The “Biofactory” is a circular economy-based concept for wastewater treatment that improves water quality, promotes efficient use of materials and energy, while also recovering resources and decreasing both emissions and costs. Due to socio-economic bottlenecks, such as typical high costs and low public acceptance of novel resource recovery scenarios in wastewater treatment, realizing the Biofactory goals becomes a difficult task. Decision makers are currently unable to appreciate the environmental, social, and economic benefits of the Biofactory, as most decision-making tools focus on mainly technical and economic aspects. This is the first review is to use bibliometric analysis of publication trends in life cycle-based modelling for circular economies in wastewater treatment across the globe, focusing on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA). The integration of LCA, LCC and SLCA for the development of a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) decision making framework is recommended, while practical implications for the methodological development of this tool are compiled. The goal and scope of LCSA for the Biofactory must explore multi-product functional units for the recovery of different resources from wastewater, where system boundaries must include techno-environmental, social and economic systems together. Internal loops, feedbacks loops, avoided products and co-product allocation methodologies within the integrated system boundaries must be considered. Innovation is required for building LCA, LCC and SLCA inventories, where life cycle data management is important for implementing the Biofactory into the future.
- Circular economies
- Life cycle sustainability assessment
- Resource recovery
- Wastewater treatment