Life cycle sustainability assessment of advanced treatment techniques for urban wastewater reuse and sewage sludge resource recovery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wastewater treatment plants can become a source of valuable resources, such as clean water, energy, fuels and nutrients and thus contribute to the sustainable development goals and a transition to a circular economy. This can be achieved by adopting advanced wastewater and sludge treatment techniques. However, these have to be evaluated on their sustainability to avoid any unintentional consequences. Therefore, this paper presents a life cycle sustainability assessment of advanced wastewater and sludge treatment techniques by integrating the environmental, economic and social aspects. The options considered for advanced wastewater treatment are: i) granular activated carbon; ii) nanofiltration; iii) solar photo-Fenton; and iv) ozonation. The technologies for advanced sludge treatment are: i) agricultural application of anaerobically digested sludge; ii) agricultural application of composted sludge; iii) incineration; iv) pyrolysis; and v) wet air oxidation. The results for the advanced wastewater treatment techniques demonstrate that nanofiltration is the most sustainable option if all the sustainability aspects are considered equally important. If, however, a higher preference is given to the economic aspect, ozonation and granular activated carbon would both be comparable to nanofiltration; if the social aspect is considered more important, only activated carbon would be comparable to nanofiltration. Among the sludge treatment methods, agricultural application of sludge is the most sustainable technique for mean-to-high resource recovery. If the recovery rate is lower, this option is comparable with incineration and pyrolysis with high recovery of their respective products. This work helps to identify the most sustainable techniques that could be combined with conventional wastewater treatments for promoting wastewater reuse and resource recovery across a wide range of operating parameters and products outputs. The findings also support the notion that more sustainable wastewater treatment could be achieved by a circular use of water, energy and nutrients contained in urban wastewaters.
Original languageEnglish
Article number161771
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Life cycle sustainability assessment of advanced treatment techniques for urban wastewater reuse and sewage sludge resource recovery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this