Assessing the Environmental Costs and Benefits of Resource Recovery Approaches for Nanomaterials in Future Waste Streams‌



Departments: Environment, Chemistry and Biology

Project Director: Alistair Boxall

Sewage System by Federico Stevanin

Nanomaterials exhibit properties that are vastly different from 'bulk' chemical and these novel properties are being exploited in a wide range of products. Nanotechnology has already captured a multibillion market in areas such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, coating materials, electronic items and catalysts and is forecast to be worth 2 trn Euro in 2015. As the nanotechnology sector increases in size, the amounts and diversity of nanomaterials in waste streams will increase. This might affect the performance of some waste treatment methodologies or the acceptability of a waste product to an end user.

As many waste products (e.g. animal manures and compost) are applied to the natural environment as fertilisers and soil conditioners, nano-materials could adversely impact organisms in the environment and the services that the natural environment provides. The development of approaches for recovery of nanomaterials could address problems of resource depletion and would reduce their emission to soils and water.

This catalyst project, involving leading experts in nanotechnology, green chemistry, bioremediation, environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology, ecology and environmental economics from the academic, business and government sectors, will synthesise knowledge on the nature and amounts of nanomaterials in waste streams in the 2020s, the potential impacts of these nanomaterials on the health of the environment; and approaches for recovering NMs from different waste types. The project will involve a detailed review of the literature and expert interviews as well as a workshop for specialists. A stakeholder workshop will also be staged to promote end user engagement in the project. The key outputs of the project will be a publication in a high impact journal and a highly innovative interdisciplinary proposal for submission to the second phase of the NERC funding programme.