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REcovery and REcycling of nutrients TURNing wasteWATER into added-value products for a circular economy in agriculture

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Water2REturn (REcovery and REcycling of nutrients TURNing wasteWATER into added-value products for a circular economy in agriculture)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-03-31

Water scarcity and resource recovery are global concerns. Solutions to use water in the optimum way become a must when dealing with water-intensive industries like slaughtering, whose wastewater contains a high proportion of organic matter. This wastewater can be a valuable source of nutrients if properly recovered.
Based on the above, Water2REturn (W2R) consortium understands the environmental and economic constraints of the slaughtering industry as a market opportunity. To seize it, W2R proposes an integrated solution for slaughterhouse wastewater treatment, as well as for the recovery of valuable nutrients with high market value in the agriculture sector. W2R adopts a Circular Economy approach where nutrients (and energy resources) present in wastewaters are safely and efficiently recycled in different forms and injected back into the agricultural system as new raw materials. Wastewater is, therefore, a source of nutrients, energy and water, and no longer a waste, and wastewater treatment facilities turn into "biorefineries".
The main objectives are:
- Development of a demonstrative application for slaughterhouse wastewater treatment and large-scale nutrient recovery in a real case study, the slaughterhouse “Matadero del Sur” (MdS) in Salteras (Spain).
- Manufacturing of organic-source fertilisers and biostimulants.
- Nutrients recovery and reduction of wastewater discharged to the environment by 90%.
- Reduction of waste diverted to landfills by 80%.
- Energy self-sufficiency through biogas upgrading and valorisation, reducing CO2 and GHGs emissions.
- Creation of new business opportunities and green jobs.
- Promotion and wide and fast market uptake of W2R processes and products, while improving their acceptance through capacity building and awareness raising.
Main achievements of W2R are:
- Development of an integrated wastewater treatment system for the slaughterhouse, consisting of three separated process units (water line, sludge line, algae line) + an energy recovery module (energy line). The water line treats wastewater fulfilling the EU requirements for discharge from urban wastewater treatment plants. The sludge line sanitises the sludge and increases the availability of soluble content. The energy line produces energy after an anaerobic digestion process. The algae line produces algal biomass.
- Obtention of three Secondary Raw Materials (SRMs): a nutrients’ concentrate from the water line, a hydrolysed sludge from the sludge line and an algal biomass from the algae line.
- Formulation of three Agronomic Products (APs): one biofertiliser and two biostimulants. AP1 is a biofertiliser. It resulted to be not economically profitable if transported to manufacture the biofertiliser, but it fits as a great solution to fertigate the surrounding fields, constituting a zero Km solution. AP2 is a biostimulant. It was tested for several crops together with two commercial products and productivity resulted to be similar or better when applying AP2. AP3 is a biostimulant. It resulted especially effective to advance and homogenise sprouting and flowering, setting higher percentages when applying AP3 instead of a chemical control.
- Development of the W2R models for LCA, LCC and social footprinting (including APs production) for two treatment capacities: the demonstrator capacity (1/3 of the slaughterhouse daily flow) and the real slaughterhouse capacity.
- Development of the OH&S risk assessment of the W2R system, identifying the potential hazards and evaluating the associated risks, and suggesting prevention & mitigation options for the risks identified, as well as management recommendations, including the APs.
- Evaluation of the viability of the W2R system in terms of payback period of the project, applying different scenarios for two treatment capacities of the system in the TEA.
- Development of an ETV for the Cascade Flash V.21 (an element from the sludge line). The Verification Body has concluded that there is significant positive difference with regards to alternative technologies.
- Continuous work on stakeholders’ identification and engagement to multiply the project impacts, being focused on specific stakeholder groups: the slaughtering industry, the wastewater treatment industry, the fertiliser industry, farmers, and consumers & NGOs.
- Implementation of a W2R business model based on circular economy approaches and industrial symbiosis schemes, as well as of business opportunities for the involved sectors.
- Creation of a project website (www.water2return.eu) available in EN, ES, FR and DE.
- Presence in social media: Twitter (983 followers, 1,478 tweets), LinkedIn (361 followers, 188 posts) and YouTube (38 subscribers, 37 videos).
- Celebration of a W2R Demo Workshop at the headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development in Seville with a subsequent institutional visit to the demonstration site.
- Design of two capacity building programmes for the slaughtering industry and farmers and consumers respectively. 9 capacity building workshops in total have been organised within these programmes.
- Elaboration of a Layman’s report.
- Organisation of a project Final Conference in the framework of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, an open dialogue event for the agriculture and the environment.
Current approach for industrial wastewater treatment is nutrient removal, instead of nutrient recovery and recycling. W2R constitutes a real technological breakthrough, as it allows producing relevant amounts of high-quality APs. W2R closes the existing gap in the implementation at EU scale of highly efficient combined technologies to produce valuable recycled APs ready to manufacture and commercialise at international level.
Additionally, to cover the current gap in knowledge and end-user perception for novel fertilising products recovered from bio-based sources, W2R incorporates the social perspective by engaging end-users (meat producers, farmers, landowners, consumer associations) at early stages of the project.
W2R project addresses the following impacts:
- Decrease the dependency on primary nutrient resources imports and increase the supply security at EU level.
- Reduce the adverse effects of nutrient emissions on water bodies.
- Close the water and nutrients cycles in the whole production and consumption value chain. The modular character of the innovative W2R’s technologies makes them an adaptable and replicable solution for other industries (e.g.: animal farms, tanneries, dairies, brewing, etc.)
- Improve the quality of data on nutrient flows, thus providing important information for investments into the recycling of recovered nutrients.
- Create new green jobs and industries around nutrient recovery and recycling from water, including fertilisers manufacture and exports.
- Create new business opportunities for industry and SMEs in the EU and improving the competitiveness of EU enterprises.
- Provide evidence-based knowledge regarding the enabling framework conditions (such as the regulatory or policy framework) that facilitate the transition to a Circular Economy.
W2R commercial outcomes are:
- An integrated system to treat wastewater while recovering nutrients, customisable according to the needs of the end user.
- Three raw materials: nutrients concentrate, hydrolysed sludge and algal biomass, the basis for further manufacturing APs.
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