From sewage sludge to raw materials


Process technology students learn about circularity first hand

On Friday April 5th the ISPT Process Technology Talent Program (PTTP) students visited the ‘Energie en Grondstoffenfabriek’ in Amersfoort. One of the first of its kind this wastewater treatment plant has been transformed into a raw-materials factory where phosphates are recovered, resulting in an estimated 130 tonnes of high-grade fertilizer every year, with an expected growth to 500 tonnes in the near future.

The plant also generates energy from wastewater and sewage sludge. This generates so much energy that besides powering the plant, it also provides electricity for about 600 households in Amersfoort. The students learned about circularity, resource recovering technologies and they also played the ZERO BRINE serious game’s first pilot.

Our future circularity, ambitions and policy

As a society we produce massive amounts of waste that, to become a circular economy, we will need to reduce, re-use and recycle according to Romeo Neuteboom Spijker, innovation coordinator at the Waterschap Vallei en Veluwe. He spoke about the circular economy and our ambitions and policies to make this a reality in especially water treatment. He showed what challenges the Dutch Water Authorities face and how they plan to meet them head on in the coming years. The future for a circular economy in water management and treatment looks bright. The urgency is clear and policy makers seem to be largely on board, but we still have a long way to go. Some technologies and solutions are still hindered by insufficient legal possibilities and unnecessary complications within existing laws.

A new direction for sewage treatment plants

If we want to completely close our material loops we especially need to look at the amount of waste water produced by our factories and also our households. Water is the central element for all life, for our agriculture and many if not all of our large industrial processes. We use a lot of water and we therefore produce a lot of waste water. Waste water that, as Frank van de Grootevheen, process technologist at the Waterschap Vallei en Veluwe, explains still contains many valuable resources and has many potential uses. At the Amersfoort ‘Grondstoffenfabriek’ several new technologies have been installed to become an integrated part of the sewage water treatment facility. Frank takes the students by installations like the PEARL® unit, where our sewage waste is converted into an artificial fertilizer that can be used in both agriculture and horticulture. During the guided tour over the facility’s site the students can make their acquaintance with many of these technologies and see them in operation.

PTTP - Students
A group of PTTP students at the ‘PEARL®’ facility

ZERO BRINE, the serious game

Against a backdrop of technologies that recover precious materials from waste water streams, the location couldn’t be more perfect for the first pilot run of the ZERO BRINE serious game. First ISPT program manager water processing John Harinck, introduces the European project that aims to prove that minerals and clean water can be reclaimed from process waste water streams. ZERO BRINE is a 4-year EU funded project that aims to uncover the massive potential that exists for replication and deployment of circular economy solutions in industrial wastewater treatment. The ZERO BRINE game simulates real life situations in which different processes yield different wastewater streams that the players can then clean by matching them up with end-users and treatment facilities.

“I was positively surprised by the feedback that I got from the students and the water authority on the ZERO BRINE serious game. The interactive game seems to have provided them with good insight into the technical, economic and social challenges and considerations” says John Harinck.