University of Oulu

Lehtoranta S, Laukka V, Vidal B, Heiderscheidt E, Postila H, Nilivaara R and Herrmann I (2022) Circular Economy in Wastewater Management—The Potential of Source-Separating Sanitation in Rural and Peri-Urban Areas of Northern Finland and Sweden. Front. Environ. Sci. 10:804718. doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2022.804718

Circular economy in wastewater management : the potential of source-separating sanitation in rural and peri-urban areas of northern Finland and Sweden

Saved in:
Author: Lehtoranta, Suvi1; Laukka, Vuokko1; Vidal, Brenda2;
Organizations: 1Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland
2Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden
3Department of Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Frontiers Media, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-05-16


Current practices in wastewater management lead to inefficient recovery and reuse of nutrients and can result in environmental problems. Source separation systems have been shown to be an efficient way of recovering nutrients and energy from wastewaters, both in rural and urban context. Studies on nutrient recovery potential and life cycle impacts of source separation systems are mainly limited to small systems (for example a few households) while the impacts of upscaling source separation to a regional level have hardly been studied, especially in sparsely populated areas where the cost of the connection to a main treatment plant is higher. This study examines the regional nutrient balance of two source separation scenarios—black water separation and urine diversion—and compares them to the existing conventional wastewater system. The analysis comprises three sparsely populated regions of northern Finland and Sweden, including rural, peri-urban and urban areas. In addition, climate impacts are assessed based on existing life cycle assessment (LCA) studies. According to the results, by source separation it is possible to achieve a significant increase in the recovery rate of phosphorus (41–81%) and nitrogen (689–864%) compared to the conventional system. Depending on the region up to 65% of the mineral phosphorus and 60% of mineral nitrogen fertilisers could be theoretically replaced. Furthermore, the climate and eutrophication impacts would decrease with the implementation of such systems, but an increase in acidification may occur. However, even if the benefits of source separation systems are undisputed in terms of nutrient recovery, the implementation of such systems would to a large extent require an entire system change of the wastewater treatment sector and a wide paradigm change towards a circular economy.

see all

Series: Frontiers in environmental science
ISSN: 2296-665X
ISSN-E: 2296-665X
ISSN-L: 2296-665X
Volume: 10
Article number: 804718
DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2022.804718
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 218 Environmental engineering
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: This study was supported by the project “Small-scale wastewater treatment systems: governance, efficiency, resources recovery, environment contamination risks and innovative solutions for processes optimization (On-Site, 2019–2022)”, funded by the Interreg Nord 2014–2020 program.
Copyright information: © 2022 Lehtoranta, Laukka, Vidal, Heiderscheidt, Postila, Nilivaara and Herrmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.