In recent years, worldwide awareness of an aquatic environment polluted by organic trace pollutants, e.g. pharmaceutical residues and industrial chemicals, has risen tremendously. The present paper outlines similarities and differences in how to face the organic trace pollutants occurring in the natural and urban water cycles in Germany and China. Our joint review clearly shows that this emerging environmental problem is in both countries being widely discussed on a scientific level and it is evidently perceived in a comparable way. However, while the state of knowledge, which is still unsatisfactory, induces further investigations in China, the research activities in Germany have already led to first full-scale applications to remove trace pollutants. While Germany seems to be one step ahead, China possibly is in a better position for a later trace pollutants removal due to the massively increasing use of membrane bioreactors as a key technology for the necessary expansion of wastewater treatment capacities.

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