The meat and dairy industries are two of the highest sludge generators within the food industry. So, the dairy industry is generally considered to be the largest source of food processing wastewater in many countries. Its distinctive characteristics make them different from common municipal wastewater managed by public or private wastewater treatment plants, as it is biodegradable and nontoxic, but has high concentrations of organic matter (biochemical oxygen demand) and suspended solids. In addition, the sludge treatment and recovering has a big environmental impact on waste treatment, and can contribute up to 50% of the operating costs of a treatment. Therefore the reduction of sewage sludge constitutes an effective way to make waste water treatment in the meat and dairy sectors more sustainable, and therefore reduce the ecological footprint of these sectors.
The aforementioned project has been carried out to encourage the market penetration of this product in these sectors. It has been coordinated by Bioazul, a technological company based in Spain which is proprietary of the new compound. The project has been funded within the
CIP Eco-Innovation programme.
This innovative additive consists in natural organic and inorganic components and auxiliary substances in aqueous solution. Once added to the activated sludge, it enwraps microorganisms and leads to the formation of compact activated sludge flocs, biostabilising them in that way. The flocs can also incorporate small suspended mineral particles leading to an increase of floc density, improving clarification and settlement. Moreover, since microorganisms are enwrapped, each floc can work like a micromembrane reactor, improving the mass and oxygen transfer within the system, and thus improving degradation efficiency. The main consequences are a reduction in surplus sewage sludge without reducing the effluent quality (in some cases, an increase of quality has been observed). Moreover, the additive doesn’t require any complicated infrastructure, as only needs a dosifying pump.
The product has already been successfully introduced in municipal Waste Water Treatment Plants in several European markets. 11 study cases were carried out within the project in Spanish, German and Polish companies. The study cases results showed a drastic reduction of the surplus sludge and the polymer consumption. As a consequence, clear cost savings (from 2 to-3 € for each € spent on the additive) can be obtained. Then, a planned promotion, dissemination and market introduction strategy (presentation of success stories, cost-benefit analysis, promotion workshops and distribution of tools e.g. user guidelines) has been implemented in these countries.
The so-developed additive is already commercialized by BIOAZUL S.L. (Level 9 of the TRL scale), and its efficiency has been probed in municipal Waste Water Treatment Plants for several years. Thanks to this project, the efficiency of this product has been demonstrated in the dairy and meat sector in the mentioned countries. Although the product has some acceptation in Germany, the permissive regulations and the distrustfulness of the sector hinder the effective introduction of this product in the Spanish meat and dairy sectors. On the other hand, Scandinavian countries, Netherlands and France are good candidate countries for spreading the market of this additive.