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CORDIS - EU research results



Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2021-11-30

As global population grows, demand for food increases, leading to a significant increase in fertilisers demand and forcing a change in current fertilisation practises towards an efficient nutrient recovery and recycling approach.

Wastewater (WW) is an important carrier of nutrients and a resource itself, however, domestic WW is currently not exploited as a nutrient resource due to inefficient recovery from diluted sewage.

Within a circular economy approach, Run4Life proposed a radical new technological concept for WW treatment and nutrient recovery: i) decentralized recovery at the source; ii) segregated black water (BW), grey water (GW) and organic kitchen waste (KW) allows for an optimal treatment for resource recovery and safe reuse; iii) innovative nutrient recovery technologies, integrated with complementary fertiliser concepts to reduce environmental and health risks.

By demonstrating technical feasibility at 4 demonstration sites, Run4Life main objectives were:

1. Improve innovative technologies for nutrient recovery beyond TRL 5-7 to increase recovery rates and enhance material quality, decreasing environmental impact and health risks.
2. Large scale demonstration of nutrient recycling and irrigation water with added value.
3. Implement a value chain for the recovered nutrients and water, including new Business Models for boosting Run4Life into the market.
4. Promote full acceptance of recycled products by undertaking interactions with stakeholders at all levels and reviewing legal framework.
5. Use Life Cycle Assessment, Environmental Technical Verification, risk assessment and Benefit Cost Analysis to evaluate Run4Life impacts on the environment, society and economy, while ensuring the safety and sustainability of the proposed solutions and products.
Activities were divided into 8 interlinked work packages:
WP1 – Project Management
WP2 – Innovations for Efficient Nutrient Recovery. Upgrading innovative technologies, pursuing further integration at the Demo Sites:
• New model of Ultra Low Flush Vacuum Toilets for increasing BW concentration.
• Hyper-Thermophilic Anaerobic Digester (HTAD) designed to recover, in a 1-step process, safe solid and liquid fertiliser (NPK) from concentrated BW.
• Innovative configuration of bioelectrochemical systems (BES).
• Elaboration of a technology roadmap for nutrient recovery from different waste streams.
WP3 – Large Scale Demonstration: testing, optimisation and validation, applied in 4 large demo sites.
• Sneek (The Netherlands): designed for 32 homes.
• Vigo (Spain): operates in an office building.
• Ghent (Belgium): operated in a first phase for 120 homes and several public buildings.
• Helsingborg (Sweden): accommodates an innovative waste and wastewater management system for around 320 apartments.
WP4 – End-users perspective: quality and safety requirements. Quality and safety of the fertilisers and reclaimed water from the 4 demo plants were tested using pot and field tests, in order to guarantee that they can be employed as commercial resources in a circular economy, considering the end-user acceptance.
WP5 – Risk and Life Cycle Assessments. A Sustainability Management Roadmap and Guide was developed, describing and defining different assessment criteria, environmental and socio-economic indicators, as well as environmental and health risks, to ensure that the Run4Life concept developed through 4 wastewater treatment configurations, as well as the products obtained, are technically viable, safe and environmentally friendly and socially accepted.
WP6 – Strategic Organisational and Social Innovation. A map of the partners and stakeholders at each of the demonstration sites was performed, with the aim of developing the social, institutional, legal and technological features of the Run4Life technologies, as well as achieving wide acceptance among final consumers, end-users, public authorities and political bodies. An engagement strategy to analyse social acceptance profiles and best communication frameworks has been developed and it has being implemented in each of the demo-sites. Legal and gobernance analysis were performed.
WP7 – Exploitation and Market Uptake. The Run4Life Knowledge Management Strategy was updated in a yearly basis. A Market Study and a Competitor Analysis were elaborated. An Exploitation and Business Plan was finalized for all technologies, products and demo sites.
WP8 – Communication and Dissemination for Social and Market acceptance. Run4Life aimed to influence the attitudes of stakeholders, including the decision-makers, towards the implementation of resource recovery oriented sanitation solutions. Events have been organised and attended to communicate about the project and to disseminate its results, with increased social acceptance and market uptake in mind. Linkages and collaborations with other relevant projects and initiatives have been maintained and expanded. The project was actively present on different channels, showing the project objectives, technical concept, demo site characteristics and consortium partners.

Key Exploitable Results (KER) were classified in two main groups based on their main route of exploitation: Commercial (3 innovative technologies and 12 resource recovered products) and 7 Non-commercials. Identification of the main route of exploitation helped to design the exploitation and dissemination strategy
Run4Life advanced the concept of Circular Economy by potentially recycling up to 100% of the nutrients present in household WW and organic KW (N, P, K and micronutrients), also recovering > 90% of GW as reclaimed water. This avoids inefficient conventional removal and disposal of nutrients and water associated to linear systems, as current end-of-pipe approaches can only reach a very partial recovery (< 5% and < 50% for N and P, respectively). Whereas first separate collection systems for urban household KW and WWs have been implemented, products are currently not being reused, mainly because hygienic and environmental safety of these products is not yet assured, and no clear market structure exists - prohibiting their reuse according to current legislation and leading to poor social acceptance. However, new EU politics on Circular Economy, Water Reuse and Nutrient Recovery are forcing a change aimed at increasing the efficiency and minimising wastes and environmental impact.
Run4Life responded to the following requirements: i) integrating nutrient recovery in the water sector; ii) producing hygienically safe products (fertilisers and reclaimed water) for reuse in agriculture/industry/toilets; iii) online monitoring and processes simulation; and iv) making the strategy cost competitive and close to market by including LCA, a new business model and prospective end-users’ participation, among others. In this way, nutrient recovery processes can be tailored to specific local priorities and be slightly varied to adapt Run4Life to local conditions and requirements.
Overview of the Run4Life technological concept