The anaerobic treatment of low strength domestic sewage at low temperature is an attractive and important topic at present. The upflow anaerobic sludge bed (UASB)-digester system is one of the anaerobic systems to challenge low temperature and concentrations. The effect of sludge recirculation rate on a UASB-digester system treating domestic sewage at 15 °C was studied in this research. A sludge recirculation rate of 0.9, 2.6 and 12.5% of the influent flow rate was investigated. The results showed that the total chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiency rose with increasing sludge recirculation rate. A sludge recirculation rate of 0.9% of the influent flow rate led to organic solids accumulation in the UASB reactor. After the sludge recirculation rate increased from 0.9 to 2.6%, the stability of the UASB sludge was substantially improved from 0.37 to 0.15 g CH4-COD/g COD, and the bio­gas production in the digester went up from 2.9 to 7.4 L/d. The stability of the UASB sludge and bio­gas production in the digester were not significantly further improved by increasing sludge recirculation rate to 12.5% of the influent flow rate, but the biogas production in the UASB increased from 0.37 to 1.2 L/d. It is recommended to apply a maximum sludge recirculation rate of 2–2.5% of the influent flow rate in a UASB-digester system, as this still allows energy self-sufficiency of the system.

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