How to turn waste water into a goldmine.

Waste water: a vast oil well in the Dutch underground! Water, nutrients, biomass and energy are becoming scarce in the 21st century. Waste water contains all these essential resources. 2.000 bln. liter of this bio oil runs through the sewers of the Netherlands annually. The 350 waste water treatment facilities have potential to become the ‘Grondstoffen-fabrieken’ of the future. Besides the production of clean water and energy, water boards can provide bio-plastics, hydrogen, ethanol, cellulose and fertilizer. Recovery of these new green resources is key to preventing resource scarcity and geopolitical tension due to unbalanced allocation. As an example, 20% of phosphates used in the Netherlands ends up in the sewers today. This equals 50% of Dutch fertilizer demand.

Ideas worth spreading

Waste water is not yet regarded as new oil. This idea must be spread since the potential of waste water for a bio-based economy is not recognized widely today. While everybody is focusing on growing biomass, a vast source of bio-resources is running under our own feet. This concept has worldwide potential as the technology is existing and sewage water is everywhere.


Charlotte van Erp Taalman Kip (Nijmegen) studied Environmental Technology at Wageningen University and works as innovation technologist at Waterschap Hollandse Delta. Currently she is involved in an innovative research project together with TU Delft, RU Nijmegen and Paques about energy efficient nitrogen removal from waste water. Moreover Charlotte is representing her water authority in more national oriented research platforms (Stowa) and she is actively involved in the ‘Grondstoffenfabriek’.

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