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Utilization of urban sewage sludge: Chinese perspectives

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Urbanization and industrialization in China has resulted in a dramatic increase in the volume of wastewater and sewage sludge produced from wastewater treatment plants. Problems associated with sewage sludge have attracted increasing attention from the public and urban planners. How to manage sludge in an economically and environmentally acceptable manner is one of the critical issues that modern societies are facing.


Sludge treatment systems consist of thickening, dewatering, and several different alternative main treatments (anaerobic digestion, aerobic digestion, drying, composting, and incineration). Agricultural application, landfill, and incineration are the principal disposal methods for sewage sludge in China. However, sewage sludge disposal in the future should focus on resource recovery, reducing environmental impacts and saving economic costs.


The reuse of biosolids in all scenarios can be environmentally beneficial and cost-effective. Anaerobic digestion followed by land application is the preferable options due to low economic and energy costs and material reuse.


It is necessary to formulate a standard suitable for the utilization of sewage sludge in China.

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Authors would like thank Dr P.N. Williams for proofreading the manuscript. This work was supported by Hangzhou Administration of Science and Technology (20091633F12) and Wenzhou Administration of Science and Technology (H20100051). Y-G Z is partly supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-YW-Q02-06) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (2009DFB90120).

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Correspondence to H. Chen.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Chen, H., Yan, S., Ye, Z. et al. Utilization of urban sewage sludge: Chinese perspectives. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19, 1454–1463 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-012-0760-0

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  • China
  • Energy recovery
  • Nutrients
  • Reuse
  • Sewage sludge
  • Urbanization