Special Reviews

Environmental Engineering: Energy Value of Replacing Waste Disposal with Resource Recovery

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Science  30 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5428, pp. 706-711
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5428.706

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Abstract

Although in the past, environmental engineering has been primarily concerned with waste disposal, the focus of the field is now shifting toward viewing wastes as potential resources. Because reclamation usually consumes less energy than producing new materials, increasing reclamation not only reduces pollution but saves energy. Technological innovations contributing to this shift are summarized here, and are variously classified as emerging technologies or research topics, as either new departures or incremental improvements, and as opportunistic innovations, or examples of a unifying strategy. Both liquid and solid waste examples are given, such as a recent discovery of effects in disinfecting microfiltered reclaimed wastewater with ultraviolet light. In addition to its value in reducing pollution and conserving energy, this reorientation of environmental engineering could contribute to a more general shift toward greater cooperation among organizations dealing with the environment.

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