Optimisation, evaluation and development: INSA Toulousse’s contributions to ECOVAL

With more than 17,000 engineers working in all economic sectors, the National Institute of Applied Sciences of Toulouse (INSA Toulouse), a public scientific, cultural and professional institution under the authority of the French Ministry of Higher Education, was created in 1963 and is recognised for the excellence of its training and its students. Its participation in the Sudoe ECOVAL project focuses on three actions: the optimisation of volatile fatty acid production in bioreactors, the evaluation of the methanogenic potential of acidogenesis digestates and the development of a model of the global urban biowaste management system.

 

Optimisation of volatile fatty acid production in bioreactors

In collaboration with CETAQUA, INSA Toulouse is working to optimise the production of Volatile Fatty Acids (VFA) from biowaste. This production is carried out in a bioreactor that performs acidogenesis. The VFA are then extracted and purified for commercial use. INSA Toulouse uses a dynamic simulation model of the acidogenesis process to describe the evolution of substrates and reaction products according to the operating parameters of the process. This tool makes it possible to choose the operating conditions that lead to the most significant production of VFAs and the most favourable for commercialisation. A collaboration with the company Nereus led to the integration of VFA recovery constraints into the criteria for optimising VFA production.

The progress achieved allows the variability of bio-waste and inhibitions of certain biological processes to be taken into account in order to better predict the quantities and qualities of the products formed.

 

Assessment of the methanogenic potential of digestates from acidogenesis

After the production of VFA, a material residue remains that can be recovered by methanisation. INSA Toulouse is evaluating methane production on this residue. It is developing an original continuous process that increases methane production and thus bio-waste recovery. This process is based on a coupling between mesophilic digestion of the waste coupled with thermophilic digestion of the digestate. The progress achieved makes it possible to reduce the quantity of sludge to be disposed of thanks to a more thorough degradation of the mixed sludge. We will see this autumn whether these results can be reproduced on acidified sludge waste and then on biowaste.

 

The development of a model of a global municipal biowaste management system

The global modelling tool allows the assessment of bio-waste management channels at the city level. The objective is to quantify the production of bio-waste in an urban territory and to optimise its collection, transport, treatment, and valorisation into volatile fatty acids and methane. The modelling is developed using data and scenarios from three cities: Toulouse (France), Porto (Portugal) and Palencia (Spain); with different sizes, urban planning, and collection strategies. Toulouse and Palencia are committed to the collection at voluntary drop-off points (VDPs) and composting, while Porto already has a door-to-door collection.

The three case studies are used to compare various treatment solutions: composting and/or anaerobic digestion by 2030 or VFA production. The comparison is made on the basis of flow and energy balances. The cooperation with another partner (Biogroup CRETUS USC) also allows comparison on the basis of the environmental impacts of bio-waste management channels. The model is already developed and simulations of the first scenarios are being carried out.

Ultimately, this modelling tool and the resulting results will help communities and companies to make decisions on the most virtuous management methods from the point of view of environmental impact and economic profitability. It will also allow the identification of priority areas in the sector to be optimised.

Schematic of the MAD-TAR pilot of the ECOVAL project installed at INSA in Toulouse, France.

ECOVAL gets to know the facilities of SOGAMA, the largest urban waste manager in Galicia

Several ECOVAL partners visited the most important facilities of the Galician Environmental Society (SOGAMA), in Santiago de Compostela and Cerceda. On Wednesday 7th September, the coordinator and several members of CETAQUA, the project leader, together with members of FEUGA, the partner responsible for communication, and USC enjoyed a guided visit to SOGAMA’s industrial complex.

SOGAMA is a regional public company at the service of Galicia’s environmental policy in the area of urban waste management and treatment. It is based on the prioritisation of waste prevention, reduction, preparation for reuse, recycling and recovery. Traditionally, Sogama focused its management on two fractions of urban waste: the yellow bag, i.e. the materials deposited by citizens in the yellow container (plastic containers, cans and bricks), and the black bag (the rest) placed in the generic container. In the last three years, they have also introduced separate management of bio-waste, through collection in the brown bin and management in their compost plants. They have 37 transfer plants located in different parts of Galicia, an environmental complex and a controlled landfill in Cerceda.

In addition, SOGAMA is an associate partner of ECOVAL, and works on campaigns against food waste such as “A túa comida ten algo que dicirche”, which promotes synergies with the project’s “A new bin, are you in?” campaign.

