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

Grantham Scholar Dr James Bezzina is s now a Process Engineer at Infineon Technologies – a world leader in sustainable semiconductor solutions – in Dresden. His project at the Grantham Centre looked to engineer a process to extract heavy metals from sewage streams in order to use as fertiliser.

The project

James Bezzina is working to close the phosphate loopHuman effluent is an abundant source of sustainable, phosphate rich fertiliser. However, sewage can also contain high concentrations of toxic heavy metals. Unfortunately, heavy metals 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.


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

From Poop to Food in Technology Networks.

James Bezzina’s publications

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

Want a summary of this paper? Then look here: Removal of heavy metals from sewage paper.

Social media

You can find James Bezzina on LinkedIn.


Dr Mark Ogden

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering


Dr Robert Dawson

Department of Chemistry