We are delighted to announce that our scholarly article titled “Urine recycling – Diffusion barriers and upscaling potential; case studies from Sweden and Switzerland” has been successfully published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.
The primary focus of our research was to investigate the underlying barriers that impede the widespread implementation of urine recycling systems, despite their considerable potential for enhancing food and fertilizer security. Through a comprehensive analysis, we identified several challenges: technological limitations, inadequate investment, insufficient knowledge dissemination, and inadequate legal support. Moreover, we formulated various strategic pathways for scaling up these systems and provided well-founded policy recommendations to overcome the existing obstacles, fostering their expansion and aligning them with future aspirations.
If you’re interested in learning more about urine recycling then this paper is for you.
We have designed a serious game to influence cognitive, normative & relational sanitation learning. The game is called RECLAIM. It aims to communicate knowledge on sanitation impacts and possibilities for resource recovery. The game was co-designed as part of the SPANS project in collaboration with stakeholders in Uganda and Sweden. Just before the pandemic we managed to run a few test sessions with the game as a proof-of-concept. We were able to show that the game could achieve its aims. Highlights from the evaluation found that:
- Serious gaming in planning can influence worldviews and stakeholder norms.
- Players gained an appreciation of the need for collaboration.
- Games in planning processes would strengthen potential for changing practices.
While we can conclude that the game meets the requirements for creating a safe environment for social learning there is still the issue of implementing the game and bringing diverse players to the table. Two key aspects include deciding when to use the game in the planning process and who should play (Kain et al., 2021). The planning process should be carefully designed to support empowerment and inclusiveness, by adapting sessions for specific types of players at appropriate times and including relevant content. Based on this reasoning, we suggest a game toolbox, including modules and add-ons that would allow for flexibility in game length and content.
We are currently working to design just such a toolbox and a training session to teach people how to use it. Stay tuned for more information.
Chitransh Dua is an Indian citizen who holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering from GGSIP University, Delhi. He has four years of experience working in different government organizations in India including the Ministry of Environment. He has also worked with the United Nations Environment Programme as a Consultant wherein he provided technical assistance on the implementation of several circular economy and resource efficiency measures at the National and subnational level.
Chitransh Dua has joined the Kretsloppsteknik group as a PhD student where he will be working on the development of decision-support tools to weigh trade-offs for integration of new sanitation systems into existing infrastructures. He will also be involved in the application of methods, such as life cycle assessment, cost-benefit analysis and systems dynamic modelling, on case studies for nutrient recovery from urine and wastewater, in the context of an EU project (P2GreeN).
Hej! My name is Verena and I recently started a 2-years-postdoc here at SLU’s Kretsloppsteknik. Rooting in my bachelor and master degree of civil engineering and water management at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), my interests and expertise evolved throughout my doctorate to a more interdisciplinary perspective at the science-society-policy interface. After working on sanitation system planning and modelling in my master thesis, I enrolled in the Transitions to Sustainability (T2S) Doctoral School with its goal of promoting and supporting inter- and transdisciplinary research in the field of sustainable development. My previous research focused on the development and evaluation of coherent policy-options to boost the implementation of SDG 6 at the example of Austria and on the assessment of methods to evaluate interactions between different SDG entities.
Here at SLU I will be supporting the group on systems analysis lead by Jennifer. My work will focus on evaluating different systems for resource recovery and identifying and balancing trade-offs between sustainability aspects related to these systems. If you would like to know more about my work and interests just contact me or approach me for a talk or a fika. I am looking forward to fruitful exchanges and exciting tasks here at SLU. Vi ses!
Erika Francisco is originally from Brazil, where she completed a bachelor degree in Environmental Sanitation and a PhD in Chemical Engineering, specifically focusing on biorefineries for reuse and valuation of wastewater for the production of bio-products from microalgae. She has worked as a university lecturer in the Environmental Engineering Department at University of Passo Fundo for three years and as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the project “Food-Energy-Water Nexus Governance” bythe University of Campinas and Belmont Forum.
