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Waste Should not be Judged by Its History,But by Its Value
Update time: 2018-08-01
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  Currently, there is a pressing need to develop more sustainable waste management systems owing to rising urbanization and economic activities. Many concerns in particular have been raised about the unintended effects of traditional technologies used in wastewater facilities. For example, using natural resources such as fossil fuels in the process of removing water pollutants leads to increased emission of greenhouse gases. Thus, traditional waste management systems create environmental problems because they are designed to treat waste as a contaminant to be flushed out, rather than using it as a valuable resource. 

  An international team of scientists, led by water engineering experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, recently has developed a new framework for wastewater management, vastly improving established traditional systems, by treating waste as a resource that can offer sustainable solutions. The team also proposed the idea of combining the abilities of nature in the design of a wastewater management system. 

  This study is published in leading scientific journal Science Advances on 1st August 2018. 

  The system, called REPURE, was vastly superior to established systems, as it enabled the recovery of both energy and materials from waste in a more sustainable manner, the researchers say.  

  In their REPURE design, water could be extracted and used as alternative water resources, while other solids could be recovered as fertilizers and biopolymers for agricultural and manufacturing uses. Also, wastewater nitrogen could be converted to nitrous oxide and collected for power generation with another recovered energy carrier, methane. 

  Another highlight, the researchers pioneered this innovative new system to incorporate ecological processes to allow ‘green’ wastewater resource facilities. The REPURE design integrates the carbon sequestration and nutrient retention services mediated by soils, as they were found to help reduce negative environmental effects during the land use of the recovered products. More importantly, this new design element can be promoted in many places, as soil is a major component of the planet and exists in nearly every country. 

  Thus, in this manner waste can be viewed as a resource for water reuse, nutrient recycling, energy production and so on, as opposed to a hinderance. While presenting a new waste management framework that harmonizes with nature, the study also urges the wastewater industry to think about the future, and the sustainability of the established systems, which do not consider waste as a resource, but as material to be discarded. Hence this study offers an innovative approach to restoring the balance between satisfying human demands and protecting the planet. 

  To read the full research article, please click here: Xu Wang et al (2018). Evolving wastewater infrastructure paradigm to enhance harmony with nature. Science Advances 4: eaaq0210. 

 Overview of the REPURE design.

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