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Why Novel Sanitary Systems are Hardly Introduced?

Original scientific paper

Journal of Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems
Volume 7, Issue 1, March 2019, pp 13-27
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13044/j.sdewes.d6.0214
Micha Blanken1 , Cees Verweij1, Karel Mulder2
1 Faculty of Technology, Innovation & Society, The Hague University of Applied Science, Johanna Westerdijkplein 75, 2521 EN Den Haag, The Netherlands
2 Faculty of Technology, Policy & Management, Delft University of Technology, Jaffalaan 5, 2628BX Delft, The Netherlands


Innovations are required in urban infrastructures due to the pressing needs for mitigating climate change and prevent resource depletion. In order to address the slow pace of innovation in urban systems, this paper analyses factors involved in attempts to introduce novel sanitary systems. Today new requirements are important: sanitary systems should have an optimal energy/climate performance, with recovery of resources, and with fewer emissions. Anaerobic digestion has been suggested as an alternative to current aerobic waste water treatment processes. This paper presents an overview of attempts to introduce novel anaerobic sanitation systems for domestic sanitation. The paper identifies main factors that contributed to a premature termination of such attempts. Especially smaller scale anaerobic sanitation systems will probably not be able to compete economically with traditional sewage treatment. However, anaerobic treatment has various advantages for mitigating climate change, removing persistent chemicals, and for the transition to a circular economy. The paper concludes that loss avoidance, both in the sewage system and in the waste water treatment plants, should play a key role in determining experiments that could lead to a transition in sanitation.

Keywords: Sanitary systems, Systems innovation, Spatial development, Anaerobic digestion, Lock in, Load factor.

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