The total yearly EU production of biowaste from industrial sources, such as food processing plants, amounts to around 30-50 million tonnes. A recent report suggests that between 2013-2020 benefits of €1.5-7 billion are possible from the improved management of biowaste. As regards sewage sludge production and disposal, more than 10 million tonnes of dry solids from sewage sludge were produced in the EU, of which only approximately 36% were recycled in agriculture. Turning waste into a resource is part of ‘closing the loop’ in circular economy systems and is one of the main pillars of the ‘Roadmap for a Resource-Efficient Europe’. The EU states that compost and digestate from biowaste are under-used materials. In this sense, biowaste and sewage sludge are two kinds of biodegradable wastes with high potential to be converted into a resource through the recovery of minerals and nutrients.
The LIFE In-BRIEF project aims to develop and implement a new business model for the resource-efficient management of certain biodegradable waste, increasing its use for bioenergy and in bioproducts. This will be done through an integrated management model for processing different biowaste generated by agri-food enterprises, and sewage sludge from urban waste water treatment, transforming it into renewable energy and high quality fertilisers.
Specific objectives of the LIFE In-BRIEF project include: The development of a new management model of biowaste and sewage sludge through complete treatment in a biogas plant, without any rejections or by-products and 100% energy self-sufficiency; The demonstration and validation of the transformation process for turning biowaste into valuable resources, such as minerals and nutrients. This will be done with the development of an industrial-scale prototype (capacity: 10 m3/day of digestate) for turning biowaste from the food industry and sewage sludge into agri-urban fertilisers, which will be tested over a 12-month period to demonstrate technical performance and economic viability; The production and validation of a new economically-competitive organic liquid fertiliser, based on humic substances extracted from biowaste; A reduction of the operating costs of a biogas industrial plant by recovering more than 80% of thermal energy surplus; Mitigation of soil and water pollution, by avoiding the incorrect application of digestate generated in biogas plants; The promotion of the use of biogas plants for biowaste management, to reduce their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions; and To encourage compliance with EU legislation in the field of biowaste and sewage sludge management, especially regarding the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) and Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC).
Expected results: LIFE In-BRIEF expected results include: A new business model that enables the self-financing implementation of a valorisation process transforming waste into fertilisers; Reduction of 3 000 tonnes of total treated biowaste and sewage sludge being sent to landfill or incineration during the project; Increasing the production of biogas per tonne of biowaste by 20% compared to the standard ratio, equivalent to more than 600 kWh per tonne of biowaste processed and 400 kWh per tonne of sewage sludge processed; Recovery of more than 215 kWh per tonne of biowaste processed, generating more than 260 MWh of renewable energy during the project; Formulation and production of at least four new fertiliser products, for both agricultural and urban application, with at least one product sent to the Ministry of Agriculture for its approval; Generation of 200 kg of agricultural fertilisers per tonne of biowaste processed using digestate of bio-methanisation (anaerobic digestion) as its main raw material, contributing to enhanced resource efficiency (540 tonnes of agriculture fertilisers produced during the project); Generation of 50 kg of urban fertilisers per tonne of biowaste processed using mainly digestate of bio-methanisation (anaerobic digestion), which contributes to enhanced resource efficiency (135 tonnes of urban fertilisers produced during the project); Preventing pollution of water and soil resulting from improper application of 3 000 tonnes/year of digestate, which could reach to up to 20 000 tonne/year if applied on a commercial scale; Recovery of 500 litres of water per tonne of biowaste processed; and Avoidance of 15 kg of CO2 equivalents (in the form of NxO) per tonne of biowaste processed emitted by the decomposition of biowaste and sewage sludge in land (45 tonnes of CO2 equivalents of emissions of greenhouse gases during the project).