Our answer to the UWWTP directive
For the EU to become more self-sufficient, and to have a stable production of fertilisers and feed, we need to take advantage of the resources that can be recovered by wastewater treatment plants. This is a key change, needed for the EU to become less dependent on mining and imports from countries outside the EU.
Recovering nutrients from wastewater will also decrease the carbon footprint since the current linear mining production of fertilisers is strongly dependent on the use of fossil fuels. But there are legislative barriers that need to be handled before wastewater treatment plants can be considered resource plants.
One such obstacle is the so-called waste hierarchy, which has governed waste treatment in the member states for the last 50 years. It was invented as an end-of-pipe solution in the linear economy with the main aim to reduce the amount of waste. Waste should, according to the hierarchy, be minimised to the greatest extent possible and end-of-life items must be prepared for reuse. When those options are exhausted, as much of the material as possible should be recycled. All the materials that cannot be recycled should be incinerated, to create energy. The residues that absolutely cannot be used in any of these steps are then deposited as a last resort. But this blunt tool has played out its role in the transition to a circular economy.