Recycling Reverse Osmosis Membranes: Addressing the Challenges of Non-Biodegradability and Waste Generation

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Port Said University, Egypt

2 Chemical Engineering and Pilot Plant Department, Engineering Research Division, National Research Centre, El-Bohouth St. (Former El-Tahrir St.), Dokki, Giza 12622, PO box, Egypt

3 Department of Polymer Science and Engineering, ERC of Membrane and Water Treatment (MOC), Key Laboratory of Macromolecular Synthesis and Functionalization (MOE), Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027, China

4 School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand, 1 Jan Smuts Avenue, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa


Non-biodegradable waste accumulation is a crucial environmental concern. One of the major drawbacks of modern desalination plants is the massive quantities of reverse osmosis (RO) membranes solid waste. This paper explores the problem of non-biodegradable membranes and the growing concern surrounding the massive accumulation of RO membrane waste. Furthermore, it investigates the feasibility and potential benefits of recycling and reusing RO membranes as a sustainable solution. Reverse osmosis membranes have a limited life span of between five to seven years. Tons of non-biodegradable RO membranes are disposed of annually in landfills which poses severe environmental concerns. Several challenges hinder the widespread adoption of recycling RO membranes, including the presence of irreversible fouling, the diverse composition of membranes, and the need for cost-effective and energy-efficient recycling methods. However, recent advances in pretreatment processes, antifouling membranes, anit-scalant solutions, and membrane characterization provide possibilities for overcoming these complications. By embracing recycling and reuse strategies for RO membranes, the water treatment industry can transition towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible approach. Therefore, recycling RO membranes can offer large economic and environmental benefits.


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