IntenKS – Improving sewage sludge treatment in China for energetic and material utilisation

Räumer im Nachklärbecken mit Blick auf Faultürme in der Kläranlage (©Werner/AdobeStock)

Sewage sludge accumulates during wastewater treatment, and its hygienic and safe disposal poses serious challenges. This is particularly true for fast-growing urban regions. In the research project “IntenKS”, ISOE is investigating prevailing barriers to an improved utilisation of sewage sludge in China. In the most populated country on Earth, the bulk of sewage sludge has so far gone to landfill in a virtually untreated state. For an optimal effectiveness of the existing regulations for sewage sludge treatment and utilisation, the implementation barriers are being worked out. The aim of the research project is to develop an ecologically and economically sustainable concept for optimised material and energetic utilisation of sewage sludge in China.

Research approach

The ISOE research team is coordinating the socio-economic evaluation of sewage sludge treatment and utilisation in China, based on a pilot site in Shanghai. Of special interest are existing practices for dealing with sewage sludge, and prevailing barriers to the implementation of innovations, along with the reasons for such barriers. The project adopts a transdisciplinary research approach. Expert interviews and workshops with Chinese and German stakeholders (e.g. operators, authorities, companies, science and development cooperation) will help identifying obstacles to innovation and developing options for action to overcome potential conflicts. Conclusions can then be drawn regarding a sustainable concept for improving sewage sludge treatment and utilisation. 


Improper disposal of sewage sludge can release toxins and trigger infections, thus creating human health risks. An optimal treatment and utilisation of sewage sludge is particularly important in densely populated regions of China and with regard to sustainability. The aim is to improve the handling of sewage sludge whilst enabling its material and energetic utilisation. 

Research and project partners

  • Technische Universität Darmstadt, Institute IWAR, Department of Wastewater Engineering
  • Technische Universität Braunschweig, Institute of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering 
  • Tongji University, Shanghai

Field-based partners

  • Aqseptence Group GmbH
  • HST Systemtechnik GmbH & Co. KG
  • Oswald Schulze Umwelttechnik GmbH


The project “IntenKS – Intensivierung der Klärschlammbehandlung zur energetischen und stofflichen Nutzung in China unter Einsatz thermaler Verfahren” (“Improving sewage sludge treatment in China for energetic and material utilisation with the help of thermal procedures”) is funded within the “CLIENT II” funding directive “International Partnerships for Sustainable Innovations” as part of the framework programme “Research for Sustainable Development (FONA)” run by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). 


Rohrbach, Michaela/Martin Zimmermann (2023): Improving sewage sludge treatment and utilisation in China: a German perspective on barriers to and measures for the dissemination of innovative technologies. H2Open Journal

Rohrbach, Michaela/Martin Zimmermann (2021): Hürden und Handlungsmöglichkeiten für einen nachhaltigen Umgang mit Klärschlamm in China. gwf-Wasser/Abwasser 162 (12), 77-83


Thermal processes for sewage sludge treatment


2019/01 – 2022/12