Ecological sanitation and sustainable nutrient recovery education: considering the three fixes for environmental problem-solving

Julian Junghanns, Thomas H. Beery

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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In the context of phosphorus as a finite resource and the unsustainable character of current sanitation in Europe, this paper examined social factors in a technological transition towards sustainable sanitation. The evaluation is based on the idea of cognitive, structural, and technological fixes to achieve environmental protection. The cognitive fix has been evaluated through literature and a European-wide survey with universities that offer civil and environmental engineering programs. Contrary to an initial hypothesis, ecological sanitation and nutrient recycling are taught by the majority (66%) of responding programs. There are, however, local differences in terms of context and detail of the education. The main impediments for teaching were identified as academic resources (especially in Belgium, Germany and Denmark) and the technological status quo (Ireland, Italy, Spain and some programs of the United Kingdom). Instructors’ personal commitment and experience was evaluated to be a key factor for an extensive coverage of sustainable sanitation in higher education programs. The role of higher education has a critical role to play in changing sanitation practices, given the unique professional developmental stage of students and the potential for a cognitive fix to contribute to meaningful change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3587-3605
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Engineering and Technology (2)


  • attitudes
  • cognitive fix
  • disgust
  • education
  • human fertilizer
  • nutrient recycling
  • phosphorus
  • status quo.
  • sustainable sanitation
  • wastewater


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