Engineering the removal of metals from human waste to make it processable as a fertiliser

Human effluent is an abundant source of sustainable, phosphate rich fertiliser. However, sewage can also contain high concentrations of toxic heavy metals that can not only cause distress to living organisms, but can also accumulate within agricultural soils. Currently, these heavy metals are the most significant factor restricting their use as a fertiliser source.

This project aims to engineer a process which will extract problematic heavy metals from sewage streams in order to use this sustainable source of fertiliser. The extraction techniques involved can be tailored to target specific metals within the effluent, or extract a broad range of metals. Furthermore, extracted metals have the potential to be stockpiled and recovered for use as raw materials in alloy production.

Outreach and publicity

James made the news:  From poo to food: transforming sewage to ensure global food security


Ion exchange removal of Cu(II), Fe(II), Pb(II) and Zn(II) from acid extracted sewage sludge – Resin screening in weak acid media

James Bezzina


Dr Mark Ogden

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering


Dr Robert Dawson

Department of Chemistry