Going beyond conventional wastewater treatment plants within circular bioeconomy concept - a sustainability assessment study

Hadis Marami, Panagiotis Tsapekos, Benyamin Khoshnevisan, Jeanette Agertved Madsen, Jacob Kragh Andersen*, Shahin Rafiee, Irini Angelidaki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) have extensive energy processes that undermine their economic and environmental performance. In this context, the integration of wastewater treatment with other biochemical processes such as co-digestion of sludge with organic wastes, and production of value-added products at their downstream processes will shift conventional WWTPs into biorefinery platforms with better sustainability performance. The sustainability of such a biorefinery platform has been investigated herein using an economic and life cycle assessment approach. This WWTP-based biorefinery treats wastewater from Copenhagen municipality, co-digests the source-sorted organic fraction of municipal solid waste and sludge, and upgrades biogas into biomethane using a hydrogen-assisted upgrading method. Apart from bioenergy, this biorefinery also produces microbial protein (MP) using recovered nutrients from WWTP's reject water. The net environmental savings achieved in two damage categories, i.e., -1.07 × 10 -2 species.yr/FU in ecosystem quality and -1.68 × 10 6 USD/FU in resource scarcity damage categories along with high potential windows for the further environmental profile improvements make this biorefinery platform so encouraging. Despite being promising in terms of environmental performance, the high capital expenditure and low gross profit have undermined the economic performance of the proposed biorefinery. Technological improvements, process optimization, and encouraging incentives/subsidies are still needed to make this platform economically feasible.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWater science and technology : a journal of the International Association on Water Pollution Research
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1878-1903
Publication statusPublished - 15. Mar 2022


  • biological biogas upgrading
  • biorefinery
  • circular bioeconomy
  • microbial protein
  • nutrient recovery
  • wastewater treatment
  • Sewage
  • Solid Waste/analysis
  • Biofuels/analysis
  • Ecosystem
  • Water Purification


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