SPANS - Sanitation Planning for Alternative Nutrient-recovery Systems

Last changed: 21 October 2021

The project wants to improve knowledge related to adaptation and innovation in Sanitation Planning. In particular it explores technical and societal readiness of Alternative Nutrient-recovery Systems. The focus of this research project is on alternative sanitation systems that can recycle nutrients in Uganda, a country where only 29% of the urban population have access to a good toilet. Alternative sanitation systems are defined as innovative solutions for human waste management using source separation, or similar techniques, for the conversion of nutrients into valuable products such as protein, biomass and fertilizer.

The project uses a social-technical system perspective that includes the technologies for collecting, transporting and processing human waste, as well as the users of the system and the organizations responsible for system management. The project aims to increase knowledge of perceived risks with these systems and how to integrate such innovations into existing wastewater systems.

The project is structured around three phases. First, researchers will map what types of nutritional recovery techniques are available in Uganda and assess their technology and market development. This study investigates the possibilities for these systems to reduce disease spread, environmental impact, and their market potential, including potential for urban agriculture to receive recycled products. The second phase of the project examines the social acceptance of alternative systems. This will be through interviews, group discussions and the use of an "innovation game". Finally, a game will be developed as a tool to bring more players together in a planning process. The game will help actors explore new structures for managing human waste, both in physical infrastructure and in management organizations. During the last two stages of the project, researchers will work closely with local actors in Uganda's municipalities to anchor results in reality.

The project results will assess the potential of alternative nutritional recovery systems in Uganda municipalities to provide benefits to public health and the environment. This knowledge will expand our arsenal of solutions to address the sanitation crisis. At the same time, the project develops practical tools and methods for planning and decision making that can be used to handle the necessary transformations in wastewater management systems.


McConville JR, Kvarnström E, Nordin AC, Jönsson H and Niwagaba CB. (2020). Structured Approach for Comparison of Treatment Options for Nutrient-recovery from Fecal Sludge. Frontiers in Environmental Science, DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2020.00036.

McConville JR, Kvarnström E, Maiteki JM, and Niwagaba CB. (2019). Infrastructure investments and operating costs for fecal sludge and sewage treatment systems in Kampala, Uganda. Urban Water Journal, 16(8), 584-593. DOI: 10.1080/1573062X.2019.1700290

Billger, M, Kain, J-H, Niwagaba, C.B, & McConville, J.R. (2020). Lessons from co-designing a resource-recovery game for collaborative urban sanitation planning. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 588 (2020) 042041, DOI:10.1088/1755-1315/588/4/042041.

Mcconville, Jennifer and Niwagaba, Charles and Nordin, Annika and Ahlström, Marcus and Namboozo, Vivian and Kiffe, Mark (2020). Guide to Sanitation Resource-Recovery Products & Technologies : a supplement to the Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies. 

Butte, Giacomo, Niwagaba, Charles and Nordin, Annika C. (2021). Assessing the microbial risk of faecal sludge use in Ugandan agriculture by comparing field and theoretical model output. Water Research 197(117068). 

Policy brief

HOW MUCH SHOULD SAFELY MANAGED SANITATION COST? Capital and Operational Costs of Different Sanitation Systems in Kampala


Launching the Guide to Sanitation Resource-Recovery Products & Technologies

RECLAIM - a collaborative resource-recovery game for urban sanitation planning

Serious Game 


SPANS started in 2017 and continues through 2020.

Participating from the department: Jennifer McConville (project leader) and Annika Nordin.

External partners:

Charles Niwagaba, Makerere University, Uganda, Elisabeth Kvarnström, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Monica Billger, Chalmers University of Technology

The project is funded by Vetenskapsrådet, the Swedish Research Council.