, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 87–100 | Cite as

Recovery of unstable digestion of vegetable waste by adding trace elements using the bicarbonate alkalinity to total alkalinity ratio as an early warning indicator

  • Dong Li
  • Juan Sun
  • Qin Cao
  • Yichao Chen
  • Xiaofeng Liu
  • Yi RanEmail author
Original Paper


Vegetable waste (VW) is highly perishable and susceptible to acidification during anaerobic digestion, which inhibits biogas production. Effective process monitoring, diagnosis and control are necessary to maintain stable anaerobic digestion at a high organic loading rate (OLR). Continuous mesophilic digestion was conducted at OLRs of 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 g volatile solids (VS)/(L d) with effluent recirculation (ER) in a reactor with total volume of 70 L. The effectiveness of three early warning indicators was validated. The ability of trace elements (TEs) (Fe, Co and Ni) to recover unstable VW digestion systems was evaluated. The results showed that the ratio of bicarbonate alkalinity (BA) to total alkalinity (TA) was a more effective warning indicator than the ratios of methane (CH4) to carbon dioxide and volatile fatty acids (VFAs) to TA. When the ratio of BA/TA was lower than 0.9, the digestion system tended to be unstable. ER maintained a stable OLR of 1.5 g VS/(L d). The addition of TEs achieved a maximum stable OLR of 3.5 g VS/(L d) with an average volumetric biogas production rate of 1.91 L/(L d). Severe VFAs accumulation and unrecoverable instability occurred at an OLR of 4.0 g VS/(L d). The supplementation of ammonium bicarbonate was not useful for the recovery of the unstable system when the OLR was greater than 3.5 g VS/(L d) for the digestion of VW. The specific methane production was approximately 340 L/kg VS during the stable period with a digestion efficiency of 85%.


Vegetable waste Anaerobic digestion Organic loading rate Early warning Trace element Recovery of unstable digestion 



Anaerobic digestion


Bicarbonate alkalinity


Effluent recirculation


Fruit and vegetable wastes


Hydraulic retention time


Intermediate alkalinity


Organic loading rates


Oxidation–reduction potential


Specific biogas production


Specific methane production


Total alkalinity


Total ammonia nitrogen


Trace element


Theoretical methane potential


Total solids


Volumetric biogas production rate


Volatile fatty acid


Volatile solids


Vegetable waste



This study was supported jointly by the National Key R & D Program of China [2018YFD0501405], the National Natural Science Foundation of China [21476222], West Light Foundation of Chinses Academy of Sciences [2018XBZG_XBQNXZ_A_004], Special fund for talented persons of Sichuan provincial Party Committee Organization Department, the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of Chinese Academy of Sciences [2017423], Key project for foreign cooperation of International Cooperation Bureau of Chinese Academy of Sciences [182344KYSB20170009], the Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Program (ASTIP) of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dong Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Juan Sun
    • 1
  • Qin Cao
    • 1
  • Yichao Chen
    • 1
  • Xiaofeng Liu
    • 1
  • Yi Ran
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Environmental and Applied Microbiology, Environmental Microbiology Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, Chengdu Institute of BiologyChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina
  2. 2.Biogas Institute of Ministry of AgricultureChengduChina

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