
As can be seen from Table 3, the organic loading rate (OLR) altered as di5erent proportions of
co-digestate were used in the feed. The methane
yields (m3 CH4 kg1 VS added) achieved with the
di5erent feeds varied as the OLR increased (Fig. 2).
The data in Fig. 2 are shown as mean values which
have standard deviations of, typically, 5 7%. The
regression equations, which are clearly di5erent,
have correlation coeIcients which are signiFcant at



Fig. 2. The e5ect of organic loading rate on the methane yield of

co-digestions showing the measured mean data points, the standard
deviations (n = 6) and the regression lines for CM (- - - - - ) and
fruit and vegetable waste ().

the 90% level, showing that there is a clear di5erence

between the CM and the FVW-based digestions. The
latter gave increased yields as the OLR increased.
The former gave the opposite, implying that as the
proportion of CM was increased, corresponding to
the increased OLR, some inhibition occurred. As is
shown by a review of the production of methane
from biomass [19] the methane yields from fruit
and vegetable residues which have been reported
previously, are variable, depending on the carbohydrate:lipid:protein balance in the waste. The reported
range is from 0.11 to 0:42 m3 kg1 VS added. Most
of these results come from the digestion of single
wastes. However, Viswanath et al. [7] have reported
data for the digestion of a mixture of fruit wastes at
an OLR of 3:8 kg VS m3 d 1 and a retention time
of 20 days, conditions very similar to those in this
current study. The methane yield they obtained was
0:37 m3 kg1 VS added. The results presented in
Fig. 2 for the FVW co-digestions are, therefore,
comparable with these earlier results.
The data for the CM co-digestions may also be
compared with earlier work. Webb and Hawkes [20]
examined two organic loading rates for the digestion

F.J. Callaghan et al. / Biomass and Bioenergy 27 (2002) 7177















Fig. 3. E5ect of adding CM (- - - - - -) and fruit and vegetable

waste () on the volatile solids reduction (standard deviations
based on n = 6).

of poultry manure alone and showed that, at

the higher rate, the speciFc gas yield was lower
(0:245 m3 biogas kg1 VS added compared to 0.372).
Bujoczek et al. [21] have also reported that, with CM,
the eIciency with which organic matter was converted to methane decreased as the organic loading
was increased.
The suggestion that inhibition is occurring is supported by the data in Fig. 3, which shows that the mean
reduction in VS altered as the amount of CS in the feed
was reduced. These mean values have a typical standard deviation of 8%. For the co-digestion of FVW
and CS, with the exception of the 70% CS mixture,
there was no signiFcant change in the mean reduction
in VS (ANOVA, p 0:05). The mixtures containing
CM showed a di5erent pattern of behaviour. There
was no signiFcant di5erence between the reductions
in VS in mixtures containing 10%, 25% and 50% CS.
However, the 70% and 100% CS mixtures gave reductions in VS which were signiFcantly higher (ANOVA,
p 0:05). A comparison of the two 50% mixtures
also showed a clear di5erence between the behaviour
of the two co-digestates (ANOVA, p 0:05).


Overall, the anaerobic digestion process can be inhibited at low pH values. The inhibition of acetate and
propionate degradation by propionate (substrate inhibition) is also a recognised phenomenon [22,23]. The
concentrations of total VFAs produced by the digesters
are given in Table 4. They show that the lowest proportions of co-digestate, 30% CM and 20% FVW, caused
the VFA concentrations to increase only slightly
compared with the mono-digestion of CS. The higher
proportions produced signiFcantly higher concentrations of VFAs. However, as individual acid concentrations were not measured, it is not possible to judge
whether substrate or product inhibition was occurring.
The pH of the CM-based digestions did not show any
appreciable variation, staying in the range 7.88.0.
The digestions based on FVW did show a slight variation, with the pH decreasing from a value of 7.7
when the CS was being digested alone to one of 7.2
with the 50 : 50 feedstock. This implies that souring
of the digesters was not occurring.
One of the criteria for judging digester stability is
the VFA:alkalinity ratio. There are three critical values
for this [24,25].

digester should be stable;

some instability will occur;
signiFcant instability:

When CM was being added to the feed, the

VFA:alkalinity ratio did not rise above the critical value of 0.4, although when 50% or more was
used, the ratio did start to approach this value. The
FVW-based digestions also produced increases in the
VFA:alkalinity ratio as the proportion of FVW was
increased and with proportions of 30% or more, the
ratio was in the 0.4 0.8 range, implying that despite
the results for the methane yield and VS reduction,
there was the potential for instability. Generally,
FVW is thought of as being highly degradable [19],
but it is essential that there is an adequate alkalinity
[26]. The work by Lane suggested that, for a balanced
digestion of FVW, the alkalinity should not be less
than 1500 mg l1 and that the VFA:alkalinity ratio
should be less than 0.7 [20]. Throughout the study
using FSW, the alkalinity was 10; 000 mg l1 .
Free (unionised) ammonia can also a5ect digester
stability, although knowledge of how ammonia toxicity occurs is limited [18]. Work with pure cultures has
suggested that ammonia can act in two possible ways,


F.J. Callaghan et al. / Biomass and Bioenergy 27 (2002) 7177

Table 4
Volatile fatty acids generated during the di5erent co-digestions
Chicken manure

Volatile fatty acids

(mg l1 )




2192 342
2723 380
7990 625
9272 154
6369 598

by inhibiting the enzyme which synthesizes methane

or by di5using into the cells and causing a proton
imbalance [18].
Webb and Hawkes [20] have suggested that
a concentration of 138 mg l1 will cause inhibition and de Baere et al. [27] have quoted the inhibitory range as being 80 100 mg l1 . Working
with acetoclastic methanogens, Poggi-Varaldo et
al. [28] have demonstrated that their growth rates
are very sensitive to the concentrations of free
ammonia below about 100 mg l1 . When the CS was
digested alone, the free ammonia concentrations were
between 40 and 85 mg l1 . The concentrations of free
ammonia which were measured when co-digestion
was taking place, again showed a signiFcant difference between the two systems. When FVW was
used, the free ammonia concentrations were less than
100 mg l1 , suggesting that free ammonia was not
involved in causing instability in the digesters. When
CM was present in the feed, the concentrations of
free ammonia were always 100 mg l1 , implying
that this was the cause of the inhibition.

4. Conclusions
When fruit and vegetable waste was co-digested
with cattle slurry with the feed containing 30% or more
FVW, high concentrations of volatile fatty acids were
produced. Despite this, mixtures of CS and FVW, with
proportions of FVW of up to 50% in the feed, gave
a good co-digestation in terms of methane yield, but
the VS reduction did decrease slightly.
Chicken manure was not as successful as a
co-digestate. As the amount of CM in the feed and


Volatile fatty acids

(mg l1 )




2202 357
2752 229
7458 1118
5320 813
7994 913

the organic loading was increased, the VS reduction deteriorated and the methane yield decreased.
This appeared to be due to the concentrations of free
ammonia present in the liquors.
This work was supported by the Biotechnology and
Biological Science Research Council and their Fnancial support is gratefully acknowledged.
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