Why novel sanitary systems are hardly introduced?

Micha Blanken, Cees Verweij, Karel Mulder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
171 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Load factor
  • Lock in
  • Sanitary systems
  • Spatial development
  • Systems innovation
  • Transitions

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