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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2007

Local recycling of plant nutrients from small-scale wastewater systems to farmland - A Swedish scenario study

Tidaker P, Sjoberg C, Jonsson H


Reducing the negative impact from on-site systems and promoting recycling are important tasks for municipal authorities, especially as regards phosphorus. The objective of this scenario study was to compare energy turnover in a life cycle perspective, recycling potential and expected reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus emissions for three upgraded small-scale wastewater systems based on local recycling of plant nutrients. The systems studied were urine separation, blackwater separation and chemical precipitation in the septic tank. The urine was sanitised through storage, the blackwater through liquid composting and the precipitated sludge through chemical treatment with urea before reuse in agriculture. The system boundaries included the operational phase as well as investment in capital goods required for upgrading the existing on-site systems. The urine separation system used least energy. The potential recycling and reduction of phosphorus was lower than for the other two systems, while that of nitrogen was higher than for the chemical precipitation system but lower than for the blackwater separation system. The blackwater separation system reduced both nitrogen and phosphorus to a high extent and also enabled a large proportion of both nitrogen and phosphorus to be recycled to arable land. However, a major drawback with this system was its significantly higher use of electricity, related to the aeration and stirring required when sanitising the blackwater by liquid composting. When urea treatment replaced liquid composting, the use of electricity decreased substantially in the blackwater separation system. The chemical precipitation system was efficient in reducing and recycling phosphorus, while inefficient for nitrogen. The use of fossil fuels was significantly higher than for the other two systems, primarily due to the production of the precipitation chemical. (c) 2006 Elsevier B. V. All rights reserved


blackwater; environmental systems analysis; human urine; on-site systems; sewage sludge; wastewater treatment

Published in

Resources, Conservation and Recycling
2007, Volume: 49, number: 4, pages: 388-405