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European Project WOW!: sewage is valuable

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Published on Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Interreg North-West Europe project WOW! - Wider business Opportunities for raw materials from Waste water – was recently launched with 12 partners from 6 countries, including the University of Luxembourg. WOW! aims to make the transition to a more circular approach by matching supply and demand of cellulose, lipids and bioplastics (PHA) from sewage.

On 23-24  May 2018, the WOW! consortium came together for the project kick off. Partners from the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands gathered to meet each other and discuss about the content.

Sewage contains valuable substances that can be used as raw materials for biobased products. However, in North West Europe this potential is hardly exploited yet. This results in loss of valuable materials.

There are market opportunities for raw materials from sewage, but for this the sewage treatment plants and the industry need alignment. This calls for a transition: sewage treatment plants need to switch from treating sewage to producing valuable materials. On the other hand, market parties need to regard sewage as a valuable source instead of ‘dirty unsafe water’. Last but not least, the policies should better fit this new circular practice.

To realise these opportunities, the consortium aims to develop value chains for three different raw materials from sewage: cellulose, PHA bioplastics and lipids.

The following activities will be part of the project:

  • Identify high potential value chains for raw materials from sewage.
  • Develop a Decision Support Tool that guides sewage treatment plants in their transition towards a circular approach on sewage.
  • Build and run three WOW! pilots to optimise and implement innovative recovery and upcycling techniques.
  • Create bioproducts made out of sewage, such as bioplastics, biofuel and bio-char.
  • Create national policy action plans and an EU policy roadmap.

The Chair for Urban Water Management at the University of Luxembourg, led by Professor Joachim Hansen and his team will contribute to the project with a budget of 657.000 € and will focus on lipids from wastewater for biodiesel production. The bacterium Microthrix parvicella, as an accumulator for lipids from wastewater, has to be enriched target-oriented. For that, specific reactors will be designed and operated in lab-scale as well as in pilot-scale on a real wastewater treatment plant in Lorraine/France. Bacteria with aggregated lipids will be used to study their potential for biodiesel production.

WOW! is supported by the Interreg North-West Europe programme,

The consortium consists of: