Anaerobic digestion (AD) is widely considered a more sustainable food waste management method than conventional technologies, such as landfilling and incineration. To improve economic performance while maintaining AD system stability at commercial scale, food waste is often co-digested with animal manure, but there is increasing interest in food waste-only digestion. We investigated the stability of anaerobic digestion with mixed cafeteria food waste (CFW) as the main substrate, combined in a semi-continuous mode with acid whey, waste bread, waste energy drinks, and soiled paper napkins as co-substrates. During digestion of CFW without any co-substrates, the maximum specific methane yield (SMY) was 363 mL gVS−1
at organic loading rate (OLR) of 2.8 gVSL−1
, and reactor failure occurred at OLR of 3.5 gVSL−1
. Co-substrates of acid whey, waste energy drinks, and waste bread resulted in maximum SMY of 455, 453, and 479 mL gVS−1
, respectively, and it was possible to achieve stable digestion at OLR as high as 4.4 gVSL−1
. These results offer a potential approach to high organic loading rate digestion of food waste without using animal manure. Process optimization for the use of unconventional co-substrates may help enable deployment of anaerobic digesters for food waste management in urban and institutional applications and enable increased diversion of food waste from landfills in heavily populated regions.
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