Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 17, pp 16743–16753 | Cite as

Experimental assessment and validation of quantification methods for cellulose content in municipal wastewater and sludge

  • Medhavi Gupta
  • Dang Ho
  • Domenico Santoro
  • Elena Torfs
  • Julie Doucet
  • Peter A. Vanrolleghem
  • George Nakhla
Research Article


Cellulose, mostly in the form of toilet paper, forms a major component of the particulates in raw municipal wastewater, which could lead to significant consequences due to the potential accumulation of cellulosic fibers and slow biodegradability. Despite the sparse reports on cellulose content and degradation in wastewater and sludge, an accurate and validated method for its quantification in such matrices does not exist. In this paper, four different methods were compared including dilute acid hydrolysis, concentrated acid hydrolysis, enzymatic hydrolysis, and the Schweitzer reagent method. The Schweitzer reagent method, applied to municipal wastewater and sludge, was found to be a very robust and reliable quantification method in light of its reproducibility, accuracy, and ideal (100%) recovery. The determination of cellulose content is critical to understand its fate in wastewater treatment plants as well as improve sludge management and enhance resource recovery.


Cellulose Toilet paper Wastewater Sludge Resource recovery Schweitzer reagent 



This research was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada—Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) (grant number CRDPJ-488704-15). Dr. Peter A. Vanrolleghem holds the Canada Research Chair on Water Quality Modeling.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Biochemical EngineeringWestern UniversityLondonCanada
  2. 2.Trojan TechnologiesLondonCanada
  3. 3.modelEAU, Département de génie civil et de génie des eauxUniversité LavalQuébecCanada

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