In February of this year, two SMART-Plant demonstration systems installed at the Carbonera Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) were officially inaugurated in the Province of Treviso, Italy, in the presence of officials from the European Commission and the Ministry of the Environment. Over 180 participants attended the event, which included a workshop and a Facility tour.
Becoming a Water Resource Recovery Facility
SMART-Plant is a project that’s aim is to demonstrate the viability of a circular wastewater treatment model. Traditional wastewater treatment plants are converted into Water Resource Recovery Facilities, where products such as cellulose, biopolymers and nutrients are recovered to then go on to become commercial products in the construction, chemical and agriculture markets.
Recovering PHA – A Raw Material for Bioplastics
At the Carbonera WRRF, the Salsnes Filter system is installed as part of the SMARTech 5 demonstration system. It performs primary treatment, separating fine cellulose fibers from toilet paper in the wastewater to produce a highly-concentrated cellulosic sludge. This sludge contains ~70% cellulose versus settled primary sludge which contains around 35%.
The primary sludge is fed into a fermentation reactor where biodegradable solids are converted into volatile fatty acids. The liquid phase of the fermentation unit is used as a carbon source for nitrogen removal, so the WRRF doesn’t need to purchase methanol, saving costs and reducing safety management. The liquid phase also accumulates around 1.0 kg/day of Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), a raw material that can be used in the production of bioplastics.
An EU Horizon 2020 Programme
In total, there are nine SMART-Plant demonstration systems at seven Plants across Europe. Funding for the project comes from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 690323.
The project was initiated by the Italian water utility Alto Trevigiano Servizi in cooperation with the University of Verona and the Veneto regional government. It has grown into a collaboration of 25 partners in ten countries including other universities, research companies, engineering firms, water utilities and manufacturers.
- SMART-Plant website
- SMART-Plant at the Geestmerambacht WWTP, Netherlands – recovering marketable cellulose