To fully exploit the environmental benefits of the biogas process, the digestate should be recycled as biofertiliser to agriculture. This practice can however be jeopardized by the presence of unwanted compounds such as heavy metals in the digestate. By using two-stage digestion, where the first stage includes hydrolysis/acidification and liquefaction of the substrate, heavy metals can be transferred to the leachate. From the leachate, metals can then be removed by adsorption. In this study, up to 70% of the Ni, 40% of the Zn and 25% of the Cd present in maize was removed when the leachate from hydrolysis was circulated over a macroporous polyacrylamide column for 6 days. For Cu and Pb, the mobilization in the hydrolytic stage was lower which resulted in a low removal. A more efficient two-stage process with improved substrate hydrolysis would give lower pH and/or longer periods with low pH in the hydrolytic stage. This is likely to increase metal mobilisation, and would open up for an excellent opportunity of heavy metal removal.

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