Commonly used pretreatment method of alkaline solubilization (using NaOH) and a relatively new technology of microwave (MW) irradiation (160 degrees C) were combined as a pretreatment method of waste activated sludge (WAS) in this study. First alkaline and MW pretreatment methods were examined separately, then their combination for different conditions was investigated in terms of their effect on COD solubilization, turbidity and capillary suction time (CST). For combined pretreatments, soluble COD to total COD ratio (SCOD/TCOD) of WAS increased from 0.005 (control) to 0.18, 0.27, 0.34 and 0.37 for combined methods of MW and pH-10, 11, 12 and 12.5, respectively. Deteriorated dewaterability due to alkaline pretreatment was also improved due to the incorporation of MW irradiation. Further, with small scale batch anaerobic reactors, pH-10, pH-12, MW (alone), MW+pH-10 and MW+pH-12 pretreated WAS samples were anaerobically digested. Highest total gas and methane productions were achieved with MW + pH-12 pretreatment with 16.3% and 18.9% improvements over control reactor, respectively. Finally the performance of MW+pH-12 pretreatment was examined with 2L anaerobic semi-continuous reactors for 92 days and compared to that of the control reactors. These reactors were operated at an SRT of 15 days. After steady state, 43.5% and 55% improvements were obtained in respective daily total gas and methane productions. TS, VS and TCOD reductions were improved by 24.9%, 35.4% and 30.3%, respectively based on a relative calculation with respect to control reactors. This way combined alkaline-microwave treatment proved to be an effective sludge minimization method. Pretreated digested sludge had 22% improved dewaterability than unpretreated digested sludge. Higher SCOD and NH3-N concentrations were measured in the pretreated digested sludge supernatant; however, PO4-P concentration did not increase much. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.