Waste not, want not

New technology turns sewage into fertilizer, cuts maintenance costs for treatment plants


Dr. Donald Mavinic and his research team at the University of British Columbia have developed a technology that lets sewage treatment plants turn human waste into valuable commercial fertilizer while cutting their maintenance costs substantially in the process. The key to this success lies in recovering phosphates—one of the main ingredients in fertilizer and human waste. The technology developed by Dr. Mavinic's team recovers 85 percent of the phosphates that people flush down their toilets. With the revenues that treatment plants can earn by selling these phosphates for fertilizer, the recovery system pays for itself in five to seven years, then starts turning a profit. Meanwhile, removing the phosphates from the wastewater helps the treatment plant run more smoothly, with lower maintenance costs. Based on this technology, sewage-based fertilizer is becoming a sustainable, renewable resource throughout the world.