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Life Cycle Assessment of wastewater treatment solutions: How to consider pollutants removal benefits?

Ökobilanz von Abwasserbehandlungslösungen : Wie Pollutant Entfernungsvorteile zu berücksichtigen?

  • The development of our society contributed to increased occurrence of emerging substances (pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, etc.) in wastewater. Because of their potential hazard on ecosystems and humans, Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) need to adapt to better remove these compounds. Technology or policy development should however comply with sustainable development, e.g. based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) metrics. Nevertheless, the reliability or consistency of LCA results can sometimes be debatable. The main objective of this work was to explore how LCA can better support the implementation of innovative wastewater treatment options, in particular including removal benefits. The method was applied to support solutions for pharmaceuticals elimination from wastewater, regarding: (i) UV technology design, (ii) choice of advanced technology and (iii) centralized or decentralized treatment policy. The assessment approach followed by previous authors based on net impacts calculation seemed very promising to consider both environmental effects induced by treatment plant operation and environmental benefits obtained from pollutants removal. It was therefore applied to compare UV configuration types. LCA outcomes were consistent with degradation kinetics analysis. For the comparison of advanced technologies and policy scenarios, the common practice (net impacts based on EDIP method) was compared to other assessments, to better consider elimination benefits. First, USEtox consensus was applied for the avoided (eco)toxicity impacts, in combination with the recent method ReCiPe for generated impacts. Then, an eco-efficiency indicator (EFI) was developed to weigh the treatment efforts (generated impacts based on EDIP and ReCiPe methods) by the average removal efficiency (overcoming (eco)toxicity uncertainty issues). In total, the four types of comparative assessment showed the same trends: (i) ozonation and activated carbon perform better than UV irradiation, and (ii) no clear advantage distinguished between policy scenarios. It cannot be however concluded that advanced treatment of pharmaceuticals is not necessary because other criteria should be considered (risk assessment, bacterial resistance, etc.) and large uncertainties were embedded in calculations. Indeed, a significant part of this work was dedicated to the discussion of uncertainty and limitations of the LCA outcomes. At the inventory level, it was difficult to model technology operation at development stage. For impact assessment, the newly developed characterization factors for pharmaceuticals (eco)toxicity showed large uncertainties, mainly due to the lack of data and quality for toxicity tests. The use of information made available under REACH framework to develop CFs for detergent ingredients tried to cope with this issue but the benefits were limited due to the mismatch of information between REACH and USEtox method. The highlighted uncertainties were treated with sensitivity analyses to understand their effects on LCA results. This research work finally presents perspectives on the use of transparently generated data (technology inventory and (eco)toxicity factors) and further development of EFI indicator. Also, an accent is made on increasing the reliability of LCA outcomes, in particular through the implementation of advanced techniques for uncertainty management. To conclude, innovative technology/product development (e.g. based on circular economy approach) needs the involvement of all types of actors and the support from sustainability metrics.
  • The development of our society contributed to increased occurrence of emerging substances (pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, etc.) in wastewater. Because of their potential hazard on ecosystems and humans, Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) need to adapt to better remove these compounds. Technology or policy development should however comply with sustainable development, e.g. based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) metrics. Nevertheless, the reliability or consistency of LCA results can sometimes be debatable. The main objective of this work was to explore how LCA can better support the implementation of innovative wastewater treatment options, in particular including removal benefits. The method was applied to support solutions for pharmaceuticals elimination from wastewater, regarding: (i) UV technology design, (ii) choice of advanced technology and (iii) centralized or decentralized treatment policy. The assessment approach followed by previous authors based on net impacts calculation seemed very promising to consider both environmental effects induced by treatment plant operation and environmental benefits obtained from pollutants removal. It was therefore applied to compare UV configuration types. LCA outcomes were consistent with degradation kinetics analysis. For the comparison of advanced technologies and policy scenarios, the common practice (net impacts based on EDIP method) was compared to other assessments, to better consider elimination benefits. First, USEtox consensus was applied for the avoided (eco)toxicity impacts, in combination with the recent method ReCiPe for generated impacts. Then, an eco-efficiency indicator (EFI) was developed to weigh the treatment efforts (generated impacts based on EDIP and ReCiPe methods) by the average removal efficiency (overcoming (eco)toxicity uncertainty issues). In total, the four types of comparative assessment showed the same trends: (i) ozonation and activated carbon perform better than UV irradiation, and (ii) no clear advantage distinguished between policy scenarios. It cannot be however concluded that advanced treatment of pharmaceuticals is not necessary because other criteria should be considered (risk assessment, bacterial resistance, etc.) and large uncertainties were embedded in calculations. Indeed, a significant part of this work was dedicated to the discussion of uncertainty and limitations of the LCA outcomes. At the inventory level, it was difficult to model technology operation at development stage. For impact assessment, the newly developed characterization factors for pharmaceuticals (eco)toxicity showed large uncertainties, mainly due to the lack of data and quality for toxicity tests. The use of information made available under REACH framework to develop CFs for detergent ingredients tried to cope with this issue but the benefits were limited due to the mismatch of information between REACH and USEtox method. The highlighted uncertainties were treated with sensitivity analyses to understand their effects on LCA results. This research work finally presents perspectives on the use of transparently generated data (technology inventory and (eco)toxicity factors) and further development of EFI indicator. Also, an accent is made on increasing the reliability of LCA outcomes, in particular through the implementation of advanced techniques for uncertainty management. To conclude, innovative technology/product development (e.g. based on circular economy approach) needs the involvement of all types of actors and the support from sustainability metrics.

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Metadaten
Author:Elorri Igos
URN:urn:nbn:de:hbz:385-10359
Advisor:Elorri Igos
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language:English
Date of completion:2017/04/04
Publishing institution:Universität Trier
Granting institution:Universität Trier, Fachbereich 6
Date of final exam:2016/07/13
Release Date:2017/04/04
Tag:Behandlungstechnologien; Lebenszyklusanalyse
Life Cycle Assessment; detergents; pharmaceuticals; toxicity; wastewater
GND Keyword:Abwasser; Arzneimittel; Toxizität; Waschmittel; Ökoeffizienz
Institutes:Fachbereich 6 / Geographie und Geowissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 50 Naturwissenschaften / 500 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik

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