Date: 06 Dec 2007

Using phytoremediation technologies to upgrade waste water treatment in Europe

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Goal, Scope and Background

One of the burning problems of our industrial society is the high consumption of water and the high demand for clean drinking water. Numerous approaches have been taken to reduce water consumption, but in the long run it seems only possible to recycle waste water into high quality water. It seems timely to discuss alternative water remediation technologies that are fit for industrial as well as less developed countries to ensure a high quality of drinking water throughout Europe.

Main Features

The present paper discusses a range of phytoremediation technologies to be applied in a modular approach to integrate and improve the performance of existing wastewater treatment, especially towards the emerging micro pollutants, i.e. organic chemicals and pharmaceuticals. This topic is of global relevance for the EU.


Existing technologies for waste water treatment do not sufficiently address increasing pollution situation, especially with the growing use of organic pollutants in the private household and health sector. Although some crude chemical approaches exist, such as advanced oxidation steps, most waste water treatment plants will not be able to adopt them. The same is true for membrane technologies.


Incredible progress has been made during recent years, thus providing us with membranes of longevity and stability and, at the same time, high filtration capacity. However, these systems are expensive and delicate in operation, so that the majority of communities will not be able to afford them. Combinations of different phytoremediation technologies seem to be most promising to solve this burning problem.


To quantify the occurrence and the distribution of micropollutants, to evaluate their effects, and to prevent them from passing through wastewater collection and treatment systems into rivers, lakes and ground water bodies represents an urgent task for applied environmental sciences in the coming years.


Public acceptance of green technologies is generally higher than that of industrial processes. The EU should stimulate research to upgrade existing waste water treatment by implementing phytoremediation modules and demonstrating their reliability to the public.