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Severn Trent in European wastewater recycling collaboration

Severn Trent has joined a consortium of companies from across Europe to launch ‘Project WOW!', an innovation project concentrating on how to recover maximum value from wastewater.

Sewage contains valuable substances that can be used as raw materials for bio-based products - and in the UK and across North West Europe considerable opportunities are emerging to exploit this resource. Using the materials from ‘waste’ and by transitioning to a more circular approach in the water sector can help protect and preserve the Earth’s natural resources.

Project WOW! Is an Interreg North-West Europe project, with the title standing for ‘Wider business Opportunities for raw materials from Waste water’. It aims to make the circular economy transition by developing value chains for three different raw materials from sewage: cellulose, PHA/bioplastics and lipids.

To realise the market opportunity sewage treatment plants and industries requiring materials for their production process need to be better aligned.

Pete Vale, Severn Trent’s representative on the project explains: “This calls for a change in mindset: sewage treatment plants need not only to recycle clean water for return to the environment or for societal use, but also to become “factories” recovering valuable materials and energy’. And industry, for example the chemical and agricultural industry need to think differently about sewage, for example as a valuable source of material rather than ‘dirty unsafe water’. Last but not least, regulation should better fit this new circular practice.

He continues: “The project will identify high potential value chains for raw materials from sewage; develop a Decision Support Tool that guides sewage treatment plants in their journey towards a circular approach; build and run three WOW! pilots to optimise and implement innovative recovery and upcycling techniques; create bio-products such as bioplastics, biofuel and bio-char; and create national policy action plans and an EU policy roadmap.” 

Last month the WOW! consortium came together for the project kick off meeting. Partners from the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, including Severn Trent, gathered to plan the delivery of this exciting project.

Vale continued: “Our role is to focus on the development of the decision support tool; host learning visits at our Spernal resource recovery test bed site for other Waste Water Treatment Plant-operators across North West Europe; develop the project’s communication strategy; develop a stakeholder network group; and conduct UK market analysis reviewing opportunities and constraints around regulatory issues and product standards. We are looking forward to a fruitful collaboration.”

Author: James Brockett,
Topic: Innovation
Tags: circular economy , sewage treatment

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