Ecoval Sudoe project successfully achieves the production of volatile fatty acids from sludge and urban biowaste

The capacity of organic waste of urban origin to increase microbiological diversity in agricultural and forestry soils has also been demonstrated.

The Ecoval Sudoe project, co-financed by the Interreg Sudoe Programme through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has successfully come to an end. This project, which started in November 2020, has successfully scaled up the technology to produce high-purity volatile fatty acids from sewage sludge and municipal biowaste. The initiative has demonstrated that both organic wastes have enormous potential for biofactory development and can be used as renewable and sustainable feedstock in the chemical industry.

Thanks to European funding of around 1.5 million euros and the work of the consortium, not only the technology was improved but the project also achieved the development of business models and the identification of legal barriers to its implementation. In addition, it has been demonstrated that the model can be replicated in industrial environments, which opens the door to its implementation in different sectors such as canning or dairy. 

The results of the Ecoval project (Coordination strategies for the management and valorisation of sludge and organic waste in the SUDOE region) have also highlighted the capacity to use organic waste of urban origin (biostabilised waste and sewage sludge) to increase microbiological diversity in agricultural and forestry soils. 

Thanks to this initiative, led by Cetaqua and with the participation of a consortium formed by the University of Santiago de Compostela, the Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León, the Galician Business-University Foundation, INSA Toulouse, Nereus, Porto Ambiente and Aguas do Tejo Atlántico, great progress has been made in the sustainable production of materials and chemical products from organic waste, thus contributing to the circular economy and the protection of the environment.

Resources and environmental awareness 

Beyond the results at a technical level, the consortium has placed great emphasis on environmental education and awareness since the correct separation of waste is extremely important for projects such as Ecoval Sudoe. 

Around 1,500 pupils of different ages participated in activities set up by the consortium with the aim of raising awareness of the correct separation of waste at source, with a special focus on the fifth container for the separation of the organic fraction and on waste that should not be flushed down the toilet. One of the communication campaigns carried out by the project was awarded the European Waste Reduction Week Special European Award in recognition of its impact, creativity, and participatory nature. 

The project’s website also contains other materials such as videos and posters or a good practice guide, which allow visitors to solve their doubts about correct waste separation, as well as interactive games to test the knowledge acquired. All these tools are essential for scaling up business models such as the one proposed by Ecoval, since without correct waste separation, no innovative process for waste recovery can be carried out.

ECOVAL, the innovation project that positions Galicia as a benchmark in circular waste management

Etienne Paul, Insa Toulouse; Javier Bobe, Diputación de Ourense ; Almundeja Hospido, USC; Rita Lourinho, ADTA; Sagrario Pérez, Xunta de Galicia; Gabriel Alén, Xunta de Galicia; Iván José Vicente, Viaqua; Ángela Muñiz, FEUGA; Luis Assunçao, Portoambiente; Teresa Alvarño, Cetaqua Galicia; Jesús Díez, Fundación Patrimonio Natural Castila y León.


  • The European ECOVAL project, led by Cetaqua, celebrates the final results presentation event.
  • The event brought together more than 70 representatives from public administrations, universities and companies to discuss the potential of water in the circular economy.


The ECOVAL-SUDOE innovation project, led by Cetaqua and co-financed by the Interreg Sudoe Programme through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), held this morning the final event Towards a circular management of urban bio-waste and sewage sludge. This meeting, which brought together more than 70 attendees in Ourense, served to present the results and conclusions obtained in the two and a half years of the project. Armando Ojea, deputy mayor of the City Council of Ourense, and Iván José Vicente, general director of Viaquaopened the event by highlighting the collaboration and commitment of the City Council of Ourense in research projects such as ECOVAL that allow reducing the impact of waste, turning them into resources, putting the city of Ourense on the map of innovation and circular economy.


The event symbolises the closing of the ECOVAL project, which has shown that both sewage sludge and urban biowaste are two organic streams with enormous potential for the development of biofactories. biofactories.  Compounds such as volatile fatty acids can be produced from them, which serve as renewable and sustainable raw materials in the chemical industry to obtain a wide variety of products: lubricants, paints, bioplastics or cosmetics, among others.

Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the model can be replicated in industrial environments, for example in food industries such as canning or dairy, which are of great importance in the Galician economy. Therefore, ECOVAL has been a step forward for the implementation of biofactories or biorefineries, which is key in the transition towards a circular economy that allows the generation of goods while reducing dependence on fossil resources.

With European funding of around 1.5 million euros, the project successfully scaled up the technology for the production of high purity volatile fatty acids (VFA) from sewage sludge and municipal biowaste, developed business models that enable the industrialisation of the solutions and identified the legal barriers that hinder or prevent the implementation of these models.

ECOVAL is part of an international consortium formed by the University of Santiago de CompostelaFundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León, Fundación Empresa-Universidad Gallega, INSA Toulouse, NereusThe project will boost R&D&I and will position Galicia as a benchmark in Europe in terms of circular economy.



ECOVAL ends its research based on waste revalorisation

The presentations at the event were divided into three main blocks, in which leading personalities from different fields defended their commitment to transforming wastewater treatment plants into biofactories – efficient facilities for obtaining water, energy and materials – as a key element of the circular economy for the management of organic waste. The conference also analysed the past and present of urban biowaste and sewage sludge management, as well as its future prospects.


Ander Castro, Project Manager of CETAQUA


According to Ander Castro, Cetaqua’s Project Manager, “ECOVAL demonstrated the feasibility of producing volatile fatty acids with sufficient purity from a technical point of view to replace its current production from oil – and to replace it with sewage sludge and urban biowaste. However, further technological development is needed to optimise the process and to reduce the scale at which these solutions are economically profitable.

The round table, which closed the event, was moderated by Teresa Alvariño, manager of Cetaqua Galicia. It debated the future prospects for the valorisation of urban biowaste and sewage sludge from a public-private perspective, with the participation of Viaqua and Agroambthe Xunta de Galicia and the Diputación de Ourense.


Teresa Alvariño, CETAQUA; María Sagrario, Xunta de Galicia; Leticia Rodríguez, VIAQUA; Javier Bobe, Diputación de Ourense y Josefa León, Agroamb, en la mesa redonda del evento.


Leticia Rodríguez, director of Sustainable Development of Viaqua, stressed that to achieve the circularity potential of sewage sludge or biowaste, it is necessary to continue working on the development of new economic and management models where these high added value products have a place. To this end, Leticia states that “it is essential to improve collaboration, cooperation and agreement in order to achieve more stable public-private collaboration frameworks. Only in this way will we have a guarantee of success in facing the challenges that lie ahead of us”.

Gabriel Alén, delegate of the Xunta de Galicia in Ourense, closed the event and took the opportunity to highlight the opportunity to take advantage of European funds for optimal waste management, the importance of raising awareness among the population and the necessary innovation, which lands in Ourense thanks to projects such as the new VET Innovation Centre, which contains a module for the care of the natural environment.

Through projects such as ECOVAL, Cetaqua and Viaqua consolidate their commitment to biofactories as a key element to promote a circular economy model in the integral water cycle. In addition, the Ourense biofactory is also developing other R+D+i projects such as the project Biocenplasproject, which seeks to establish a sustainable model in the fish processing industry, or activities of the CIGAT Circular Joint Research Centre, which develops different strategies to decarbonise Galicia thanks to the conversion of waste into resources.