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.

Ecoval Sudoe Final Conference: Towards a circular management of urban biowaste and sewage sludge

The final conference of the Ecoval Sudoe project (Coordination strategies for sludge and organic waste management and valorization in the SUDOE region) will take place in Ourense on March 9th, where the main results of the project, active since November 2020, will be presented.

Here you can consult the full agenda of the event, “Ecoval Sudoe: Towards a circular management of urban biowaste and sewage sludge”.

Those interested in attending can do so in person or online. The event will be held in Spanish with simultaneous translation into English for those who need it. Both in-person and online seating is limited, and registration will close when the maximum number of participants is reached. Don’t miss it, register here!

The expository part of the day will start at 10.00 am and will last until 2.00 pm, with the following blocks.

Institutional welcome and presentation of the Ecoval Sudoe project.
Talk Past and present of the management of urban biowaste and sewage sludge. Cases of Galicia and Porto region.
Proposals of the Ecoval project: biorefineries as a circular economy proposal for the management of urban organic waste.
Round table. Future perspectives for the valorization of urban biowaste and sewage sludge.
After the break for lunch and networking, those attending in person will be able to visit, from 15.30 to 17.00 hours, the Ourense biofactory, which houses the pilot plant of the project. Visitors will be able to learn first-hand about the different steps and processes used to obtain volatile acids from urban biowaste and sewage sludge. Virtual attendees will also be able to visit it through the project’s YouTube channel.

We look forward to seeing you in Ourense and also online!


The Ecoval Sudoe project raises awareness of new generations in Palencia


Eight schools in Palencia have been the honoured hosts of a new activity organised jointly by Aquona and the Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León, a partner of the Ecoval Sudoe project, with the aim of raising awareness among new generations about the importance of the correct separation and recovery of organic waste. The awareness campaign was spread over a total of four days between 23 and 29 November and, thanks to eight environmental education workshops, 184 children learned in a playful and participatory way about the importance of the brown bin and which waste should go in it.


This is the second time that the ECOVAL project has carried out environmental education actions in Palencia. Last school year, 6 schools and 248 students participated in 11 workshops. Last year’s campaign was held on the occasion of the European Week for Waste Reduction, the biggest awareness-raising event on waste prevention in Europe, which this year took place from the 19th to the 27th of the same month.


Last year, the Ecoval Sudoe project participated in this event with the campaign “Another bin, what a brown bin!”, focused on disseminating and familiarising the general public with the new brown bin in order to emphasise the importance of correct waste separation in projects that seek to recover waste. This campaign, organised by FEUGA, won the 2021 edition award thanks to its creativity, impact and participatory nature, which reaffirmed the project’s good work in terms of communication.


This activity is in addition to those previously carried out by the Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León last school year, as well as the four carried out by FEUGA and CETAQUA in four schools in Galicia. In this way, Ecoval Sudoe reaches almost 600 students aware of this issue, bringing science closer to citizens and helping to build a sustainable future based on the principle of circular economy.



ECOVAL consortium meets in Toulouse


The National Institute of Applied Sciences of Toulouse (INSA Toulouse) hosted the consortium meeting of the Ecoval Sudoe project in the same French city on Wednesday and Thursday (23 and 24 November, respectively) in order to share and present the progress achieved so far, as well as the next steps to be taken.


The kick-off was at nine o’clock in the morning, where CETAQUA made an introduction and presentation of the project, as well as its contribution to it from a biotechnological perspective to valorise organic waste. Subsequently, the rest of the actors (FEUGA, INSA TBI, NEREUS, USC BioGroup, ADTA, FPNCyL and Porto Ambiente) presented their different contributions to Ecoval Sudoe until midday, when there was a break to resume the activity in the afternoon.


On Thursday, the consortium visited the Ginestous Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Toulouse to observe first-hand how the city’s sewage sludge is currently treated. It also analysed its potential for transformation into a biofactory, as pursued by the Ecoval Sudoe model to promote a more sustainable and circular economy.


This consortium meeting is the fifth one held by the project, after the last one organised last June in the city of Porto, hosted by Porto Ambiente. In this type of events, synergies are generated between the different agents and are a key element for the proper functioning of all types of projects, even more so in the case of Ecoval Sudoe due to the multiplicity of actors, interests and challenges faced with the aim of promoting a circular and sustainable business model in a context of green transition.

ECOVAL puts the brown container on the map

Ecoval Sudoe goes a step further in its commitment to the implementation and correct use of the brown bin by creating a map that allows visualising the first separation bins for the organic fraction installed in different cities of the European Union. This tool is a new commitment of the project to disseminate and raise public awareness of the importance of recycling, and in particular the proper use of the brown bin.

The “treasure map” is a playful tool with which the brown bins can be visualised geographically and was created thanks to the active collaboration with users of social networks. The aim of the map is to disseminate the evolution of the gradual implementation of the fifth container and to familiarise the general public with its presence. The map also shows that the colour code sometimes varies, with this container being blue or green in cities such as London or Oleiros.

