The potential contribution of urine source separation to the SDG agenda – a review of the progress so far and future development options†
Sanitation and wastewater management are highly relevant for reaching a number of interconnected sustainable development goals (SDGs), especially SDG 6, the provision of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for all as well as protection of water resources against pollution, and SDG 14.1, reducing nutrient emissions to the marine environment. Recent evidence increasingly shows that conventional sewer-based wastewater management will not be able to reach these targets. Rather than further optimizing and diffusing this ageing infrastructure paradigm, radical innovations like urine source separation technologies could help to leapfrog towards faster achievement of the SDGs. The technology would simplify on-site sanitation and develop a closed-loop nutrient cycle, thereby allowing for exceptionally high nutrient removal from wastewater and direct reuse in agriculture from the first day of implementation. Radical innovations, however, need decades to materialize. Based on a review of relevant academic and grey literature, we show how the past three decades of development of urine source separation have brought breakthroughs in toilet design and treatment processes, enabling the technology's value chain to reach the brink of maturity. In a short outlook, we discuss how the technology may reach global diffusion over the next decade, with the main remaining challenges relating to the creation of mass-markets for urine-diverting toilets, automation and mass-production of treatment systems, and the legitimation of fertilizer produced from urine in the agricultural sector.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology Recent Review Articles, Recent Open Access Articles and SDG6: Clean water & sanitation