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Find solutions to dilution, pollution and content diversity challenges to turn mixed urban bio-waste (1) into sustainable feedstock for the bio-based industry

Demonstrate effective, safe and efficient solutions to overcome dilution, pollution and diversity of content in different organic urban waste streams of urban origin and convert these into high value-added compounds for further use. These streams include mixed waste streams, separately collected organic waste, and the organic fraction of sewage sludge from wastewater treatment.

The scope is to tackle all constraints which today impede the conversion of such waste streams into chemical precursors, polymers, materials and/or fertilisers at yields that are promising for successful upscaling to pre-commercial levels. Energy or biogas valorisation is out of scope (see related paragraph below).

A cascade-type approach should be applied, aiming at valorising as much as possible of the target feedstock into a range of several products and materials. A flexible biorefinery concept should also be developed, to allow for the production of different end-products, depending on feedstock availability and features, seasonality, market demand, etc.

Proposals should address urban wastewater, separately collected organic waste, mixed solid municipal waste streams, or a combination thereof. They should focus on the technologies needed in processing target waste streams. Logistical steps and other arrangements with and within municipalities, while instrumental to the success of the project, must be considered as ‘additional activities’. Proposals should demonstrate the efficient preparation of mixed urban waste streams for valorisation into high value-added compounds. The successful application of these technologies should deliver biomass feedstock that can readily be further treated and produce large volumes of the desired compounds.

Proposals should also assess the technical feasibility and economics of wastewater containment systems to reduce leakage of for example methane. This assessment should also include high-volume filtration systems for the removal of useful chemical feedstocks such as phosphates.

Proposals should build on and seek to dovetail with the results from other finished or running projects that address the treatment of wastewaters and organic waste streams. Technologies used for the conversion of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste and/or wastewater should be different and new compared to those applied in the running projects1.

Although energy or biogas valorisation is out of the main scope of the topic, proposals could seek cooperation with existing waste2 and/or wastewater treatment plants including biogas reactors, targeting compounds and products that exceed state-of-the-art standards.

Proposals should involve waste management companies/agencies to ensure the availability of the appropriate urban waste streams. In addition, as they are aiming to create or improve value chains based on urban waste streams, proposals should involve end-users so that they can address public perception.

Proposals should be based on a sound business case and business plan, as well as an assessment of the market potential of the new compounds.

Proposals should commit to assessing the environmental and economic impacts of the developed products or processes, using LCA methodologies based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches3 (see introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018). If applicable, proposals should also analyse the social impacts.

Proposals should also allow for pre- and co-normative research necessary for developing the needed product quality standards and for ensuring safety of the end-products.

The technology readiness level (TRL)4 at the end of the project should be 7. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL.

Indicative funding:

It is considered that proposals requesting a maximum contribution EUR 7 million would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

1From the 2016 BBI Call: EMBRACED (, URBIOFIN (, AFTERLIFE ( From H2020-CIRC-2016 Call: RES URBIS (

2Includes mixed waste streams and separately collected organic waste.

3The LCA may focus on a set of critical issues early on to steer the development process in the right direction. In this case, it is essential that this selection is carefully explained in the proposal in order to allow for expert assessment. See also in the introduction.

4Technology readiness levels as defined in annex G of the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme:

In 2016, an estimated 54 % of the world’s population lived in urban areas. That figure is projected to exceed 60 % in 20302. Cities, and the people living within them, produce an immense amount of solid waste and wastewater.

Despite the widespread availability of sorting practices, mixed waste streams going to landfill or for incineration still contain a large volume of biodegradable organic matter (for example, 60 % in the UK3) that could well be used as feedstock for the bio-based industry. Furthermore, such a large amount of organic matter going to landfill falls short of the aim in Council Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste4 of limiting the share of landfilled biodegradable waste to 35 % by 2020.

Wastewater contains several valuable components, including cellulose and nutrients, especially phosphorus. The content of municipal wastewater and the derived sewage sludge could cover around 15 % of the world’s phosphorus demand5. Every year the average citizen sends 10 kg of toilet paper6 into the sewage system. This would provide an enormous source of cellulose for further upgrade to chemical precursors and/or polymers.

High dilution and the wide variety of exploitable components in urban wastewater streams make it difficult to recover usable components at higher scale efficiently. As a result, urban wastewater treatment tends to focus on producing energy or biogas.

Even though their contaminant levels and diversity present challenges for valorisation, organic urban waste streams can provide a significant volume of feedstock for the bio-based industry all year round without any conflict with land use and food production.

The specific challenge of this topic is to utilise mixed waste streams, separately collected organic waste and the organic fraction of sewage sludge from wastewater treatment – all coming from urban sources – as sustainable feedstock for the bio-based industry, overcoming their high dilution level, pollution and disparity of content.

1‘Urban bio-waste’: biodegradable garden and park waste, food and kitchen waste from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises and comparable waste from food processing plants (definition of 'biowaste' in Directive 98/2008/EC on waste); urban waste water and sludge from its treatment





6 See for instance:

  • contribute to KPI 1: create at least one new cross-sector interconnection in bio-based economy;
  • contribute to KPI 2: set the basis for at least one new bio-based value chain;
  • contribute to KPI 6: create at least two new demonstrated consumer products based on bio-based chemicals and materials that meet market requirements;
  • increase the awareness among consumers and waste management companies of the opportunities associated with the valorisation of urban waste streams into a wide range of products and materials;
  • in the case of wastewater, recycle or reuse of at least 30 % in (dry) weight of the suspended solid fractions;
  • reduce the amount of landfilled organic waste by at least 20 % as compared with the disposal solution(s) currently implemented for the same type of waste stream.
  • Type of action: Innovation Action – demonstration action.