Valorization of pellets from municipal WWTP sludge in lightweight clay ceramics

Autores: Cusidó, J.A.|Soriano, C.
Fuente: Waste management
en prensa

A direct result of the growing number of municipal wastewater-treatment plants (WWTPs) has been an increase in the generation of large amounts of sewage sludge that requires environmentally acceptable final destination. To decrease the volume of sludge, a common technique is drying the sludge at a low temperature in rotary kilns. The result of this process is a granulated material consisting of dehydrated sludge pellets. After this treatment, this pelletized material becomes easier to manipulate, but it also becomes a more toxic waste, containing dangerous substances, mostly of the lipid type. At its final stage, this material is usually incinerated, used as a comburent material, used as an agricultural fertilizer, or used in the cement industry. Each application has its own problems and requires remediation measures from the safety and environmental viewpoints. In this study, we looked beyond these possible applications and analyzed the transformation of sewage sludge through a ceramization process into a material similar to expanded clays; we subsequently explored its uses in the building industry or in the agriculture industry, among others. Both the properties of the product material and the production method were characterized, and an environmental analysis was conducted. The new, lightweight material had a microstructure with open porosity and low thermal conductivity. Environmental characterization such as the leaching test revealed that undetectable amounts of hazardous metals from the sludge were present in the leachate after the sludge went through a thermal treatment, despite their initial presence (with the exception of vanadium, which could pose some restrictions on some of the proposed uses for the final product). Toxicity tests also showed negative results. The study of gaseous emissions during production revealed emissions factors similar to those during the production of conventional clay ceramics, although with higher organic emissions. As for conventional clay ceramics, industrial production would require the implementation of some type of air-depuration system. The results showed that the ceramization of sludge pellets is a promising valorization technique worth considering from both the economic and technological perspectives.

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