Sustainability (2019-09-01)

Innovative Processes and Technologies for Nutrient Recovery from Wastes: A Comprehensive Review

  • Mukhtar Ahmed,
  • Shakeel Ahmad,
  • Fayyaz-ul-Hassan,
  • Ghulam Qadir,
  • Rifat Hayat,
  • Farid Asif Shaheen,
  • Muhammad Ali Raza

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 18
p. 4938


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Waste management is necessary for environmental and economic sustainability, but it depends upon socioeconomic, political, and environmental factors. More countries are shifting toward recycling as compared to landfilling; thus, different researchers have presented the zero waste concept, considering the importance of sustainability. This review was conducted to provide information about different well established and new/emerging technologies which could be used to recover nutrients from wastes and bring zero waste concepts in practical life. Technologies can be broadly divided into the triangle of nutrient accumulation, extraction, and release. Physicochemical mechanisms, plants, and microorganisms (algae and prokaryotic) could be used to accumulate nutrients. Extraction of nutrient is possible through electrodialysis and crystallization while nutrient release can occur via thermochemical and biochemical treatments. Primary nutrients, i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are used globally and are non-renewable. Augmented upsurges in prices of inorganic fertilizers and required discharge restrictions on nutrients have stimulated technological developments. Thus, well-proven technologies, such as biochar, composting, vermicomposting, composting with biochar, pyrolysis, and new emerging technologies (forward osmosis and electro-dialysis) have potential to recover nutrients from wastes. Therefore, reviewing the present and imminent potential of these technologies for adaptation of nutrient recycling from wastes is of great importance. Since waste management is a significant concern all over the globe and technologies, e.g., landfill, combustion, incineration, pyrolysis, and gasification, are available to manage generated wastes, they have adverse impacts on society and on the environment. Thus, climate-friendly technologies, such as composting, biodegradation, and anaerobic decomposition, with the generation of non-biodegradable wastes need to be adopted to ensure a sustainable future environment. Furthermore, environmental impacts of technology could be quantified by life cycle assessment (LCA). Therefore, LCA could be used to evaluate the performance of different environmentally-friendly technologies in waste management and in the designing of future policies. LCA, in combination with other approaches, may prove helpful in the development of strategies and policies for the selection of dynamic products and processes.