The project’s website also contains other materials such as videos and posters or a good practice guide, which allow visitors to answer their questions about the correct separation of waste, as well as interactive games to test the knowledge acquired.

The brown bin is becoming more common in cities as a result of the European Waste Management Directive, as a key element to be able to recycle the organic fraction separately. Its implementation has been irregular so far, as not all cities have brown bins, although it should be present in all European cities by 2024.

The correct separation of waste is extremely important for projects such as Ecoval Sudoe. Without proper separation, innovative processes such as the one implemented by the project could not be carried out.


Campaign “Another bin, are you in?”


The “treasure map” is a new element of the campaign “Another bin, are you in?”, launched by the Galician University Enterprise Foundation (FEUGA) for the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) 2021. The campaign focused on raising public awareness of the importance of correct waste separation, with a special focus on organic waste, the brown bin and the inappropriate use of the toilet as a waste bin.

In June 2022, the campaign was awarded the European Special Prize in Brussels in recognition of its impact, creativity and participatory nature. The European Week for Waste Reduction is the biggest waste prevention awareness-raising event in Europe, which was an important media boost for the Ecoval Sudoe project and confirms its good work in the field of communication and public awareness-raising.


ECOVAL shares its organic waste valorisation in Nutrient Recycling Community webinar

On Friday 23 September, between 14:00hrs and 16:00hrs, the Nutrient Recycling Community webinar, organised by the University of Ghent, took place. Several projects related to the recovery of nutrients from waste effluents in the food and agriculture industry were presented remotely. There was also a round table where the different actors shared ideas and were able to generate synergies between common objectives or processes.


The Nutrient Recycling Community is an initiative driven by the European Biorefinery Cluster (ECB), of which Ecoval is a member. It started as a continuation of the EIP-AGRI Focus Group on Nutrient Recycling and currently has more than 70 members, including universities, research centres, European associations, policy groups and others. Its work focuses on the recovery of nutrients from waste streams in the agri-food value chain and their use as sustainable fertilisers. The aim is to boost the circular economy by closing the life cycle of nutrients and reducing the use of plant protection products in agriculture.


The transition to a more circular economy through resource recovery is one of society’s priorities and nutrient recycling can play a key role in its development.


The event began with a brief introduction to the Nutrient Recycling Community by Laia Llenas Argelaguet from the University of Vic (UVIC), to then move on to the presentation of the various projects invited and linked. Each one 5 minutes to explain their relationship with nutrient recovery. They are: LEX4BIO, dedicated to biofertilizers in agriculture, Nutri2Cycle, specialists in the agri-food nutrient cycle, WalNut, focused on the valorisation of wastewater to produce biofertilizers, Fertimanure, focused on the recovery of nutrients to make biofertilizers from animal manure, Nitroman, researchers in the conversion of raw manure into mineral fertilizers, Run4Life, focusing on the recovery of nutrients to create low-impact fertilizers, Renu2Farm, linked to increasing the recycling of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from the food production chain, RUSTICA, providers of technical solutions to convert organic waste from the horticultural sector into biofertilisers, Circular Agronomics project, facilitators of development towards smart and sustainable economies, Ecoval Sudoe, promoters of sludge and organic waste management and valorisation, and Sea2Land, producers of bio-based fertilisers from fisheries waste.


They all presented in that order until 15:00hrs, when a 50-minute round table discussion between them moderated by Kari Ylivainio of the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (LUKE) began, and a closure with conclusions brought the event to a close at 16:00hrs.

ECOVAL consortium meets face to face in Porto, a city committed to circularity

The city of Porto hosted, last June, the meeting of participants in the ECOVAL project who, over two days of work, had the opportunity to share experiences, learning, challenges and perspectives for the future.

Over two days filled with presentations and visits to local points of interest such as Água e Energias do Porto, or Lipor, these 20 participants got to know a little more about these institutions and the work developed in this area.



As host, Porto Ambiente was also able to share the path that has been followed in the area of organic waste and the biggest challenges encountered along the way.
The Organic Project, launched in April 2021, had a strong communication and awareness campaign that allowed a strong adhesion to the initiative.
In little more than a year, this project already involves more than 26,500 families and records impressive numbers in terms of collection: more than 100 tons of waste/month. The weight of this operation is so important that, in the first semester of 2022, there was a growth of over 80% in this type of waste compared to the same period in the previous year.
Numbers that allow a reduction in waste, minimisation of the amounts sent to undifferentiated waste, and that translate into true circularity, with this waste being transformed into high quality organic compost, used in organic farming.



If these figures leave no room for doubt about the commitment of the people of Porto, they also reflect the success of Porto Ambiente’s strategy, with its focus on organics, a project that is expected to be extended to the entire city by the end of 2023. An ambitious horizon, but in harmony with Porto Ambiente’s commitment to promote the circular economy, essential to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality in the city, in line with the challenges of the Porto Climate Pact, which the municipal company has embraced from the outset.