Abstract We have shown that municipal wastewater and sewage sludge are contaminated by organotins. Here, we investigate the behaviour and fate of tributyltin (TBT) in laboratory-scale sewage sludge treatment at various conditions including both aerobic and anaerobic, and mesophilic and thermophilic. Organotins were determined by capillary GC-FPD. Fresh raw sewage sludge was stored in a tank that was connected to five chemostats maintained at different conditions. Raw sludge contained TBT, dibutyltin (DBT) and monobutyltin (MBT) residues in the range of 0·28 to 0·83 mg/kg (dry weight). The volumetric TBT concentration was 10·5 μg/litre in the influent, and ranged from 7·4 to 8·3 μg/litre in the effluent of the different chemostats. In the anaerobic mesophilic treatment, concentrations of TBT did not decrease with increasing sludge residence time, DBT increased and MBT showed no clear trend. The DBT increase is suggested to be due to leaching from the PVC walls of the chemostats, and not to degradation of TBT alone. The TBT reduction did not show significant differences between the mesophilic and thermophilic anaerobic fermentors. These findings indicate that the degradation of TBT during sludge treatment is only low under all conditions tested.