 

1,000,000 tonnes of municipal waste per year

The guided tour to get to know its facilities will start at 09:30h at the Santiago de Compostela Transfer Plant. The function of these plants is to allow the transfer of waste from municipal collection lorries to containers of greater capacity (with a load of 20 tonnes) and more suitable for long-distance transport. At 11:00h they will move to the Environmental Complex in Cerceda. With a surface area of 65 hectares and a nominal waste treatment capacity of 1,000,000 tonnes per year, this is the point around which the company’s industrial activity revolves. This is where the recyclable materials deposited in the yellow bag are separated, facilitating their delivery to recyclers, and the energy recovery of the non-recyclable fraction of the black bag is carried out. From there they will go to the industrial composting plant, located in the same locality at the Areosa non-hazardous waste landfill. This facility is the end of the route and the end of the cycle for some organic waste, which, not being recoverable in other ways, becomes part of the 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of compost produced at the plant.

CETAQUA encourages future generations to recycle

On Tuesday 19 July, the European project ECOVAL SUDOE presented its model of management and recovery of sewage sludge and urban organic waste to students participating in the Aula de la Naturaleza de Oira, organised by the Council of Ourense. CETAQUA Galicia, leader of the project, was in charge of transmitting to the children the importance of the correct separation of waste to achieve a more sustainable world. The active participation of the 12 children aged between 4 and 12 years old was the key piece of the session.

Ánder Castro, the CETAQUA technician in charge of the training, showed the positive impact that recycling has on our lives, explaining the processes involved in this type of circular economy and how each individual can collaborate at home, achieving a great collective benefit. Of course, the importance of avoiding the use of the toilet as a waste bin was also highlighted, given that wipes, plasters and swabs (among other things) can cause major environmental problems when they accumulate in the sewage networks of our cities, as well as in wastewater treatment plants. In addition, it was stressed how important it is to avoid food waste, promoting controlled purchasing and responsible consumption.

 

Science in the service of citizenship

The talk was structured in an informative part in which the children were shown content related to waste management, showing them the different bins that currently exist, with special emphasis on the brown bin, which is still in the implementation phase. Subsequently, videos related to the subject were shown and interactive games developed within the framework of the “A new bin, are you in?” campaign of the ECOVAL project were played. The group showed great interest in the content of the activity. The ease with which they were able to separate the different types of waste at the end of the activity stood out. In this way, science was put at the service of the society, transferring the knowledge generated in the project in a simple and understandable way, in order to raise environmental awareness.

CETAQUA Galicia will give another training related to recycling in the same Aula de la Naturaleza on 25 August 2022. The company Viaqua is also actively participating in it through its Aqualoxia activity, in which the knowledge of the integral urban water cycle is highlighted.

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.

 

Águas Do Tejo Atlântico: overcoming barriers and sludge pre-treatment at ECOVAL

aguas do tejo atlantico ecoval

ECOVAL Sudoe proposes a new approach to the management of organic waste based on its recovery to obtain volatile fatty acids (VFA), secondary raw materials useful for industries such as plastics, lubricants or agrochemicals.

Águas do Tejo Atlântico (AdTA), a member of the ECOVAL consortium, is collaborating in overcoming technical and legal barriers to the valorisation of VFA from sewage sludge and bio-waste. This requires the cooperation of different actors in the SUDOE region (sewage and waste companies, research centres, environmental authorities, legal advisors and sector associations) to change the legal framework that allows the use of products obtained from waste. In order to identify barriers, two participatory workshops were held in which the similarities in the legal and operational management of this type of waste in the 3 countries could be verified.

On the other hand, AdTA has focused on sludge pre-treatment to maximise VFA production. To this end, tests were carried out with pulsed electric field technology using waste sludge from the biological treatment of the Frielas WWTP and thickened mixed sludge from the Beirolas WWTP. The two tests were carried out to check if there is any advantage in the pretreatment of only biological sludge and if the solids content of the sludge affected the effectiveness of the pulsed electric field technology.

Finally, AdTA has participated in the quantification of the sludge produced in Portugal, as well as its quality. This work will support the analysis of environmental and economic sustainability that will be carried out in the project, framed in Working Group 6 of the Project: Replicability and transferability of the business model and its environmental and economic assessment.

CETAQUA and Biogroup participate in the 17th World Conference on Anaerobic Digestion

CETAQUA and Biogroup in the AD17

The 17th World Conference on Anaerobic Digestion (AD17) was held at the University of Michigan (USA) from 17-22 June 2022. This international conference, organised by the Anaerobic Digestion Specialist Group of the International Water Association (IWA) with the support of UMICH and USC, was an event to discuss recent advances in anaerobic digestion and related processes. The theme of this edition was: “Biogas and beyond: Expanding applications of anaerobic biotechnologies in a circular economy“. This theme highlights the evolving field of anaerobic biotechnologies, which play an increasingly important role in a circular (bio)economy.

