Water management

The Netherlands is worldwide known for its water management. Get inspired by learning about innovations on the entire cycle of water, climate and resource challenges and innovations concerning the global challenge of the Plastic Soup.

“Waste is just a resource in the wrong hands”
– Oliver Waddington-Ball, Founder of Goldfinger factory

The waste management industry will play a key role at the heart of a circular economy. It has already begun the transition away from the old linear model of truck and tips to landfill, towards a resource management approach where the industry acts as a provider of raw materials and energy to the rest of the economy. This means a shift to (1) prevention and (2) maximising both the value and volume of resources within the economy.

From waste collection and transport to incineration and recycling, towns and cities are key players of waste management at the local level. They have many responsibilities and various areas of work, such as implementing prevention measures, in which other local players and citizens are involved. To realise the full potential of a circular economy, we will need to find new forms of collaboration between different parts of the supply chain.

Possible topics:

– Prevention
– Separation and collection
– Recycling & upcycling
– Recovering nutrients from waste water- Extended Producer Responsibility

Examples of best practices:

Water authorities as a resource factory
Water authorities in the Netherlands no longer regard wastewater as merely a by-product to be treated and processed, but as a valuable source of renewable energy, raw materials, and clean water. This approach is appropriate to the wider societal transition to a circular economy. In order to contribute to this transition, the water boards have set up a collaborative network organization called Energy & Raw Materials Factory (Energie- en Grondstoffenfabriek).

The wastewater treatment process yields energy, which can be converted into biogas to power cars or electricity to be supplied to households – true ‘green electricity’ from your local water authority. The raw materials that can be recovered from wastewater include phosphate, which is used to produce fertilizers among other things.

Wageningen University
Current sanitation and sewerage systems use a lot of water to bring a relatively small amount of waste to the treatment plant. In the Netherlands, ca. 130 litres (20 flushes) is used per person per day, while the corresponding figure in the US and Canada is three to four times higher. The vacuum toilets in Sneek only use one litre per flush, instead of the usual six to eight litres, which allows a considerable decrease in the use of water and in the volume of wastewater. Especially in areas where water is scarce, such savings are essential. Grey water (bath, shower, laundry and kitchen water) can be used for irrigation after treatment.

The second problem of traditional water treatment is energy use, particularly the energy used to blow air into reactors, which supply purifying bacteria with oxygen. The installation in Sneek is a net producer of energy; however, as it uses anaerobic (oxygen-free) treatment in an up flow anaerobic sludge bed (ASB) reactor, a technique developed by Wageningen UR. UASB reactors are used around the world to treat concentrated industrial wastewater. The challenge is to separate black and grey water at the source with water-saving toilets and thus treat household wastewater on a large scale while saving water and energy.

Dopper’s mission is to achieve a world in which people are conscious of the environment we live in, where the amount of single-use plastic is reduced and where everyone, near and far, has access to safe drinking water.

In January 2010, the founder and CEO of Dopper Merijn Everaarts launched a design competition to find “the perfect reusable bottle for drinking water.” Out of nearly 100 entries, Delft University of Technology alumnus Rinke van Remortel’s design was chosen. Because of its unique design, the Dopper bottle is very easy to keep clean, and is also very durable. What’s more, if you turn the bottle upside-down to rest on its white cup, you are putting water on a pedestal. This philosophy fits perfectly with Merijn’s approach: Tap water on Number 1.