Limitations on current wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) biological processes and solids disposal options present opportunities to implement novel technologies that convert WWTPs into resource recovery facilities. This review considered replacing or augmenting extensive dewatering, anaerobic digestion, and off-site disposal with new thermo-chemical and liquid extraction processes. These technologies may better recover energy and metals while inactivating pathogens and destroying organic pollutants. Because limited direct comparisons between different sludge types exist in the literature for hydrothermal liquefaction, this study augments the findings with experimental data. These experiments demonstrated 50% reduction in sludge mass, with 30% of liquefaction products converted to bio-oil and most metals sequestered within a small mass of solid bio-char residue. Finally, each technology's contribution to the three sustainability pillars is investigated. Although limiting hazardous materials reintroduction to the environment may increase economic cost of sludge treatment, it is balanced by cleaner environment and valuable resource benefits for society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalBioresource Technology
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Biofuel
  • Biosolids
  • Hydrothermal liquefaction
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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