Brussels – The European Commission has approved an investment package of €222 million from the EU budget to support Europe’s transition to more sustainable and low-carbon future under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action. The EU funding will mobilise additional investments leading to a total of €379 million going towards 139 new projects in 20 Member States. Summarys of the most important projects concerning waste treatment are listed as follows.
Wastewater treatment plants built more than 20 years ago may struggle to deal with higher loading rates, especially in areas with a large seasonal increase in population (e.g. tourist resorts). To improve the performance of overloaded extended aeration wastewater treatment plants, this project proposes a novel process for removing solids prior to aeration. The microscreening system for biosolids removal will be installed at a wastewater treatment plant in Rethymno, Crete. It will be integrated with a biosolids drying and gasification system to enable combustion for energy production. The goal is to produce enough energy to meet all the needs of the treatment plant, making it totally self-sufficient. By reducing the biological load in treated wastewater, the project will also protect the aquatic environment.
Europe’s crude oil refineries produce around one million tonnes of petroleum sludge each year. Treatment and disposal of this waste material is complex and expensive. This project will demonstrate the smart exploitation of petroleum sludge by treating it with modified minerals at an industrial-scale plant at Corinth Refineries in Greece. In the process it will transform hazardous waste into an added-value commercial product that can be used to make an ‚engineered soil‘ for construction of landfills and remediation of abandoned quarries. The demonstration plant will treat 3500 tonnes of petroleum sludge per year.
Software modelling can help assess the risk to health and the environment of chemicals, and to identify potential substitutes for harmful substances. LIFE VERMEER is developing two new tools that will have broad application and will help implement the EU REACH Regulation. Both tools will be validated within six case studies (food contact materials, biocides, petroleum and oil fraction, greener solvents, dispersants, and cosmetics), so that they can become part of a platform called VEGA (Virtual models for property Evaluation of chemicals within a Global Architecture).
The EU generates an estimated 76.5 to 102 million tonnes of municipal bio-waste each year. This is mostly food and pruning waste from gardens and green public areas. LIFECAB will demonstrate a new bio-waste treatment cycle, involving biochemical and chemical processes within a hydrolysis prototype facility with strong technology transfer potential. Composted municipal bio-wastes will be hydrolysed to yield soluble bio-based substances, for use as products (e.g. fertiliser) and as additives that improve the anaerobic fermentation process, thereby increasing biogas productivity and quality.
When a vehicle reaches the end of its useful life, what’s next? According to EU legislation, at least 85 percent (by weight) should be recycled. This project is seeking to lower the environmental impact of so-called end-of-life vehicles by developing more efficient recovery systems and techniques for small and medium-sized dismantlers. It will validate and demonstrate its new technology at two pilot vehicle dismantling sites. This will enable the recovery of larger amounts of materials and components, and up to 99% of all vehicle fluids by weight. It will be faster, safer and more efficient than current commercial systems.
The manufacture of high-density steel components for the automotive industry has a considerable negative impact on the environment. This could be alleviated with more efficient use of raw materials and energy. LIFE 4GreenSteel will show that it is feasible to replace the traditional energy-intensive machining process with innovative High Density Powder Metallurgy technology. This should result in considerable energy and material savings, and reduce by more than 70% the lubricant premixed with metal powder, increasing energy efficiency and solving related emission problems.
What if instead of going to waste, out of date food could be used to generate energy? i-REXFO LIFE will demonstrate the feasibility, sustainability and replicability of an innovative approach that could prevent costly landfilling, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create new uses for ‚expired food‘. The approach centres on development of a tool to assess the bioenergy potential of locally-available waste food in terms of business models, legislative frameworks and other factors. This will be used to demonstrate sustainable ‚reduction of expired food‘ strategies in the Umbria region of Italy, with actions focused on promoting the use of near-to-expiration food, such as distribution to charities, and raising consumer awareness about food label information.
Recovery rates of waste electrical and electronic equipment could be improved with greater consumer awareness and involvement of equipment retailers and distributors in the collection process. LIFE WEEE will trial a new governance model that follows this approach in Tuscany, Italy, and Andalusia, Spain. This includes setting up new information exchanges and equipment disposal sites and simplifying adminstrative procedures for businesses involved in its collection and management. Making people aware of the importance of separate collection of electrical and electronic waste is essential both to eliminate behaviour that leads to severe environmental risks and for the full implementation of the EU Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Granular sludge produced during wastewater treatment contains a relatively high percentage of valuable components such as alginate-like exopolysaccharides. These are comparable to the alginates traditionally derived from seaweed and could replace many fossil fuel-based chemicals used to manufacture paper, textiles and concrete, as well as in agriculture. This project will set up a full-scale demonstration plant to produce around 1000 tonnes per year of NeoAlginate from granular sludge, developing new markets for bio-based products, in line with circular economy principles. The payback period for a full-scale plant is estimated to be three years only.
Expanded polystyrene foam is used extensively throughout Europe as an insulation material. However, only 7.5% of it is recycled; the rest is landfilled or incinerated. The objective of LIFE-PSLOOP is to recycle both expanded polystyrene construction waste and extruded polystyrene and to demonstrate an economically viable alternative to incineration. The project will construct an industrial-scale recycling plant that can process 3000 tonnes per year of polystyrene waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 78% (12,000 tonnes annually).
Ammonia (NH3) is a precursor of particulate matter when released into the atmosphere. It causes acidification and eutrophication in soils and water. Dairy cattle farming is responsible for 44% of all ammonia emissions in the EU. Ammonia is formed when cow faeces mixes with urea. This project could reduce ammonia emissions from cattle barns by over 60% by separating faeces and urine immediately, using a robotic system called Lely RFX. The faeces will be separated into a fibrous fraction, for use as cattle bedding, and a liquid slurry fertiliser. The urine will be treated to produce other types of fertiliser that can reduce ammonia emissions on fields by more than 60% compared to non-processed manure. The new system will be tested in the Netherlands, Denmark, France and Germany.
