Sewage disposal is a major environmental issue in both developed and developing countries and removal of pollutants such as organic matter, nutrients, heavy metals and persistent organic compounds is required to protect the environment. Novel biological systems using constructed mangrove wetland and immobilized microalgal beads have been developed as alternative systems for treating different types of sewage and pollution at source. The feasibility and efficiency of constructed mangrove wetland to remove organic matter and nutrients from primary settled municipal sewage were demonstrated through a series of greenhouse experiments and a pilot-scale field trial. The treatment efficiency of constructed mangrove wetland was comparable to, or higher than, the conventional constructed wetland. An immobilized microalgal system was developed to remove toxic persistent pollutants from industrial wastewater. Pollutant-resistant microalgal species were selected for culture in domestic wastewater. The harvested biomass was immobilized in alginate beads. Bench-scale experiments showed the algal beads were effective in removing industrial pollutants such as heavy metals (e.g. Cu, Zn, Ni, Cr, etc.), organometallic compounds (e.g. tributyltin, TBT), and persistent organic compounds (e.g. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs) through biosorption and biodegradation. The adsorbed metals could be recovered by desorption process, and the beads could be used repeatedly for many adsorption–desorption cycles. Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.