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 participated today in an event organised by the Finnova Foundation for the LIFE ECODIGESTION 2.0 project in the framework of the European Week for Waste Reduction. The main objective of this event is the dissemination of projects and organisations committed to waste management and green transition in Europe to raise awareness on sustainable management of resources and waste.
In the meeting, which took place telematically, Ecoval Sudoe presented its project, focused on the valorisation of urban organic waste for the production of high added value compounds such as Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs), together with other innovative initiatives. FEUGA, Ecoval Sudoe’s main partner in charge of communication, also participated in the presentation of the BIOMASA CAP and BIOMASA AP projects, which seek the valorisation of biomass waste through the production of biofuels.
The day began with the presentation by LIFE ECODIGESTION 2.0 of its project, which promotes the maximisation of biogas generation and the increase of energy self-sufficiency of wastewater treatment plants. Other participants to highlight were G2G Algae, focused on the cultivation of microalgae as a solution for the purification of polluted effluents, or LIFE INFUSION, which is responsible for the recovery of nutrients, biogas and water from polluted water.
Finnova is a European foundation that supports the financing of companies, regions or municipalities and, among its areas of expertise, includes water and waste management. In this context and as the coordinating body of LIFE ECODIGESTION 2.0, it convened Ecoval Sudoe and the above mentioned innovative projects on the occasion of the European Week for Waste Reduction. This week is the biggest waste prevention awareness raising event in Europe and is therefore of paramount importance for the dissemination of Ecoval Sudoe’s activity.
Participation in events of this kind reinforces Ecoval Sudoe’s commitment to cooperation and knowledge transfer with different agents in the biotechnology sector specialising in waste treatment and the economic recovery of waste, promoting the transition towards a more sustainable and circular society.
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.
On the 15th of November, the ECOVAL SUDOE project will carry out a waste collection campaign in which second year students from Los Sauces secondary school will participate. The activity will take place in Tambo Island (Poio, Pontevedra), on the occasion of the European Week of Waste Reduction and framed in the initiative Let’s Clean Up Europe 2022, which aims to clean the largest number of sites on the European continent while raising awareness among citizens about the volume of waste present in their localities. One of the objectives of this activity from ECOVAL is to educate new generations about the importance of recycling and preserving a healthy and clean environment, as well as to join forces between different groups to generate synergies around the project.
The event, jointly organised by FEUGA and CETAQUA with the collaboration of VIAQUA and the Council of Poio will start at 9:30 am and, after the cleaning of the island, those responsible for the activity will give a talk on the importance of the correct separation of waste at source and the brown bin for organic matter, without which the ECOVAL project could not be carried out. Indeed, proper waste separation is essential for innovation and economic projects to be carried out, as organic waste and sewage sludge are the raw material on which the ECOVAL Sudoe project feeds, transforming this waste into high added value products such as Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs), valuable resources for the plastics and agrochemical industries.
Back on land, the students will finally visit the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) of Os Praceres (Pontevedra), managed by Viaqua, where the key process of urban wastewater treatment will be explained to the students, emphasizing the individual responsibility of each citizen in this project and the benefits it brings to society as a whole. It is vitally important that young people are aware of this process and, consequently, of the problems caused by improperly flushing waste down the toilet, such as clogged sewers and treatment plants and the degradation of the oceans’ wealth.
This activity is included in ECOVAL’s awareness campaign on the separation of organic waste aimed at the new generations, joining those previously carried out in six schools in Castilla y León by the Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León, as well as the four carried out by FEUGA and CETAQUA in four schools in Galicia. In this way, ECOVAL reaches the figure of approximately 450 students aware of this issue, bringing science closer to citizens and helping to build a sustainable future based on the principle of circular economy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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