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At the end of October, REMONDIS Aqua Stoffstrom GmbH & Co. KG officially opened their TetraPhos® pilot facility on the grounds of WFA Elverlingsen’s incineration plant in Werdohl. Around 100 politicians and business leaders were invited to attend the event and take a tour around the facility built on the area that had previously been home to Mark-E’s decommissioned coal-fired power station in Werdohl.
Since 2013, REMONDIS has been using a patented process, which it developed itself, to produce phosphoric acid from the ash generated by sewage sludge incineration plants – a cost-effective system which is able to be run on an industrial scale. In 2016, the process won the GreenTec Award, Europe’s most prestigious sustainability prize.
One of the guests of honour was Michael Thews (SPD), member of the German parliament and vice chairman of the Committee for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. During his short speech on “The modern circular economy and resource conservation – using sewage sludge recycling as an example”, he praised this new technology, emphasising how it will become increasingly important to recover raw materials in the future. Johannes Remmel, former minister of the environment of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and a member of the NRW parliament, was impressed by REMONDIS’ plans: “I can only welcome this pilot project. We need more like it.”
WFA Elverlingsen, a joint subsidiary of the Ruhrverband and Mark-E, recycles up to 180,000 tonnes of dried sewage sludge every year. The leftover sewage sludge ash can be used as a valuable raw material for the TetraPhos® process – with the phosphorus content being recovered to produce phosphoric acid (brand name: RePacid®). “By recovering phosphorus, we are actively helping to conserve natural resources and reduce the impact humans have on the environment. Phosphorus is a vital raw material and supplies are becoming increasingly scarce,” explained Ralf Czarnecki, managing director of REMONDIS Aqua Stoffstrom. Almost 100% of all phosphate used in Germany has to be imported from abroad. This status quo, however, must have changed by 2029 at the latest. The German government has stipulated that large sewage treatment plants must recover the phosphorus from their sewage sludge ash from this date onwards. REMONDIS has, therefore, taken a big step forward with its facility in Elverlingsen and is acting as a role model for many large German cities.
(from left to right) Michael Thews, German MP, Ralf Czarnecki, REMONDIS Aqua, Katrin Brenner, REMONDIS Aqua, and Johannes Remmel, a member of the NRW Parliament, during the opening ceremony
Europe’s first industrial-scale phosphorus recovery facility (located on the grounds of the sewage treatment plant in Hamburg) is due to be commissioned in 2020 and will be run as a public private partnership between HAMBURG WASSER (60%) and REMONDIS (40%). It is being supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as well as by the BMU’s Environmental Innovation Programme.