This project considers sanitation as an industrial ecosystem, with the raw materials available to contribute to the bioeconomy (Sikosana et al 2016). The concept of the bioeconomy has been developing alongside similar sustainability-driven concepts such as cleaner production, eco-industrial parks and the circular economy (Toilet Board Coalition 2016). The research presents an argument to consider different approaches to sanitation, which includes source separation of streams, necessary infrastructure and contribution to the bioeconomy.

Scenarios that are being considered include (but are not limited to):

  • Impact of higher efficiency toilets on piping infrastructure and treatment works efficiency
  • Treatment closer to source (e.g. at neighbourhood level)
  • Urine diversion
  • Dry sanitation

Factors like the required infrastructure, logistics, behavioural change required are investigated, and the economic argument through resource recovery is promoted, across the spectrum of affluence and population density.

From a technology point of view the opportunities for resource recovery from sanitation products are well defined and implementable, even in the current conventional approach of reticulated sanitation (Harrison et al 2016, Verster et al 2014 ). Relationships between new and old technologies can be created with a variety of role-players in this field. Particularly, the re-definition of facilities to derive economic benefit while meeting water quality standards is expected to encourage investment. The question of sanitation in the bioeconomy needs to be explored further and this is the continuing aim of this project.

This flagship project is a special application of the wider Wastewater Biorefineries project, and contributes knowledge to that project specifically through the overlapping knowledge generated on solids (like sludges in general and faecal sludge in particular).


  • Sikosana M; Randall DG; Petrie DJ; Oelofse M; Russo V; von Blottnitz H, 2016. Nutrient and energy recovery from sewage: towards an integrated approach. WRC report K5/2218 (freely available)
  • Toilet Board Coalition, 2016. Sanitation in the Circular Economy: Transformation to a commercially valuable, self-sustaining, biological system. pdf (freely available)
  • Susan T.L. Harrison STL; Verster B; Rumjeet S; Raper T; Rademeyer S; Johnstone-Robertson M; Mosters L, 2016. Towards Wastewater Biorefineries: integrated bioreactor and process design for combined water treatment and resource productivity. WRC Report (pending)
  • Verster B; Madonsela Z; Minnaar S; Cohen B; Harrison STL, 2014. Introducing the wastewater biorefinery concept. WRC Report K5/2000 (freely available)