Possibilities for changing to resource recovery in Kampala’s on-site sanitation regime



We are proud to share a recently published study from the SPANS project related to opportunities for introducing resource recovery innovations in Uganda. In particular we look at the four source-separating on-site sanitation systems – niches. The study was performed in collaboration with Makerere University and RISE. It uses the multi-level perspectives of socio-technical systems to deepen our  understand the existing situation (regime). Through this in-depth analysis of current practices in the Ugandan sanitation sector, we have been able to highlight stress points that could be used to leverage a change to new systems and ways of doing things. Stakeholder specific suggestions for action based on results of this study include:

  • Utilities should pilot innovative solutions in order to demonstrate their advantages and build knowledge.
  • Universities should adapt curricula to break the dominance of sewage systems, including more on-site solutions and Best Available Technology (BAT) approach to selection of systems.
  • Researchers should disseminate knowledge regarding technical advantages of the niches.
  • Niches should focus on possibilities for simplifying organisational structures, streamlining and clarifying roles and responsibilities.
  • Policy makers should adapt policy environments to reflect actual and planned reality of sanitation services, including making public funding available for the on-site regime and its niches.


For more information contact Jennifer McConville.

China should focus beyond access to toilets to tap into the full potential of its Rural Toilet Revolution


Check out our latest article, a collaboration with the Zifu Li group at USTB Beijing that was published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling:

Zhou, X., Simha, P., Perez-Mercado, L. F., Barton, M. A., Lyu, Y., Guo, S., … & Li, Z. (2022). China should focus beyond access to toilets to tap into the full potential of its Rural Toilet Revolution. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 178, 106100.

Abstract: In China, over 47 million toilets in rural areas have been upgraded since the nationwide sanitation program, popularly referred to as the “toilet revolution”, was launched in 2015. However, little is known about the perceptions of rural households regarding these new toilets or the fate of human excreta collected using them. To investigate the other side of the toilet revolution, we surveyed 980 rural households from 22 provinces across China in 2020. We found that most households used an on-site sanitation system (i.e. septic tanks and pit latrines), where urine and feces were mixed and collected (88%), stored in pits or tanks (79%), emptied by the households themselves (60%), applied on farmland as fertilizer (45%), or used for biogas production (5%). Despite the toilet revolution-driven infrastructure upgrade, only 25% of the households were satisfied with their sanitation system and pointed to health risks from issues in the toilet interface and the treatment and reuse of excreta as areas of concern. The majority preferred an “out of sight, out of mind” approach, in which the local government handles excreta without involving the households and without asking them to pay for such management. Meanwhile, 80% supported the idea of local nutrient recycling and believed that human excreta should return to farmland as fertilizer or used for biogas production. Our findings suggest that decision makers in local governments across China must urgently explore ways to upgrade all parts of the sanitation service chain so that rural sanitation can be truly improved to positively influence the progress on other national sustainability goals.

Poor awareness and attitudes to sanitation servicing can impede China’s Rural Toilet Revolution: Evidence from Western China


Check out our new publication following up on China’s nationwide sanitation campaign, “the toilet revolution” in the journal, Science of the Total Environment.

Abstract: The ongoing Toilet Revolution in China offers an opportunity to improve sanitation in rural areas by introducing new approaches, such as urine source separation, that can contribute to achieving SDG6. However, few studies have systematically assessed the social acceptability of managing human excreta collected in new sanitation systems. Therefore, in this study we performed face-to-face interviews with 414 local residents from 13 villages across three provinces in western China, to analyze the current situation and attitudes to possible changes in the rural sanitation service chain. We found that the sanitation chain was predominantly pit latrine-based, with 86.2% of households surveyed collecting their excreta in a simple pit, 82% manually emptying their pits, and 80.2% reusing excreta in agriculture without adequate pre-treatment. A majority (72%) of the households had a generally positive attitude to production of human excreta-derived fertilizer, but only 24% agreed that urine and feces should be collected separately. Multivariate logistic regression indicated that three factors (level of education, number of permanent household residents, perceived social acceptability) significantly influenced respondents’ attitudes to reuse of excreta, although only perceived social acceptability had a high strength of association. Overall, our survey revealed that rural households often misuse toilet systems, fail to comply with government-specified sanitation guidelines, have low awareness of alternative solutions, and are over-reliant on the government to fix problems in the service chain. Thus while new sanitation technologies should be developed and implemented, information campaigns that encourage rural households to manage their excreta safely are also important.

Jennifer McConville awarded SLU’s Career Grant


Docent Jennifer McConville, at the Department of Energy and Technology, is one of the five researchers who has been awarded 3 million SEK as a career grant from the Vice-Chancellor of SLU.

