Reinvent the toilet: the NUS experience of building a decentralized toilet for energy, water and resource recovery

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

In conventional activated sludge (CAS) treatment of sewage, the pollutants are mostly dissipated and hardly any reuse is present. This makes wastewater treatment very energy intensive and not sustainable in the future. Instead, sewage should be considered as a renewable resource, from which value can be extracted in the form of water, energy and nutrients (mostly nitrogen, N, phosphorus, P and potassium, K). What is needed is therefore a holistic approach that links sustainable sanitation with water management and agriculture in a way that considers the water and the nutrient cycles together. In other words, we must change our wastewater treatment paradigm in order to maximize resource recovery of, while improving treatment performance (especially for pathogens and micropollutants). This is even truer in rural regions where there is no access to sewers. In such areas, decentralized and small scale treatment systems should be implemented possibly at the level of the household, or – if proven more economically-viable – at the level of a small community.

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