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Life cycle GHG emissions of sewage sludge treatment and disposal options in Tai Lake Watershed, China

Liu, Beibei, Wei, Qi, Zhang, Bing, Bi, Jun
The Science of the total environment 2013 v.447 pp. 361-369
bricks, cement, emissions, energy recovery, fertilizers, greenhouse gases, lakes, life cycle inventory, local government, manufacturing, methane, sewage sludge, sewage treatment, steam, wastewater treatment, water content, watersheds, China
The treatment and disposal of sewage sludge generate considerable amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and pose environmental and economic challenges to wastewater treatment in China. To achieve a more informed and sustainable sludge management, this study conducts a life cycle inventory to investigate the GHG performances of six scenarios involving various sludge treatment technologies and disposal strategies. These scenarios are landfilling (S1), mono-incineration (S2), co-incineration (S3), brick manufacturing (S4), cement manufacturing (S5), and fertilizer for urban greening (S6). In terms of GHG emissions, S2 demonstrates the best performance with its large offset from sludge incineration energy recovery, followed by S4 and S6, whereas S1 demonstrates the poorest performance primarily because of its large quantity of methane leaks. The scenario rankings are affected by the assumptions of GHG offset calculation. In most scenarios, GHG performance could be improved by using waste gas or steam from existing facilities for drying sludge. Furthermore, considering the GHG performance along with economic, health, and other concerns, S6 is recommended. We thus suggest that local governments promote the use of composted sludge as urban greening fertilizers. In addition, the use of sludge with 60% water content, in place of the current standard of 80%, in wastewater treatment plants is proposed to be the new standard for Tai Lake Watershed in China.