Due to increasing environmental concerns in the wastewater treatment sector, the environmental impacts of organic waste disposal procedures require careful evaluation. However, the impacts related to the return of organic matter to agricultural soils are difficult to assess. The goals of this study are to assess the environmental impacts of land application of two types of biosolids (dried and composted, respectively) from the same wastewater treatment plant in France, and to improve the quantification of human toxicity.
A life cycle assessment (LCA) was carried out on a case study based on validated data from an actual wastewater treatment plant. Numerous impacts were included in this analysis, but a particular emphasis was laid on human toxicity via plant ingestion. For six out of the eight impact categories included in the analysis, the dried biosolids system was more harmful to the environment than the composting route, especially regarding the consumption of primary energy. Only human toxicity via water, soil, and air compartments and ozone depletion impacts were higher with the composted biosolids.