 

The programme included pre-conference workshops, plenary and keynote speakers, a panel discussion “from research to entrepreneurship”, more than 100 oral presentations and around 100 poster presentations. All around a wide range of topics around the role of anaerobic digestion in biotechnology. Part of ECOVAL’s research has to do with optimising this process for the production of Volatile Fatty Acids at the Ourense WWTP, so Antón Taboada-Santos, researcher and Project Manager at CETAQUA, gave a talk on the influence of thermal hydrolysis pre-treatment on the production of VFAs from sewage sludge. Also present at the event was the Biogroup USC, partner of ECOVAL, with the presentation of a poster on the impact of salinity on the production of AGVs, as a result of the CONSERVAL Poctep project.

 

The talk by Antón Taboada, coordinator of the project, was entitled Thermal Hydrolysis Pre-treatment Has No Positive Influence On VFA Production From Sewage Sludge and took place on Monday 20 at 11:00hrs, within the block From Research to Practice: What is the best way to recover energy from sludge?, which runs the same day from 10:30 to 12:15 in the UMMA Auditorium. It was a 10-minute oral presentation with 5 minutes for questions and answers. The results presented come from the research of the team formed by Antón together with Ánder Castro, Sabela Balboa, Vanesa Paramá, Borja Álvarez, Celia Castro and Juan M. Lema.

 

The poster of the USC Biogroup (within the CRETUS research group) was presented on Tuesday 21 June with the identifier P58: Volatile Fatty Acid Production From Fish-canning Industry Effluents: The Impact Of Salinity. It was the result of research by Juan Iglesias-Riobó, Riccardo Bevilacqua, Miguel Mauricio-Iglesias and Marta Carballa. It was exhibited in the Michingan League Ballroom from 12:15 to 14:00 and from 17:15 to 19:00, together with the rest of the posters of the day.

 

AD17 was a good opportunity to raise international awareness of some of ECOVAL’s results and thus improve their communication and dissemination, in line with the project’s GT 6. The event was strongly attended by academics, utilities and consulting engineers.

CETAQUA showcases ECOVAL’s advances in sustainable waste management at CORFU

CETAQUA showcases ECOVAL's advances at CORFU

The International Conference on Sustainable Solid Waste Management (also called CORFU 2022) took place on the Greek island of Corfu from 15-18 June. This year, in its ninth edition, it sought to address the important issue of sustainable solid waste management by promoting safe practices and effective technologies. It aimed to stimulate the interest of scientists and citizens and inform them about the latest developments in the field of municipal solid waste management. The exhibitions were located in the Municipal Theatre in the city center, but could also be viewed online, subject to prior registration and booking.

 

The topics discussed were closely related to the ECOVAL project and its innovations. Therefore, on Thursday 16th at 18:00hrs, Ánder Castro, researcher at CETAQUA, presented the results obtained through experimentation in the pilot WWTP of Ourense. The paper is entitled Thermal hydrolysis pre-treatment has no positive influence on VFA production from sewage sludgeand is the result of the research carried out by Ánder himself together with S. Balboa, V. Paramá, B. Álvarez, C. Castro-Barros, J.M. Lema and A. Taboada-Santos. It is part of session XV of the event, in room 3, dedicated to the waste valorisation.

 

More specifically, the talk dealt with the effect of sewage sludge pre-treatments (in particular the so-called thermal hydrolysis) on the production of volatile fatty acids. This knowledge is very useful to reinforce the overall objective of the conference: to go a step further in solid waste management, for which it helps a lot to learn how to achieve value-added products by applying biorefinery processes to them.

 

The conference was a great opportunity to brought together scientists and professionals from government departments, industry, municipalities, universities, private companies and research centres, providing a forum for the exchange of the latest ideas and techniques in the world of waste management.

ECOVAL awarded a prize in Europe for its campaign “A new bin, are you in?”

Ecoval premiado en europa ewwr

The project was distinguished with the European Special Award during the European Week for Waste Reduction Ceremony, to which more than 12,400 actions were submitted

The communication and social awareness campaign “A new bin, are you in?“, launched by the Fundación Empresa Universidad (FEUGA) within the framework of the Ecoval Sudoe project, has been recognised with the European Special Award at the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) ceremony held in Brussels.

