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Bioresource Production from Wastewater Biosolids: A Snapshot in Time and Future Perspectives for a Circular Economy


Thermo-chemical bioresource recovery technologies present an opportunity to reduce environmental impacts and improve economic performance of municipal biosolids management operations. In this study, a uniform grading framework was established and findings from techno-economic and lifecycle assessments of wastewater biosolids management processes were synthesized into harmonized system boundaries to evaluate their environmental and commercial viability. It was found that while conventional wastewater biosolids management practices such as anaerobic digestion, landfilling, land application, and incineration are commercially mature, they pose significant environmental concerns and large economic burdens on municipalities. Furthermore, state-of-the-art thermochemical bioresource recovery technologies such as hydrothermal liquefaction, gasification, and pyrolysis showed potential to provide economic and environmental benefit through the recovery of carbon and nutrients in wastewater biosolids as biofuels, fertilizers, and other niche products that lessen demand for fossil-based resources and provide additional sources of revenue for wastewater utilities. Hydrothermal liquefaction paired with existing wastewater infrastructure was found to provide the greatest economic and environmental benefit.

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