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Water2REturn turns wastewater into added-value agricultural products


Water2REturn is an Innovation Action co-funded by the European Commission under its Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme. The project is coordinated by BIOAZUL in Malaga, Spain and is focused on the recovery and recycling of nutrients from slaughterhouse wastewater in the framework of a Circular Economy model.

Nutrients recovered are turned into value added products for the agro-chemical industry and, consequently, for the agricultural sector. Water2REturn proposes a viable, cross-sectoral and integrated full-scale demonstration process to treat slaughterhouse wastewater by using a novel combination of biochemical and physical technologies and processes in cascade, aiming also a positive balance in terms of energy footprint, all combined in a zero-waste-emission system, with an integrated monitoring control tool that will improve the quality of data on nutrient flows. The extracted nutrients can be injected back into the economy as new raw materials, thereby becoming a resource instead of a waste.

Water2REturn also promotes symbiosis between key industrial sectors (e.g. agriculture, food processing and wastewater treatment), reduces the environmental impacts of food production and improves the competitiveness of slaughterhouses by obtaining additional revenues from the generated by-products. A prototype system is set to be installed at an active slaughterhouse called “Matadero del Sur”, in Salteras, near Seville. This prototype will have a treatment capacity of 50 m3 per day (out of the 150 m3 of the slaughterhouse wastewater daily flow), and will be integrated by a water line, a sludge line and an algae line. This process is visualised in the video below:

Main results: 
  • One integrated treatment + nutrients & energy recovery system with 3 separate process units (water line, sludge line, algae line) + energy recovery module. Future end users may decide if they would like to install the 3 lines or just some of them, with or without the energy recovery module, according to their needs and expectations. The project demonstrator aims to show all different possibilities and potentialities of the treatment system under a Circular Economy approach, but Water2REturn system is highly adaptable and customisable.
  • Product valorisation for agronomic use – formulation and optimisation of 3 APs, field tests for agronomic efficiency, APs manufacturing.
  • Environmental, economic, social and risk assessments (LCA, LCC, social footprinting, quantification of eco-efficiency of the technologies, quantitative risk assessment of potential hazards for humans.
  • Techno-Economic Assessment (TEA) of the overall process.
  • EU Environmental Technology Verification (ETV).
  • Analysis of end users’ needs and market uptake at EU level – stakeholders engagement and consultation, market potential, recommendations to EU and national regulators, business plan implementation.

The project's technological outcomes are also visualised in the diagram below: