University of Twente Student Theses


Integrating algae-based systems in urban metabolism as a means of mitigating its metabolic challenges : a SWOT analysis and strategic recommendations

Ntanou, E.N. (2023) Integrating algae-based systems in urban metabolism as a means of mitigating its metabolic challenges : a SWOT analysis and strategic recommendations.

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Abstract:This thesis explores an alternative approach to promote sustainability in urban metabolism by addressing its three key challenges. With the increasing urbanization, there is a continuous need to reconceptualize urban systems for more efficient resource management. The three metabolic challenges of water supply, sewage disposal, and air pollution control hinder the optimal functioning of urban metabolism. The integration of algae-based systems within the urban infrastructure is proposed to overcome these challenges. This research focuses mainly on wastewater treatment plants. The main question that is examined is “How alga-based systems can tackle the three metabolic challenges in urban metabolism, considering the principles of circular economy”. In order to answer this main question, three sub-questions have occurred. The first one examines the internal urban system, where algae can be integrated. The second one is based on a SWOT analysis, aiming to gain insights on algae in WWTPs, and the last one is focusing on strategic recommendations to scale-up the model of algae in WWTPs. Algae demonstrate the potential to create circular urban metabolism by closing resource loops and mitigating the identified challenges. By incorporating algae into wastewater treatment plants, nutrients can be efficiently removed, improving water quality and availability. Placing these plants near industrial areas allows for the capture of CO2 emissions, enhancing air quality and reducing pollution. Additionally, algae biomass can be utilized as biofuel, bioplastic, or fertilizer, promoting circular economy principles, and closing material and energy loops. However, large-scale commercialization and practical implementation of algae-based systems face technical, economic, and regulatory limitations. To address these limitations, a SWOT analysis was conducted, alongside three interviews, to identify key advantages and disadvantages. The SWOT analysis showed several strengths of this model, including sustainability benefits through nutrient utilization and CO2 absorption, as well as revenue generation and job creation. On the other hand, sensitivity to environmental conditions, pathogen interference, and the need for costly infrastructure and technical expertise were considered as weaknesses, whereas economic barriers, lack of public acceptance, and a fragmented framework as threats. Based on the SWOT analysis, strategic recommendations for scaling-up the algae-based systems in WWTPs were proposed, focusing mainly on leveraging strengths and opportunities through revenue generation, collaboration with academic institutions, and partnering with private investors. Strategies to address weaknesses and threats involve raising public awareness, monitoring environmental conditions, implementing government policies, fostering research and development, and establishing collaborations. Overall, this thesis provides valuable insights into the potential of algae-based systems to enhance sustainable urban metabolism and offers recommendations for their effective implementation on a larger scale. Key words: algae, circular economy, wastewater treatment plants, SWOT analysis, sustainability, urban metabolism
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Programme:Environmental and Energy Management MSc (69319)
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