This paper examines the impact of increasing organic loading in a two phase anaerobic digestion system
treating commercial food waste. The first phase is a series of sequentially fed leach bed reactors (LBRs).
The second phase is an upflow anaerobic sludge bed (UASB). Leachate from the leach beds, form the influent to the UASB. Effluent from the UASB is re-circulated over the leach beds. Flow rates corresponded to 1 volume of leachate per effective LBR volume per day. The theoretical organic loading rate
(OLR) of the UASB is based on the conversion of volatile solids (VS) in the LBR to chemical oxygen demand
(COD). The experiment was set up such that the theoretical OLR would rise from 7.1 to 8.8 to 11.8 kg CODm3 day1.
The system operated effectively at the lowest organic loading rate producing 384 L CH4 kg VS1 which corresponded to 72% of the value obtained in a BMP test. COD conversion efficiency was recorded at 75%.
The accumulation of COD over the life of the experiment led to a situation whereby the volumetric OLR
(product of COD concentration in the leachate by the flow rate) was over twice the theoretical OLR at the
end of the experiment (24.3 kg VSm3 day1 versus 11.8 kg VSm3 day1). At the highest loading rate
total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) reached levels of 4500 mg L1 with pH levels of 8.15. This resulted in
significant reduction of methane production.