At SLU, she will be working as a postdoc on sustainable sanitation systems dynamics modelling. She will be developing systems dynamic models for resource recovery systems from urine and wastewater fractions, including modelling outputs related to emissions, water footprints and socio-technical indicators. She will be with Kretsloppsteknik for the next two years.
At the current progress rate, there will probably still be 2.8 billion people world-wide without safely managed sanitation by 2030. Faecal sludge treatment is crucial for safely managed sanitation. To incentivize and increase implementation of sustainable faecal sludge management (FSM), especially in the cities of low and middle-income countries like Phnom Penh, Cambodia, there should be radial shift in viewing human waste as a resource. However, planning data, e.g. on qualities, quantities and fate of faecal sludge after leaving households are, inadequate and lack of accuracy. This study aimed to provide baseline data for effective FSM planning by sanitation stakeholders in Phnom Penh. This was done by characterizing the physical and chemical properties of faecal sludge in Phnom Penh, identifying sources of variation in faecal sludge composition, quantifying sludge volomes generated, transport logistics and resoruce recovery potential to incentivize sustainable management. In total, 194 faecal sludge samples collected during containment unit emptying were analyzed for physicochemical parameters. Interviews were conducted with users and emptying and transportation contractors, together with collection of technical data about on-site sanitation systems. Geographical coordinates of household sampling locations and disposal sites were also mapped.
The results showed that the concentation of many faecal sludge parameters such as nutrients and organic matter are at the lower end of the range reported for other similar cities worldwide, but still higher than the permissible Cambodian wastewater discharge level. The three predictors influencing faecal sludge characteristics included the addition of water during emptying, connection to the urban drainage network and the type of wastewater captured by household containment system. Cheung Ek and Kob Srov wetlands are the main recipients of faecal sludge collected in Phnom Penh with the amount of 18,800m3 and 13,700m3 annually (Figure 1), respectively. The analysis showed that faecal sludge in Phnom Penh contains valuable resources such as nitrogen (6 tons), phosphorus (13 tons) and energy (148-165 GWh) annually. The baseline data would be useful inputs for decision makers and planners in developing action plan for FSM in Phnom Penh and similar cities.
Read the whole papers:
Eliyan, C., Vinnerås, B., Zurbrügg, C., Koottatep, T., Sothea, K., and McConville, J. (2022). Factors Influencing Physicochemical Characteristics of Faecal Sludge in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. J. Water Sanitation Hyg. Development. 12 (1), 129–140. doi:10.2166/washdev.2021.193
Eliyan C, McConville JR, Zurbrügg C, Koottatep T, Sothea K and Vinnerås B (2022) Generation and Management of Faecal Sludge Quantities and Potential for Resource Recovery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Front. Environ. Sci. 10:869009.
There is a growing trend for nutrient recovery from wastewater as part of the transition to a circular economy. Most nutrients in household wastewater originate from urine and one way to facilitate reuse of these nutrients is to concentrate the urine into fertilizer products. Urine concentration technologies are still in the development phase and not implemented at scale. The aim of this study was to provide guidance to technology developers and policymakers by assessing the environmental and societal impacts of urine concentration technologies. In particular, it includes practical aspects such as worker safety, space availability and local fertilizer needs that have not been included in previous studies.
“Although many nutrient recovery technologies are not yet mature, it is good to evaluate them now. First to understand if they contribute to the sustainability that we want to achieve and then to identify improvement opportunities within the technology. It gives us guidance both for technology development and our strategic system planning.” says Jennifer McConville, one of the researchers behind the study.
