Abstract

Phosphate (P) recovery from urban wastewaters is an effective strategy to address environmental protection and resource conservation, aiming at an effective circular economy. Off-grid wastewater treatment systems like urine-diverting toilets (UDT) can contribute to source separation towards nutrient recovery, namely phosphorus recovery. Effectiveness of P precipitation requires a process-based knowledge regarding pH, Mg:PO4, contact time and their interactions in P recovery and crystal morphology. Several studies failed to see the process as a whole and how factors influence both morphology and P recovery for UDT hydrolysed urine. This study addressed the above-mentioned factors and their interactions, and results showed that pH and Mg:PO4 ratio are the key factors for struvite precipitation, whereas contact time is relevant for crystal growth. The recommended set of factors proposed (pH 8.5, Mg:PO4 ratio of 1.2:1 and 30 minutes contact time) not only promotes a high precipitation yield—99% of P with co-precipitation of at least 21% of ammonium (NH4+)—but also leads to larger crystals with lower water solubility (10% less crystals dissolved in water after 3 days). The obtained outcome facilitates the downstream process and leads to a more efficient slow-release fertiliser, as less P is wasted to receiving waters by leaching, minimising eutrophication processes.

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