ETE-34806 Resource Quality in the Circular Economy


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work5
Excursion (one day)8
Course coordinator(s)dr. NB Sutton
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. NW van den Brink
dr. ir. N Hofstra
dr. NB Sutton
Examiner(s)dr. NB Sutton

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

This course integrates content from a variety of areas. Students should at least have a broad background or affinity with: chemical and biological contaminants, closing resource cycles, system analysis, urban and environmental technologies and management practices, basic mathematical and risk assessment tools.


This course examines the chemical and biological quality of resources in the circular economy. Recovering and reusing waste streams is required to realize a truly circular, bio-based economy. However, these waste streams can contain contaminants that can hinder safe reuse. Thus, this course considers the resource quality aspects that must be considered when resources are reused in short cycles. Focus is placed on organic, nutrient, and water cycles, however other resources are considered in the course.
The course first gives an introduction to the chemical and biological contaminants that may be present in waste streams. Chemical contaminants include emerging contaminants such as micropollutants, industrial contaminants, nutrients, and salts. Biological contamination focuses on pathogenic fecal bacteria and viruses, opportunistic pathogens, and antibiotic resistance. For both chemical and biological contaminants, students learn the sources of these pollutants, their accumulation or dissipation in different environmental technologies, and their fate in environmental systems and perform calculations.
After an introduction to the contaminants, students learn about the risks associated with the contaminants. To this end, students receive lectures and perform tutorials to calculate the risks associated with biological and chemical contaminants in environmental systems and drinking water systems. These exercises provide a good understanding of methods to determine risks associated with contaminants in resource cycles.
Finally, mitigation options are covered to give an understanding of the available methods to ensure resource quality. These cover environmental technologies to remove contaminants, policy instruments to control contaminant use and release, and monitoring tools that can be used to screen for resource quality and determine effects.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- understand the need of establishing safe resource cycles in sustainable economies;
- understand which chemical and biological entities can cause problems in multiple recycling systems by threatening biodiversity, food quality and health;
- understand the fate and dispersion behaviour of these entities on various system scales, including natural attenuation effects, and how to apply this knowledge in screening, monitoring, and risk assessment methods;
- synthesize their knowledge and insight into risk assessment, mitigation and prevention strategies, and to apply these in various technological and management approaches;
- extrapolate this knowledge towards management recommendations based on the trade-offs between resource sustainability and safeguarding environmental and human health


- lectures and tutorials: in traditional and interactive lecture and tutorial sessions, students learn the basics of chemical and biological resource quality in circular economies. Tutorials are used to teach students mathematical tools that can be used to calculate quality, risk and the effect of mitigation techniques. Interactive sessions give students the opportunity to integrate course materials into lively discussions;
- group Assignment: students work in groups to design their own clean circular economy in which resources are recovered and reused in a safe manner. This group assignment gives students the opportunity to apply the course content and tutorials to design and assess their own circular economy. The group assignment involves literature research, calculations based on tutorials, expert interviews, regular presentations on progress, writing a complete report, and presenting the final results;
- excursion: the course takes a one day excursion to an example of a circular economy in which resource quality plays a crucial role. During the excursion, students see first-hand the implications that resource quality have on the recovery and reuse of resources on small scales.


Examination: based on the weighted average of the written examination with open questions (60%) and the group assignment (40%). The minimum mark for the written examination is 5.0.


To be announced.

Restricted Optional for: MUEUrban Environmental ManagementMSc4WD