Future scenarios on implementing three different urine concentration technologies (alkaline dehydration, nitrification-distillation, ion-exchange with struvite precipitation) in a planned residential area in Malmö, Sweden, were developed. The technologies were evaluated using multi-criteria assessment (MCA), with environment, technical, economic and health sustainability criteria derived from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was found that all urine concentration technologies performed well against many of the sustainability criteria examined and can contribute to achieving SDGs, especially regarding nitrogen recovery. Specific areas for further development were identified for each technology. In particular:
- Alkaline urine dehydration requires optimization of energy demand, to reduce the energy consumption and costs.
- Nitrification-distillation requires optimization of the nitrification rate and matching it to the distillation capacity, which can reduce space requirements and costs. Attention should also be given to risk factors for workers.
- Ion-exchange with struvite precipitation can be improved with respect to costs and risk for workers, in particular regarding use of sulphuric acid in regeneration of the ion-exchanger.
An impact assessment on scaling up demonstrated that nitrogen emissions to surface water were significantly reduced when more than 60% of urine in Malmö city was subjected to urine concentration. Nitrogen and phosphorus recovered from recycling only 15–30% of urine in Malmö could supply 50% of Malmö municipality’s fertilizer demand.
In the study, the researchers also tested the potential for more large-scale production of fertilizer through a scenario where the technology was scaled up to cover larger parts of Malmö. An up-scaling resulted in significantly lower emissions of nitrogen to the surrounding surface water and if 15 – 30% of the urine in Malmö is collected and concentrated, 50% of the municipality’s need for fertilization can be met.
Read the follow article here:
Gunnarsson, Matilda, Cecilia Lalander, and Jennifer R. McConville. “Estimating environmental and societal impacts from scaling up urine concentration technologies.” Journal of Cleaner Production 382 (2023): 135194.
We have had several studies within the group looking at the acceptability of the use of fertilizers derived from human excreta. Most of them have focused on consumers or farmers. Acceptance among these groups is generally relatively high (or at least not low). Yet, a commonly cited barrier for use of these products is reluctance within the food industry. So we set out to fill this gap by targeting grocery stores in Sweden. The food retail sector, as an intermediary between producers and consumers, is an important actor with power to influence opinions and purchasing practices. In this study, we surveyed 127 food retailers (stores) and reviewed publicly available retailer sustainability policies to assess acceptance of the use of recycled fertilizers. We gauged acceptance of three products relevant for the Swedish market – struvite, phosphorus from ash, and dehydrated urine.
I key take-away from the survey was that food safety is a major concern for these actors. Acceptance of wastewater-derived fertilizers was largely dependent on perceived risks, especially the fate of pharmaceutical residues. Overall, most respondents felt that all three recovery techniques were unlikely to be harmful either to themselves or to the environment. It was more acceptable to use products further away from human consumption. In general, struvite and phosphorus from ash were perceived more positively than dehydrated urine. We speculate that this could be because of the word “urine” in the name or the fact that they are more worried about pharmaceuticals in the urine-derived product. While retailers in Sweden are not negative to reuse, they seem unlikely to provide strong support for nutrient recirculation from human excreta unless it becomes a greater concern for the public. So overall we do not see this sector as key drivers to support a transition to more circular nutrient use, but they are not likely to lobby against it either.
Read the whole paper here:
McConville, Jennifer R., Geneviève S. Metson, and Hugo Persson. “Acceptance of human excreta derived fertilizers in Swedish grocery stores.” City and Environment Interactions 17 (2023): 100096.
In October 2022, the SPANS project had its final seminar in Kampala, Uganda. The five-year project financed by the Swedish Research Council aimed to improve knowledge related to adaptation and innovation in Sanitation Planning. In particular it explores technical and societal readiness of Alternative Nutrient-recovery Systems. The seminar highlighted the outputs of the project in terms of building knowledge on technologies for resource-recovery, understanding opportunities for implementing such systems and developing a serious game to promote safe resource recovery. All project results can be found on the website: https://www.slu.se/en/departments/energy-technology/projects/kretslopp/spans/
The team also used the seminar to launch the three policy briefs that have been developed in the project: