Palencia’s businessmen discuss the waste management model promoted by ECOVAL

As part of the ECOVAL awareness campaign in the city of Palencia, promoted by the Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León, which since March has included posters on buses and bus shelters and training in schools, the Palencia Business Day will take place on 16 May. The event brings together between 16:30 and 18:30 companies such as Aquona or Una mosca en mi sopa s.l. and institutions such as the City Council of Palencia. It is supported by the Palencia City Council, Aquona, the Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Hotel and Catering Businesses of Palencia. The venue will be the Business Incubator of the Chamber of Commerce of Palencia in Santander Avenue nº44.

 

El programa de la Jornada comprende distintas charlas y puedes consultarlo completo aquí. Tras la bienvenida por parte de Laura Díez (Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León) y Ricardo Terrades (Una mosca en mi sopa s.l.), comienza la presentación de Aquona y la economía circular en la Gestión del Agua, acompañada de consejos para la buena gestión del agua aplicada a la hostelería, de la mano de Laura de Vega Franco, Directora de Desarrollo Sostenible de Aquona. Le sigue una pausa para café y la sesión de Gabriel Rubí, jefe del servicio de Medio Ambiente, que acude como representante del Ayuntamiento, para hablar de gestión de la materia orgánica, el quinto contenedor (are you in?) y los planes y previsiones sobre la gestión de residuos para empresarios. Por último, cierra la jornada la charla de Ricardo Terrades, Director Creativo de Una mosca en mi sopa s.l. y experto en comunicación gastronómica y sostenibilidad hablando sobre los resultados beneficiosos de los restaurantes con cero residuos.

 

The programme of the conference includes different talks and you can consult it in full here. After the welcome by Laura Díez (Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León) and Ricardo Terrades (Una mosca en mi sopa s.l.), the presentation of Aquona and the circular economy in Water Management begins, accompanied by tips for good water management applied to the hospitality industry, by Laura de Vega Franco, Director of Sustainable Development of Aquona. This was followed by a coffee break and a session by Gabriel Rubí, head of the Environment Service, who came as a representative of the City Council, to talk about organic matter management, the fifth container (are you in?) and the plans and forecasts for waste management for entrepreneurs. Finally, Ricardo Terrades, Creative Director of Una mosca en mi sopa s.l. and expert in gastronomic communication and sustainability, will close the day talking about the beneficial results of zero waste restaurants.

 

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Biogroup investigates how to optimise VFA production at ECOVAL

The transformation of waste into value-added products is an ambitious goal in the transition to a circular economy. This is what ECOVAL and other research projects are working towards. Among the possible angles from which to approach this mission, the conversion of organic waste by anaerobic fermentation (the so-called carboxylate platform) is one of the most promising emerging biorefineries that can valorise the organic carbon present in biowaste and sewage sludge into volatile fatty acids (VFA). These can be further processed into chemicals, biopolymers and biofuels, which are needed by a multitude of industries.

This technology, like all emerging technologies, also presents significant barriers. One of them, which prevents the generalisation of the carboxylate platform, is its poor selectivity, which leads to a mixture of acetic, propionic, butyric and valeric acid mainly, and the impossibility of isolating them. The USC Biogroup is tackling the challenge of selective sludge valorisation at ECOVAL with a multidisciplinary approach that integrates experimentation and mathematical modelling. Based on their previously developed tools to predict the fermentation products of sugars and proteins to sludge, they perform sludge fermentation experiments in which they measure how their main components change: the solubilisation of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, hydrolysis to produce sugars, amino acids and fatty acids, and finally fermentation to VFA.

The final objective is to provide operational guidelines to predict under which conditions (at which pH, with which residence time in the reactor, with which possible co-substrates) the production of each of the VFAs can be maximised, in line with ECOVAL’s WG 2, which focuses on the optimisation of this process.

Sludge acidification reactors of the Bipogroup laboratory

 

The Biogroup also wants to answer other questions through the activities developed in the ECOVAL project. These are: how can we select the best strategy for converting waste into resources from an environmental point of view among the technically possible ones; do we always have the guarantee that the environmental cost will be lower compared to the current management when we take into account the complete life cycle of the process?

 

In recent decades, it has become clear how unsustainable the traditional economic model based on a linear approach is.

Therefore, in contrast, there is a widespread conviction that this model should be replaced by a more sustainable model, in which the value of products, materials and resources is retained in the economy for as long as possible, and the value of products, materials and resources is retained in the economy for as long as possible, and waste generation is minimised: the so-called circular economy. And in this context, methodologies based on life cycle thinking are presented as the appropriate assessment tools to guide the development of processes in its transition.

The transition towards a circular economy model requires a new approach to waste management, which involves changing the way we see waste from a problem to a resource with the potential to develop added value. Considering that organic waste represents around 40% of the total municipal waste produced, the importance of its proper management and recovery is evident.

The possibilities are varied and depend on multiple factors, so ECOVAL, thanks to the Biogroup, will establish reference values, i.e. the quantification of the environmental impacts of current organic waste and sewage sludge management strategies in the SUDOE area, taking into account the regulatory requirements of imminent application. These values will determine the baseline for comparison of the environmental performance of the innovative strategies resulting from the project for obtaining high added value bioproducts from the treatment of the same waste. In this way, we will have concrete metrics with which to evaluate the impact of the new management system and the products derived from it in environmental terms, one of the tasks of WG 6: “Replicability and transfer of the business model and its environmental and economic assessment”.

R&D&I projects boost Ourense’s biofactory as a European benchmark in circular economy

The results obtained in the CIGAT Biofactory Joint Unit have boosted the development of new R&D&I solutions in the Ourense biofactory, through the new ECOVAL and WalNUT projects.

The Ourense Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) is currently a benchmark in circular economy thanks to the transformation it has undergone in recent years by becoming a biofactory, i.e. a new model of facility based on the principles of circular economy, where water is regenerated for subsequent reuse, renewable energy is produced and waste is transformed into resources. In this way, the value of resources is maximised by promoting an energy-neutral model that contributes to zero waste.

The success of the results obtained in the CIGAT Biofactory Joint Unit, the result of the public-private collaboration between Viaqua, Cetaqua and the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN), has served as a basis for the development and implementation of new R&D&I projects, this time with a focus on Europe, such as H2020 Walnut and Interreg Sudoe ECOVAL.

Both projects, aligned with the 2030 Agenda, position Galicia as a European benchmark in terms of the implementation of innovative technologies developed for the efficient management of urban flows and the consequent use of waste for a lower environmental impact.

ECOVAL (Coordination strategies for the management and recovery of sludge and organic waste in the SUDOE region), headed by Cetaqua Galicia, is based on the valorisation of urban organic waste and sewage sludge to obtain bio-products such as Volatile Fatty Acids (VFA), useful for the plastics, lubricants and paint industries, among others. Walnut, led by CARTIF, seeks the recovery of nutrients and the subsequent production of biofertilisers, thus preventing the contamination of water bodies and promoting circularity in the fertiliser industry within the framework of the European Union.

 

More than 100 people attended the event “From wastewater treatment plants to biofactories: the potential of water in the circular economy”, to learn about the technical advances and results of the two European projects being developed in Ourense.

During the event “From wastewater treatment plants to biofactories: the potential of water in the circular economy”, held this morning in the auditorium of Ourense, leading representatives of public administration, universities and companies have come to discuss about the existing social, legal and market barriers for the valorisation of high added value products present in wastewater, useful for industry and agriculture.

The Deputy Mayor of Ourense, Armando Ojea, opened the event by highlighting “the development of research projects in Ourense, which allow giving a second chance to WWTP waste, making the city more sustainable”.

Actors from the entities involved, such as Agbar, Cetaqua and the CARTIF Technology Centre, have intervened to talk about the circular economy models implemented, the valorisation of matter in fatty acids and nutrients applied in the fertiliser industry carried out. On the other hand, the University of Vigo and FEUGA, have participated focusing on the legislative and transfer barriers for the transformation of wastewater treatment plants into biofactories.

The end users of the extracted resources, represented by Repsol, Fertiberia and Grupo Valora have highlighted during their interventions the viability of the application of these compounds in the chemical, petrochemical and fertiliser industries as a key step to promote circular and sustainable models.

During the round table moderated by the Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC), Juan Manuel Lema, representatives of the Diputación de Ourense, Cetaqua, Viaqua, Repsol, Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León (FPNCyL) and Fertiberia met to discuss the potential of water within the circular economy.

Juan José Vázquez, head of Water of the Xunta de Galicia in Ourense, has been in charge of closing the event highlighting the importance of projects like these to build a sustainable future and deal with the problem of the lack of resources and the increase of waste.

The day ended with a guided tour of the Ourense biofactory, where attendees had the opportunity to see, first hand, the facilities and technologies applied for both projects.

Turning mud into gold

This is what the NEREUS network is working on within the ECOVAL project. Ecoval Sudoe is developing a method for the extraction of high added value molecules, Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs), from processed sludge. The aim of the NEREUS project is to test a process for the extraction and purification of VFAs from sludge sent to them by the coordinator CETAQUA. This process must be economically viable and meet market specifications. In addition to this double constraint, there are legal barriers related to the recovery of bio-waste and sludge from wastewater treatment plants. This is why the Ecoval Sudoe project tries to go beyond what is established.

 

Extracting, sanitising, filtering and concentrating
NEREUS has developed a dynamic nanofiltration pilot plant with three major advantages: it extracts the molecules of interest from organic sludge, ensures their sanitisation and filters at low energy costs. After this first filtration stage, concentration processes are applied to achieve the desired objective.

Waste organic matter is further valorised at INSA Toulouse for energy production and through the land application study at the Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León.

ECOVAL Sudoe with World Water Day

World Water Day is held on 22nd March. In 2022, the spotlight is on groundwater: those that feed, apart from rivers and springs, wells and pumps. Life would not be possible without it. Most arid areas of the planet depend on this resource entirely, which supplies a large proportion of the water we use for consumption, sanitation, food production and industrial processes

Almost all fresh water in liquid form in the world is groundwater. In much of the globe, these reserves are being overexploited and we run the risk of weakening this resource. Moreover, as climate change worsens, groundwater is becoming increasingly critical, making it more necessary than ever to manage it sustainably, as well as reuse and give a second life to the other water sources that we have. The UN has just published its annual report on the state of water to mark the occasion of this day, and you can check it out here.

ECOVAL joins this celebration, which aims to raise awareness about the global water crisis and the need to seek measures to address it so that we can achieve Sustainable Development Goal No. 6: Clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. To get closer to that forecast, we cannot forget about wastewater and its management.

 

1 million, 300 thousand tonnes of sludge not reused

Urban wastewater treatment processes generate large amounts of sludge. In Galicia alone, over 150 thousand tonnes of this sludge are generated each year, which would fill the inside of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral every year. If we were to talk about the figure in the Sudoe space, it would rise to 1 million, 300 thousand tonnes.

This sludge has traditionally been seen as waste, but in the Ecoval Sudoe project we demonstrate the technical feasibility of its transformation into high value-added products such as Volatile Fatty Acids, which are transformed into adhesives, lubricants or paints in the chemical and petrochemical industry or fertilisers. A profound transformation in the management of the water cycle based on the circular economy and sustainability. The Ourense Biofactory thus allows us to go beyond the traditional concept of water purification to transform sludge into new valuable resources and guarantee a second life for it. You can learn more about the function of ECOVAL in wastewater recovery, which allows the cycle of this key resource to be extended for life, in the following video:

To follow the conversation about World Water Day 2022 online, you can use the hashtag #WorldWaterDay or check out the UN account dedicated to it.

ECOVAL joins the Green Project Expo platform

Ecoval Sudoe is now part of the Green Project Expo (GPE), an international platform created to connect and communicate innovative projects from different economic sectors that seek to build a more sustainable world. It serves as a large-scale digital exhibition to reach a wide audience, create and disseminate events or make contacts.

 

Green Project Expo brings together various projects from all kinds of industries, from water treatment to transport or health, energy efficiency, technology, forest management, agriculture, oil and gas or smart cities. ECOVAL is included in the “Bio-waste and CO2” category, where it shares space with Biomotive, FRONTSH1P or Grøn Sky, favouring the creation of networks between projects with common interests.

 

ECOVAL’s presence in this new digital space that functions as a loudspeaker brings it closer to achieving its communication and dissemination objectives. Belonging to this platform offers a great opportunity for the project in terms of visibility, impact, development of synergies and networking. Check here ECOVAL’s page on GPE or take a look at its Twitter and Linkedin!

Women’s push for SDG 6: clean water and sanitation for all

Every February 11, since 2016, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated. To commemorate it, the United Nations organizes its seventh assembly with the aim of enhancing the role of women as active agents, not only as beneficiaries, in scientific and technological advances that lead us towards a more sustainable and egalitarian future.

Although progress has been made in recent years, women are still underrepresented in STEM. They account for 33.3% of researchers, hold less than a quarter of decision-making positions in educational institutions, represent only 28% of engineering graduates and tend to have shorter and lower-paid careers than their male colleagues, according to UN data. Gender equality, in addition to being a fundamental human right, is essential to meet the complex scientific, ecological and technological challenges of tomorrow with full human potential and sustainable development.

 

Water is the key to life

The theme of this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”. It aims to put the spotlight on the millions of people who, according to UN reports, will be without access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services by 2030. The causes will be increased demand and poor management of water resources, aggravated by climate change.

The Assembly will bring together scientists and experts from around the world at UN headquarters to discuss the nexus of water in achieving the three pillars of sustainable development: economic prosperity, social justice and environmental integrity. It aims to accelerate the achievement of the sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which aims to ensure water availability, sanitation and sustainable water management for all.

ECOVAL is also working in these directions with the reuse of sewage sludge to create high value-added bio-products such as volatile fatty acids. It is estimated that each year, sewage treatment plants in the Sudoe region generate around 1,300,000 tons of water waste that could have a second life thanks to ECOVAL.

Vanesa Paramá, a research biologist at Cetaqua’s pilot plant, who is working to give sludge a second life in line with the circular economy in the water sector, tells us about it. Thanks to her and other researchers, the ECOVAL project is a solid reality.

Anyone who wants to follow the conversation online can use the hashtags #WomenInScience and #February11. For more information you can visit the following website or the program of the event.

 

How to overcome bottlenecks for the valorisation of biowaste and sludge-based products?

The model that the Ecoval Sudoe project aims to promote involves a paradigm shift: from wastewater treatment stations to biofactories. A change of model, from linear to circular and a change of concept: waste for resources. However, it is not enough to test new technologies for the valorisation of resources categorised as waste; innovation has to go hand by hand with the acceptance of the business model. This is why the project is launching a series of workshops in which different experts will answer the question: how to overcome the barriers for the valorisation of biowaste and sewage sludge?  

The first of the workshops was on 2 December, from 11:00 and 13:30, with the participation of Spanish experts who presented and discussed the barriers they have identified from their experience with bio-waste and sewage sludge, as well as proposals to overcome them. Therefore, the conference, led by Laura Díez and Inés Méndez, technicians of the Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla y León, was attended by:

With the interaction of all participants, the debate on the main legal and administrative barriers to the valorisation of bio-waste and sewage sludge was led by the following speakers:

  • Daniel Ruíz, Grupo Valora, a company specializing in the treatment, recovery and exploitation of waste that can be used for agricultural and forestry purposes, in particular substrate, fertilisers and technosoils.
  • Inmaculada Sanz, FCC, an expert group in environmental, water and infrastructure.
  • Luz Panizo, Aquona, an environmental company that focuses its activity on integral water cycle services.

Stay tuned, this workshop is the first one and focuses on the situation and experience in Spain, but further dates will be announced to analyse the situation in Portugal and France as well. 

A new bin, are you in? – Ecoval Sudoe

Very soon, brown containers will be another element of our streets, a path towards a more circular and environmentally friendly economy. But what is organic waste and what waste should we dispose of in the new brown container?

In the framework of the European Week for Waste Reduction, the Ecoval Sudoe project launches a communication campaign to: 

  • Raise awareness of the need to reduce the waste we generate.
  • Raise awareness of the importance of correct waste separation.
  • Inform about the type of waste that should be disposed of in the brown container.
  • Inform about the environmental benefits of the correct separation and recycling of organic waste.