The award was given in recognition of the campaign’s impact, its creativity and participatory nature, as well as its good use of social media. More than 12,400 actions participated in the “Circular Communities” edition of the awards promoted annually by ACR+, an international network of cities and regions that share the goal of promoting sustainable resource management and accelerating the transition to a circular economy in their territories and beyond. The “A new bin, are you in?” campaign managed to stand out and place among the 60 actions shortlisted by the jury, remain among the 16 finalists and finally achieve the distinction.

 

The campaign focused on raising public awareness of the importance of separating waste correctly, with a focus on organic waste, the brown bin and the incorrect use of the toilet as a waste bin.

The award was presented by Chield Berends, representative of the waste unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment. In addition to its focus on organic waste and the new brown bin, the campaign also focused on waste that should not be flushed down the toilet. Proper waste separation and correct toilet use are of vital importance for projects such as Ecoval Sudoe, which focuses on the valorisation of municipal organic waste and sewage sludge into high value-added products such as volatile fatty acids. For the innovation proposed by the project to be really put into operation, proper waste separation has to be achieved first, and this is where the importance of this type of initiative lies.

The European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) is the largest waste prevention awareness campaign in Europe. Driven by local and regional public authorities, it brings together all kinds of actors – citizens, schools, businesses, NGOs, associations – who organise awareness-raising activities on waste reduction.

 

Schools in Palencia discover the importance of sorting organic waste

sorting organic waste palencia schools

The ECOVAL awareness campaign that the Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León is carrying out in Palencia was extended to the young people of the city. It has been through a series of meetings in different schools and institutes that began on 16 May and ended on 30 May at the Divino Maestro Educational Foundation.

On their journey, these educational days passed through the Colegio Santo Domingo de Guzmán, the CEIP Ciudad de Buenos Aires, the CEIP Jorge Manrique, the Colegio Tello Téllez de Meneses or the Centro de Formación Profesional Camino de la Miranda. In a total of 11 sessions distributed among these schools, plus Divino Maestro, the campaign reached a total number of 248 students. Ages ranged from 8 to 16 years old. If we add to this figure the students reached by the campaign through the partners FEUGA and CETAQUA in the schools CRA of Vilaboa, Filomena Dato and Colexio Mendiño we reach approximately 400 students aware of waste separation.

 

The circular economy as a regenerative economy.

The educational sessions were structured through an interactive and participatory procedure designed for schools and institutes in which the work carried out by Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León in the transmission of the circular economy as a regenerative economy is presented. It consists of a game of questions and answers that will allow students to understand the value and the cycle of organic matter in a circular economy model, understanding the different useful tools, such as the prevention of food waste or the correct separation of waste. A team of environmental educators were in charge of carrying it out.

This campaign has also included posters on buses and bus shelters, the organisation of the Palencia Businessmen’s Conference and the publication of a Guide to Good Practices that provides information on the problem of urban organic waste and how it can be tackled at home. All of this is focused on disseminating and raising awareness across the board of the possibilities that the ECOVAL project offers for the management of sludge and urban organic waste.

Ecoval Sudoe, a sustainable approach to urban sludge and urban biowaste management

On 8 June, the event “Ecoval Sudoe, a sustainable approach to urban sludge and urban biowaste management“, organised by Porto Ambiente, will bring together the main actors involved in ECOVAL to define a clear and detailed picture of the project. The venue will be the headquarters of Porto Ambiente in Porto.

The Portuguese organising company is responsible for the urban waste management and cleaning services of the Porto city council. In recent years, it has made an effort to improve organic waste collection through innovation by participating in international R&D&I projects. In ECOVAL, they are dedicated to the identification of legal barriers to the recovery of sludge and urban bio-waste and to the proposal of legislative changes for the implementation of the ECOVAL model and its arrival on the market.

 

The programme of the event, which runs from 09:30h to 17:00h, will start with a welcome by Filipe Araújo, the Vice-Mayor of Porto, and an introduction to the project by the coordinator Antón Taboada, from Cetaqua. This will be followed throughout the morning by a series of presentations from each of the partners with a coffee break. After lunch, the invited consortium will visit the LIPOR Compost Plant and the Águas do Porto Wastewater Treatment Plant, learning about their operation first hand. You can consult the full programme here.

Attendance is limited to consortium members and those invited by Porto Ambiente. It will be the first time that the entire ECOVAL project consortium will meet in person, and they will take the opportunity to hold an organisational meeting the day after the event.