Phosphorous is widely used in agricultural fertilisers, detergents, household cleaning products and industrial processes. As a result, more phosphorus has been measured in lakes and rivers in recent years. This project will use new, natural-based coagulants in tertiary wastewater treatment processes. These are designed to replace potentially toxic synthetic coagulants and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of phosphorous removal. Sludge from the treatment process will be used in biomethanation processes to produce biogas as well as agricultural applications.
Brewers‘ spent yeast is a brewing industry by-product. It contains a high level of nutrients. However, it is highly susceptible to rapid contamination and spoilage caused by microorganisms. This has hampered the large-scale deployment of some technologies for its reuse. This project will process spent yeast in order to generate valuable materials for a range of industrial applications. It will test, optimise and scale-up the processing of the yeast, aiming to demonstrate the commercial use of yeast constituents in the brewing and pharmaceutical industries. It will also explore options in the animal feed, wine, food and cosmetics industries. At the end of the project, a full engineering package will be developed to transfer the technology to AB InBev breweries.
Treatment and reuse options are needed for municipal waste. This project will develop a new process for the thermal treatment of the biomass fraction of municipal solid waste and its processing into liquid biofuel. The process will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from waste treatment by an estimated 19 percent.
Wind turbine blades are made of glass-fibre reinforced plastic, a composite material that is difficult to recycle. LIFE REFIBRE will design and build an innovative prototype plant to recycle the blades and obtain glass fibres, which will be added to asphalt mixes for road construction. The fibres will improve the mechanical properties of road surfaces, increasing their durability and reducing maintenance requirements and costs.
Around 20 million tonnes of galvanised steel is produced in the EU every year. Spent pickling acids from the steel galvanising process are typically treated using conventional processes, producing a residue that is sent to landfill. A new technology developed by this project promises to selectively recover zinc and iron chloride from spent pickling acids. The recovered zinc will be reused as a raw material for galvanising, and the iron chloride will be used as a reagent in wastewater treatment plants.
Polyurethane is widely found in home furnishings: more than 3.5 million tonnes of the material is used in Europe each year. This generates some 675 000 tonnes/year of waste, most of which goes to landfill. This project sets out to increase the reuse of polyurethane waste that is currently managed as inert waste, or is recovered through techniques that are not environmentally sustainable. Using a novel technology, it will integrate polyurethane waste into new building materials, thereby extending its life-cycle. Widespread uptake of the new technology would also mean less gypsum needs to be mined.
Some 335,000 tonnes per year of expanded polystyrene is used for food packaging in the EU. Only 25% of this is recycled, 30% is incinerated, and the rest is landfilled. Polystyrene boxes containing fish products are a particular challenge for recyclers. LIFE EPS SURE has a potential solution: a technically and economically viable new process for converting those fish boxes into food-grade polystyrene. It will collect 10 tonnes of boxes from El Corte Inglés stores in Spain and produce 4-5 tonnes of recycled polystyrene. This will be used to make 40 prototypes of food contact packaging. A set of good manufacturing practices adapted to legal and operational requirements in Greece, Italy and the UK will set the scene for replication in those countries.
There is scope to improve the management of commercial plastics packaging waste in the EU. LIFE RECYCPACK is a demonstration project to foster green public procurement of this waste stream in towns and cities and show that it is a valuable resource. It will operate two recycling facilities, in Hungary and Spain, producing recycled polyethylene and polystyrene from such waste. The recycled material will be used to manufacture new plastic products, thereby closing the loop. The project will also evaluate the potential for replication of its recycling systems and circular economy business model in Belgium, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Turkey.
LIFE DRY4GAS will develop a pilot plant to dry sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants for reuse in energy generation, the construction industry and agriculture. The technology will be installed at an existing treatment plant in Torrepacheco,Spain, where it is expected to reduce waste volume by more than 80%. The project should bring numerous environmental benefits, including reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 880 to 1111 tonnes per year, cutting chemical fertiliser use and water consumption by 20% and increasing carbon sequestration in soil by the same amount. It will also address negative environmental impacts associated with using sludge in agriculture.
This project will showcase a marketable, new technology for directly converting waste heat into electricity, based on a thermoelectric principle called the Seebeck effect. The technology consists of a modular unit using multiple thermo-electric generator cells controlled through a patented programmable control unit based on system-on-chip technology. The technology will be demonstrated in industrial sectors with high levels of waste heat emissions, through three pilot projects (classified by temperature ranges) that will permit part of the wasted energy to be recovered in the form of heat and transformed into electricity. The net effect will be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The wastewater treatment sector discharges a lot of reusable nutrients into the environment. LIFE ENRICH will design and build a new sludge line configuration in Murcia Este’s wastewater treatment plant to recover nitrogen and phosphorous for use in agriculture, either directly on crops or for fertiliser. The project will also define optimal recipes for fertilisation using products obtained from the process and demonstrate their agronomic properties. By recovering phosphorous, a critical raw material, this LIFE project will contribute directly to the implementation of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan.
Metal surface treatment processes such as degreasing, acid pickling, alloy baths or lacquering generate large amounts of toxic liquid wastes. LIFE DIME will seek to prove that three effluent treatment technologies (extraction, crystallisation and membrane distillation) can be integrated into a ‚zero liquid discharge‘ process in a new pilot plant. This solution is designed to recover raw materials from the hazardous waste stream for reuse, namely hydrochloric acid and metal salts. As well as avoiding the need for sludge disposal, the recovered materials could be worth an estimated €550,000 per plant per year.
The full list of projects can be visited under europa.eu.
Source: EU Commission