Thermophilic anaerobic digestion as suitable bioprocess producing organic and chemical renewable fertilizers: A full-scale approach

Ambrogio Pigoli, Massimo Zilio, Fulvia Tambone, Stefania Mazzini, Micol Schepis, Erik Meers, Oscar Schoumans, Andrea Giordano, Fabrizio Adani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This work reports a full-scale study in which organic wastes were transformed by high-solid thermophilic anaerobic digestion (HSAD), into N fertilizers and organic fertilizers, i.e. digestate. The produced fertilizers were characterized over 42 months and their properties were discussed in comparisons with literature data. HSAD coupled with N stripping technology led to ammonia sulphate production having high N concentration (74 ± 2 g kg−1 wet weight), neutral pH (6.8 ± 1.3) and low traces of other elements. Digestate showed both higher carbon (C) content (314 ± 30 g kg−1 on dry matter (DM) and biological stability than green composts, indicating good amendment properties. Digestate was also interesting for its N (77 ± 3.7 g kg−1 dry matter – DM) content, half of it in the ammonia form, and P content (28 ± 4.1 g kg−1 DM) that was 43% readily available as soluble P-orthophosphate. K content was low (6.5 ± 1.3 g kg−1 DM), indicating poor fertilizing ability of digestate for this element. All organic pollutants investigated were much lower than the limits required for agricultural use and levels of some of them were lower than the content revealed for other organic matrices such as agricultural and energy crop digestates and compost. Emerging pollutants (i.e., pharmaceuticals) were tested as markers and they were found to be below the detection limit (<0.01 mg kg−1 DM) indicating very low content. The results obtained showed that HSAD coupled with N stripping allowed transforming sewage sludge into fertilizers and soil improvers exploitable in agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-367
Number of pages12
JournalWaste Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Ammonium sulphate
  • Digestate
  • Fertilizer properties
  • High Solid Anaerobic Digestion
  • Sewage sludge

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