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Recovering resources from industrial wastewater to minimise environmental impact

Partners of an EU-funded initiative are integrating innovative technologies to recover water and minerals of sufficient purity and quality from brine for reuse in various industries.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Circular processes in industry are increasingly seen as crucial for developing a sustainable, low-carbon, resource-efficient and competitive economy. Recovering all resources from industrial wastewater could contribute to better water management and climate change mitigation efforts. This is the vision of the EU-funded ZERO BRINE project that uses a circular economy approach. “Aiming to ‘close the loop’ and improve the environmental impact of industrial production, the goal of Zero Brine is to prove that minerals, such as magnesium and clean water, can be recovered from industrial processes to then be reused in other industries,” as stated on the project website. ZERO BRINE partners are demonstrating the innovative circular economy concept to treat industrial wastewater at a demineralised water plant (DWP) in the industrial district of the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. They are “redesigning the current brine treatment process from linear to a circular model recovering all the resources,” as noted in a press release. The DWP brings together “ion exchange and membrane technology: Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF), Reverse Osmosis, Mixed Bed Ion Exchange,” as explained on the project website. “The Port of Rotterdam is one of the largest petrochemical clusters in Europe where demineralised water, supplied by Evides, is an essential commodity required for the many industrial processing facilities. The pilot aims to cope with increasing salinity of the feed water, supplied by the Brielse Meer [lake], and will use waste heat from nearby factories to eliminate brine effluent while recovering high purity calcium, magnesium, NaCl [sodium chloride] solution and sulphate salts to recycle the streams back into the site.”

Other pilot plants

The ongoing ZERO BRINE (Re-designing the value and supply chain of water and minerals: a circular economy approach for the recovery of resources from saline impaired effluent (brine) generated by process industries) project covers three other large-scale pilot plants, in addition to the DWP. These include “a coal plant in Poland, a silica plant in Spain, and a textile factory in Turkey, providing the potential for immediate replication and uptake of the project results after its successful completion,” the same press release notes. “In this way, ZERO BRINE encourages industrial circularity for a new generation of innovative, resource-efficient European businesses.” In the case of the silica plant in Spain, ZERO BRINE focuses on “implementing a circular economy scheme in the silica industry to recover water, sodium sulphate, waste heat and alkalis,” as stated on the project website. For the Polish coal mine, the objective “is to decrease the energy consumption by 50% compared to the energy consumption of a reverse osmosis-vapour compression system which represents current best practice.” As for the textile plant in Turkey, ZERO BRINE helps in the recovery of “concentrated salt solutions for reuse in the textile dyeing process baths.” ZERO BRINE was among the “three finalists for Water Innovator of the Year, an award which recognises companies or government institutions committed to new ideas and sustainability in their use of industrial wastewater,” according to a news item. “The project considers brine as a resource rather than unwanted waste and uses both existing and new technologies to recover and reuse high quality end-products with good market value.” For more information, please see: ZERO BRINE project website


ZERO BRINE, industrial wastewater, circular economy, mineral, brine

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