Treating industrial wastewater using nature-based solutions
The ALGAMATER project came about as a means of overcoming difficulties in treating industrial wastewater, particularly leachate generated from landfill. It is based on the use of photobioreactor modules for microalgae culture (Green Dune Photobioreactor) in order to provide for the tertiary treatment of leachate in a process that requires no energy consumption, and that has a large carbon sequestration capacity. As Manuela Moreira da Silva, a researcher at the Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (CIMA) and project coordinator at UAlg, explains, “If we can determine the physiological mechanisms of different species (e.g. microalgae), we can use nature-based solutions in several stages of the urban water cycle, specifically to remove undesirable substances” (UNESCO, 2018).
ALGAMATER came about as the result of a partnership between companies Bluemater (the project coordinator) and Seaproject, Algar - Valorização e Treatment de Solid Waste, SA, and the University of Algarve, via the Institute of Engineering and CIMA.
It is expected that 2.2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) will be produced on a global scale in 2025. Though waste management policies have improved within the European Union, not all waste that could be reused as secondary raw materials has been used effectively in recent years.
As Manuela Moreira da Silva explains, “Although reusing and recycling efforts have increased significantly in the last two decades, about a third of the waste generated continues to be placed in landfills.” We currently face the following question: “Would nature-based solutions be an option?”
In 2018, the population of Portugal produced an average of 1.38 Kg/person/day of MSW. Ensuring that leachate from landfills is adequately treated and that it does not pollute natural water resources is an enormous technological challenge. UAlg has been participating in these significant issues since it has been monitoring landfills across the Algarve for over 20 years.
The ALGAMATER project combines the cutting-edge technology of the Algamater WWTP Demonstrator with nature-based solutions used for the tertiary treatment of landfill leachate. Microalgae photobioreactors (Green Dune Photobioreactor®) were designed for use in successive modules to treat leachate in a process that requires no energy consumption and has a large carbon sequestration capacity.
The integrated system has a standard treatment capacity of 150 m3/day and is prepared to comply with the Emission Limit Values set out in applicable European Union legislation.
The ALGAMATER contributes directly to four Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 6, “Clean Water and Sanitation”, by improving water quality, reducing pollution and minimising the pollutants released into the environment; Goal 9, “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure”, by modernising infrastructures, rehabilitating industries to make them more sustainable, improving efficiency in the use of resources and adopting clean and environmentally sustainable technologies and industrial processes; Goal 11, “Sustainable Cities and Communities”, by reducing the negative environmental impact of cities per capita, paying particular attention to air quality and urban waste management; and Goal 13, “Climate Action”, by improving both human and institutional capacity to mitigate, adapt and reduce the impact of climate change.
Manuela Moreira da Silva has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, a Master’s in Applied Ecology a PhD in Environmental Sciences and Technology and is a Researcher for the Marine and Environmental Research Centre (CIMA)