Life cycle assessment of sludge management with phosphorus utilisation and improved hygienisation in Sweden
To provide input to sewage sludge management strategies that address expected new regulations in terms of hygienisation and phosphorus recovery in Sweden, an environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) was made. The LCA identified environmental hot spots for methods that may permit sludge or phosphorus from sludge to be applied on agricultural land. In particular, thermophilic digestion, pasteurisation, thermal hydrolysis, urea treatment and mono-incineration with phosphorus recovery were compared. In addition, a sludge management system involving drying of sludge before use in forestry was investigated. The results showed that some major impacts are related to large uncertainties, such as those related to emissions from sludge storage. It also showed that large gains can be achieved when products from the systems replace other products, in particular when biogas is used to replace natural gas in vehicles, but also when sludge is used in agriculture and forestry. In general, there are small differences between the sludge management methods. Retaining the sludge matrix to allow for its utilisation in agriculture may conflict with keeping emissions to air and water from the sludge matrix low. It is recommended that any sludge management option minimises emissions from sludge to air and water and that resources are recovered and used, in line with the principles of a circular economy.