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Upcoming international conference to address new challenge in wastewater treatment

At the 2019 International Water Association Resource Recovery (IWARR) Conference, over 300 experts and practitioners will present ideas and innovations to help the environment. The main focus will be on recovering resources from urban and agricultural wastewater.

Climate Change and Environment

Treating wastewater is no longer only about safeguarding our health and the environment. As we take our first steps into the circular economy era, the wastewater management sector is faced with an additional challenge: minimising waste and valorising resources that would otherwise be lost by recovering them from wastewater. This new challenge will be addressed at the third IWARR Conference being held in Venice on 8-12 September. IWARR 2019 will be hosting talks and workshops that focus on the recovery of numerous resources from municipal, industrial and agricultural wastewater. It will gather more than 300 key actors to address the multidisciplinary issues and showcase relevant innovations, thus paving the way to a new age of wastewater management. Conference delegates will represent research organisations, water utilities, technology providers, policymakers and consultants, as well as market segments and industries outside of the water sector that can valorise the recovered resources. The EU-funded project SMART-Plant is the main organiser. In addition to the Conference, SMART-Plant, the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), and the projects HYDROUSA, NextGen and Project O are co-organising a post-conference workshop for Horizon 2020 water innovation projects that will bring research and innovation actors closer to water utilities and other stakeholders. Launched in 2016, SMART-Plant has been working to scale up and demonstrate eco-innovative and energy-efficient solutions in order to upgrade existing wastewater treatment plants. Nine low-carbon footprint processes are being applied to wastewater treatment plants in Greece, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Israel. These processes are demonstrating how biogas, cellulose, phosphorus and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) bioplastics can be recovered and processed to generate commercial end products. The aim is to optimise wastewater treatment, resource recovery and energy efficiency while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Recovered products – testing and commercialisation

Materials recovered from the innovative technological processes used at the six wastewater treatment plants are currently being tested to find potential commercial applications. Smart-Plant also seeks to detect potential harmful compounds such as antibiotics, pesticides, hormones and heavy metals. Through field experiments, the project is also testing the fertilising effect of phosphorous on cultures to demonstrate its ability to improve soil quality. Demonstrated technologies, together with recovered substances themselves, are therefore stepping significantly closer to market.

Recognising achievement in resource recovery

The project received awards such as the gold award won at the 2018 Environmental Awards held in Athens in July 2018. The award recognised the innovativeness of the process used for phosphorous and nitrogen removal from wastewater treatment plant effluents. SMART-Plant was also granted the Best Project Award at the Iwater Awards held in Barcelona in November of the same year. Besides the clear success of its technologies as demonstrated by the interest shown by water utility companies and the industry sector, SMART-Plant (Scale-up of low-carbon footprint material recovery techniques in existing wastewater treatment plants) is also increasing its impact by providing water policy support to national and EU institutions. The project’s activities are helping to change perceptions of wastewater treatment plants, ushering us into a future in which we see them as centres of resource recovery. For more information, please see: SMART-Plant project website IWARR 2019 website



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