Struvite: White gold from waste

Estruvita: Ese oro blanco procedente de los residuos

The general objective of the REVAWASTE project is the sustainable management of a wide range of waste types (industrial, biomass, livestock and agro-industrial waste), along with the non-recyclable fraction from waste treatment centres, at an integrated plant. This objective will be achieved through the technological development and practical implementation of the Mixed Plant concept. The plant will be built in Botarell (Tarragona) and will be up and running in 2015. When operating at full capacity, it will be capable of treating up to 10,000 tonnes of waste per year. The development of this concept will help in the execution of a new waste management strategy based on separation, pretreatment, recycling and recovery.

Waste has traditionally been thought of as a problem, both for those who generate it and society in general. But now that there is a scarcity of many products, waste has become an interesting source of certain raw materials. An example is phosphorous.

Phosphorous is a non-renewable resource and an important macronutrient. It is vital for life and there is no available substitute, nothing that can be synthetically created to replace this vital component of all biological processes. The functions it carries out cannot be carried out by any other nutrient and an adequate supply of phosphorous is required for optimum plant growth and reproduction. It is classified as a primary nutrient and as such is commonly deficient in agricultural production. Crops require phospherous in relatively large quantities. All this has led to a growing interest in recovering, rather than simply removing, phosphorous from waste in industrial societies.

The REVAWASTE project (LIFE12 ENV/ES/000727) proposes the global exploitation of a wide range of waste. The aim is, apart from generating energy through biomethanisation and pyrolysis, to extract nutrients that are essential for plants, of which phosphorous is an outstanding example, through the crystallisation of a mineral: struvite.

REVAWASTE is an innovative project due to the enhancements it proposes over current technology and it will enable the development of products for the fertiliser sector. This implies a direct benefit for companies and organisations operating in the production and distribution of such products. Moreover, the development of such products also provides environmental benefits.

Article published in: FuturENVIRO October 2014