Nanomaterials in Waste and Landfills

Based on the recent developments in nanotechnology and the resulting increase in the application of engineered nanomaterials (ENM), it can be expected that part of these materials end up in waste incineration plants or landfills. ENM used in the construction industry will enter recycling and construction waste through renovation and demolition of buildings. Information about ENM flows in these processes is currently insufficient, thus the potential release of ENMs into the environment from this waste and the implications of this release are unknown. 


The aim of this project was to investigate if there is currently any nano-relevance in waste, waste incineration and construction waste. To provide an answer to this question, we evaluated the sources and the flows of ENM to waste, quantified the release of ENMs to technical compartments and the environment, measured the nano-sized fraction in fly ash and investigate the presence and behavior of ENM in landfill leachates.


Mehrabi, K.; Nowack, B.; Arroyo Rojas Dasilva, Y.; Mitrano, D. M. (2017) Improvements in Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis to Measure Particle Aggregation and Mass Distribution: A Case Study on Engineered Nanomaterial Stability in Incineration Landfill Leachates. Environ. Sci. Technol. 51: 5611–5621. pdf

Mitrano, D.M.; Mehrabi, K.; Arroyo Rojas Dasilva, Y.; Nowack, B. (2017) Mobility of metallic (nano)particles in leachates from landfills containing waste incineration residue. Environ. Sci: Nano 4: 480-492. pdf

He, X.; Mitrano, D.M.; Nowack, B.; Bahk, Y.; Schreiner, C.; Bürki, M.; Figi, R.; Wang, J. (2017) Agglomeration potential of TiO2 in synthetic landfill leachates made from the fly ash of different incinerated wastes. Environ. Pollut. 223: 616-623. pdf

Hincapié, I.; Caballero-Guzman, A.; Hiltbrunner, D.; Nowack, B. (2015) Use of engineered nanomaterials in the construction industry with specific emphasis on paints and their flows in construction and demolition waste in Switzerland. Waste Management 43: 398-406. pdf

Buha, J.; Müller, N.; Nowack, B.; Ulrich, A.; Losert, S.; Wang, J. (2014) Physical and chemical characterization of fly ashes from Swiss waste incineration plants. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48: 4765-4773. pdf

Mueller, N. C.; Buha, J.; Wang, J.; Ulrich, A.; Nowack, B. (2013) Modeling the flows of engineered nanomaterials during waste handling. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts 15: 251-259. pdf


Prof. Dr. Bernd Nowack 

Technology & Society Laboratory
Lerchenfeldstrasse 5
CH-9014 St. Gallen
Tel.: +41 58 765 76 92