Jointly meeting global challenges Annual report 2012


Unique phosphorus-recovery test at Schiphol

11 December 2012Research

At the end of 2012, KWR collaborates with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Vewin and Evides Industriewater to prepare a project to recover phosphorus from wastewater at Schiphol. The “Sustainable airport cities” project is one of the first to be implemented within the framework of the Dutch government’s top-sector policy, and is financed in part from the premium for Top consortium Knowledge and Innovation (TKI) of the Ministry for Economic Affairs.

Phosphorus is a vital part of human, animal and plant nutrition, providing the basis for the growth of all life forms. The increasing demand for food worldwide is however putting more and more pressure on the planet’s phosphorus resources. At the same time a great deal of phosphorus is being wasted because of excessive use of fertilisers and because it is not recovered from wastewater. Europe itself has no phosphorus mines and depends on imports, for instance, from western Sahara countries. The recovery and reuse of phosphorus is therefore a matter of great importance for the Netherlands and Europe.

Schiphol water cycle

The water cycle at Schiphol is comparable to that of a small city. The location thus provides a good context in which to run a pilot project on the sustainable recovery and reuse of phosphorus. The removal of the phosphorus from the wastewater will mean that the water quality at and around the airport will improve. The treatment process will become more efficient and require less additives, such as chemicals. The idea is that the recovered phosphorus will ultimately be used in the area around the airport, for example, by farmers as an artificial fertiliser. The farmers will feed back their assessment of the product’s quality, giving researchers the input they need to improve the recovery technique and harmonise it more closely with the end-user’s requirements. In this way, the method’s economic feasibility will be consolidated.


Reusing phosphorus recovered from wastewater in food production

City of the future

The “Sustainable airport cities” project also wants to stimulate other sectors to reinforce the sustainability of their activities by applying innovative technologies from the water sector. For example, if hospitals, managers of intensely-frequented public buildings, as well as other airports and cities were to follow this initiative, the future benefits would be considerable. These would be particularly evident with regard to the environment, the economy, and the sustainable recovery of scarce raw materials.

© 2018 KWR Watercycle Research Institute

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