SLU’s Career Grant is launched every second year to award researchers at the early stage of their careers. They receive a grant of 3 million SEK each. Jennifer McConville’s research uses systematic and applied sustainability analysis as decision support in planning and decision-making regarding sanitation and wastewater management. The aim is to improve resource recovery from these systems by adapting technical infrastructure and institutional arrangements. She performs her research in Sweden as well as low- and middle-income countries. She uses life cycle thinking, participation and socio-technical analysis to better understand and shape planning processes so that they can transition towards sustainability.

Jennifer McConville plans to use the career grant together with her research group to:

  • Develop and apply new transdisciplinary methods for sustainability analysis with a focus on resource recovery
  • Increase knowledge of trade-offs between different sustainability aspects
  • Develop guidance for transitioning to sanitation systems with increased resource efficiency and equitable access for all

The results of Jennifer McConville’s research will help authorities responsible for sanitation and wastewater management to increase resource recovery and choose more sustainable systems.

Report from thematic workshop on recirculating nutrients from urban to rural areas


In Sweden, as is the case in many places, there are signs of a disconnect between actors working in waste sectors and those working in farming, food, and agriculture. Yet there is a desire to bridge this gap. On 5 November 2020, the Swedish Nutrient Platform (SNP) and the project End-of-wastewater jointly held a thematic workshop on the topic of recirculating nutrients from urban to rural areas. In this multi-stakeholder digital workshop, 40 actors from the Swedish food and waste management sectors discussed desired characteristics of recycled fertilizer products derived from human excreta and wastewater, including how their uptake could be promoted. The workshop was guided by a literature review and a suite of interviews and surveys that were conducted prior to the workshop. The report summarizes the results from the workshop.

Can Sweden achieve a circular economy for phosphorus?


The need for a more circular use of nutrients, notably phosphorus (P), has been widely discussed in Sweden, not least in response to the release of the new enquiry on sustainable use of sewage sludge (SOU 2020:3). But what would a transition to a circular economy for phosphorus look like? How much phosphorus is needed for biomass production in Sweden? And what possibilities are there to replace the widely used virgin mineral phosphorus with phosphorus from secondary sources?

Global survey of food consumer attitudes towards urine recycling


The findings from our multinational study that surveyed the attitudes of about 3800 people from 16 different countries, are now published in Science of the Total Environment and available here:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144438.


– Cross-cultural & country-level factors explanatory of respondent attitudes identified
– Respondents had positive intention overall but were unwilling to pay price premiums
– Social norms and cognitive awareness of urine’s benefits & risks featured strongly
– Building consumer trust via context-specific messaging can improve acceptance

Our main findings are best summarised by this picture below, which shows the strengths of association for factors explaining attitude of food consumers towards human urine as fertiliser. Factors are grouped by demographics, social norms, benefit/risk perception, substances that respondents believed are normally excreted in urine, and environmental outlooks. Dots are proportional and indicate the strength of association (CramĂ©r’s V values); dashes indicate categories that could not be analysed due to insufficient data.

Picture inserted shortly.

Contact: Prithvi Simha

Guide to Sanitation Resource Recovery Products & Technologies published!


We are very pleased to share with you the 1st edition of the Guide to Sanitation Resource Recovery Products & Technologies. The Guide is a popular science publication that gives an overview of the possible resources that can be recovered and provides guidance on treatment processes to achieve safe products for reuse. The specific objectives of this document are:

  1. To expose the user to a broad range of recovered sanitation products and innovative treatment technologies.
  2. To help the user to design functional solutions for resource recovery by illustrating the linkages between sanitation inputs, treatment technology and the recoverable products.
  3. To provide an overview of basic information regarding design aspects, operational requirements, and health, safety and social considerations related to resource recovery technologies and products.
  4. Describe and fairly present technology-specific advantages and disadvantages.

The Guide to Sanitation Resource Recovery Products and Technologies is primarily a reference book. It is intended to be used by engineers, planners, end-users, researchers, technology developers, sanitation entrepreneurs, non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff and students who are interested in creating circular systems for resource use. It aims to support and enable decision making for increased resource recovery by providing information on key decision criteria for a range of recovered products and treatment technologies, thus highlighting the diversity of options available for resource recovery.

Links to download the guide:



Chea Eliyan’s one year follow-up seminar


On the 9th of December, Chea Eliyan had her one-year follow-up seminar. She presented her research about resource recovery from faecal sludge in Phnom Penh, focusing on the results from the first two studies about faecal sludge characterization and quantification. She preliminary concluded that faecal sludge generation in Phnom Penh is at the increasing trend. The two natural wetlands around the city play a key role as a faecal sludge receiving reservoir before discharging to the rivers. Nutrients and organic matters level in faecal sludge is correlated with the connectedness of containment to the drainage but not by the type of containment. She also included the proposed approaches for her next two studies. The seminar ended with many interesting questions about sanitation challenges in Phnom Penh and the research.

Following the stricter recommendations about Covid-19, there were only four persons in a large room, and around 22 more participated online via Zoom.