The campaign will also raise awareness about the incorrect use of the toilet as a waste bin. In order to minimise the waste that is improperly flushed, Ecoval will raise awareness of the consequences of improper toilet use. The most immediate impact would be clogged pipes, but water pollution and environmental degradation are also a direct consequence. It will therefore be explained:

  • Waste that should not be flushed down the toilet
  • The environmental consequences of flushing waste down the toilet

The campaign will run in Spain, France, and Portugal – with content generated in all 3 languages – and will consist of animation videos and testimonial videos, quizzes, and infographics with the aim of raising awareness of correct waste separation and increasing citizens’ commitment to recycling. Different activities will also be organised in schools, where the sharing of the content generated for this campaign will be encouraged.

Join our campaign!

Biofactories and water reuse: Aquona shares its best practices at the 1st Castilla y León Circular Bioeconomy Forum

The European Interreg ECOVAL project that will turn the Palencia wastewater treatment plant into a biofactory is one of the proposals that Aquona’s Director of Sustainable Development, Laura de Vega, shared at the 1st Circular Bioeconomy Forum of Castilla y León that took place in Soria on 27th and 28th October. 

29th October 2021- The circular economy has become a key paradigm for water to be an engine that accelerates the ecological transition and contributes to overcoming the demographic challenge.  This requires innovative proposals from administrations and companies such as Aquona, which manages “the sustainable water cycle in 130 municipalities in Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León with a low-carbon model and a commitment to digitalisation and technology to apply solutions based on the circular economy”, said Laura de Vega, the company’s Director of Sustainable Development.

This was highlighted by De Vega at the 1st Circular Bioeconomy Forum of Castilla y León, which was held in Soria on 27th and 28th October. Specifically, Aquona‘s Director of Sustainable Development participated in the workshop on best practices and innovation projects in circular bioeconomy together with Luis Francisco Martín, ReFood Commercial Technician in the central area of Spain of the Saria Group; Ángela Osma, General Secretary of the Spanish Association of Compostable Biodegradable Plastics; Jorge Miñón, Founding Partner of Agrae Solutions S.L. and María Pilar Bernal, President of the Spanish Composting Network and Research Professor at CEBAS-CSIC.

“The circular bioeconomy in the water cycle” was the name of Aquona’s presentation in which it shared the projects in this area that the company is promoting. One of the first lines of action discussed was the transformation of wastewater treatment plants into biofactories, a process in which the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Palencia that Aquona manages is currently involved. The plant’s thermal utilisation rate is already 100% and its energy self-sufficiency is 65%. In addition, “100% of the sludge produced in the treatment process is recovered and used in agriculture”, said Laura de Vega, adding that the “recovery of sand for use as compost” or as filler material in construction sites and ditches is also being tackled. As for water reuse, “part of the treated water is being used to irrigate gardens,” said De Vega. The protection of biodiversity and the involvement of the local community close the cycle in this transformation process.

In addition, the Palencia WWTP is one of the application scenarios of the European Interreg ECOVAL project. With a budget of 1.4 million euros, this initiative is based on the recovery of sludge and solid urban waste to obtain high added value volatile fats for the plastics, lubricants and agrochemical industries.  The Junta de Castilla y León, Palencia City Council and Aquona, together with other partners, promote the project coordinated by CETAQUA, the water technology centre of Agbar, the group to which Aquona belongs.

Circularity in the field of energy can be found in León, where Aguas de León, a mixed company owned by Aquona and the City Council of León, manages the municipal water service and is promoting the Life Nexus project that will generate micro-hydroelectric energy and promote its storage.

This firm commitment to innovation and the company’s circular economy has the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as its roadmap, where alliances “between all stakeholders are essential to multiply the impact of actions”, says Laura de Vega. In the same way, the 2030 Agenda is the guide to achieve a green, sustainable and inclusive reconstruction after the pandemic in which the Next Generation Recovery Funds “are an opportunity to promote the circular economy, propose solutions to climate change and address the needs of digitalisation, supply, sanitation and purification that help us to unite the territory and put an end to depopulation”, she concluded.