Microwaving human faecal sludge as a viable sanitation technology option for treatment and value recovery
2016-11-24T14:32:21Z (GMT) by
The prolonged challenges and terrible consequences of poor sanitation, especially in developing economies, call for the exploration of new sustainable sanitation technologies. Such technologies must be: capable of effectively treating human faecal wastes without any health or environmental impacts; scalable to address rapid increases in population and urbanization; capable of meeting environmental regulations and standards for faecal management; and competitive with existing strategies. Further and importantly, despite its noxiousness and pathogenic load, the chemical composition of human faecal sludge indicates that it could be considered a potentially valuable, nutrient-rich renewable resource, rather than a problematic waste product. New approaches to faecal sludge management must consequently seek to incorporate a ‘valuable resource recovery’ approach, compatible with stringent treatment requirements. This review intends to advance the understanding of human faecal sludge as a sustainable organic-rich resource that is typically high in moisture (up to 97 per cent), making it a suitable candidate for dielectric heating, i.e. microwave irradiation, to promote faecal treatment, while also recovering value-added products such as ammonia liquor concentrate (suitable for fertilizers) and chars (suitable for fuel) – which can provide an economic base to sustain the technology. Additionally, microwaving human faecal sludge represents a thermally effective approach that can destroy pathogens, eradicate the foul odour associated human faecal sludge, while also preventing hazardous product formations and/or emissions, aside from other benefits such as improved dewaterability and heavy metals recovery. Key technological parameters crucial for scaling the technology as a complementary solution to the challenges of onsite sanitation are also discussed.