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ReUseWasteNews #16

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Welcome to the final issue of ReUseWaste News! 

After four years, the ReUseWaste project is now coming to an end, the PhD studies have been completed, theses submitted and in many case defended and the early stage researchers trained in the project are now moving on to new career challenges and opportunities.

The aim of this final project newsletter is to share some of the lessons learnt based on our experience through these four years.

ReUseWaste set out with a very ambitious goal of educating young scientists to be capable of rethinking current, established manure management systems and apply new technologies for improved and sustainable utilisation of the valuable resources in manure. The project has therefore had a very strong focus on the training and career development of the young scientists conducting relevant research within this field.

In this final newsletter, we will look at the scientific results and outcomes of the fellows work, and reflect upon and share our experiences with the training aspects as well as coordination of such a project.   

ReUseWaste project highlights and major outcomes  

As stated above, we had the ambition in the project to rethink current, established manure management systems, in order to develop and apply new technologies for more sustainable utilisation of valuable manure resources.

Many new approaches for manure management have been developed, applied and tested by the fellows during their research work in the project; although many of them take departure in existing technologies, all of them include a rethink of how they can be modified or tweaked to improve their efficiency and minimize environmental emissions.

Some of the highlights include:

- A rapid characterisation method for waste biomasses based on novel spectroscopy (FTIR-PAS) has truely opened up an entirely new window into the composition of organic wastes and their properties both as sources of energy and functions as fertilisers, which will greatly aid development of recovery and recycling solutions.

- Improved manure separation has been achieved, either through addition of various natural flocculants, through application of various acidification agents to concomitantly lower ammonia emissions and recover a higher proportion of manure P, or through advanced membrane tech­nologies (micro- and ultrafiltration, reverse and forward osmosis).

- Enhanced energy recovery from manures has been achieved, either by source segregation before anaerobic digestion or by natural additives (e.g. limestone) in gasification; furthermore thermal gasification models have been developed, to better optimise the energy and P recovery from manures with fluidized bed gasifiers.   

- High-quality, bio-based fertilisers can be produced from manure or digestate solids, either by better composting methods with reduced GHG emissions or by acidification prior to thermal drying to reduce ammonia emission, producing a stable, manageable organic fertiliser with high nutrient availability and suitable NPKS ratios.

- Higher fertiliser value of the manure-based fertilisers developed (composts, acidified dried solids and biochars) was generally found in comparison with standard manure products, showing the benefits of the treatments. This was in particular the case when the immediately available nutrients were high, as in the acidified dried solids.

-  Reduced gaseous emissions from storage and field applications of animal slurries can be achieved through the use of acidification and/or separation, whereas biological additives had insignificant effects.

-  Farmer attitudes towards manure processing technologies and the derived manure-based as well as urban and industrial waste-based organic fertilisers have been surveyed; this indicated that main drivers for technologies are environmental regulations and bioenergy policies and incentives, while high capital and running costs are perceived as main barriers. For the Danish farmers (the largest and most represen­tative group in the survey) almost three quarters have experience with the use of animal manures as fertilisers, and somewhat surprisingly, more than half of the farmers are still interested in using new organic fertilisers, showing the market potential for these.

- Finally, several meta-studies for entire manure management chains across the EU-27 have been conducted with respect to mitigation measures for gaseous emissions, livestock N feed use efficiency and excretion factors, showing huge variations, depending on animal species, intensity of production and feeding strategies. This has resulted in a proposition for an improved, standardized and transparent methodology to be applied across EU-27 member states for better inventory and emissions data.    

What are then the major outcomes of the project? Many new opportunities for technology development are clear from the highlights above, and some have been taken on for further development by the private sector associated partners in the project, hopefully more will do so in the near future. 

ReUseWaste Fellows thesis abstracts

We have compiled short summaries of each fellows work produced in ReUseWaste - click on the link to read the abstract. If you want a copy of their full thesis or reprints of specific publications, please contact the individual fellows 

3.1: Application of Fourier-transform infrared photoacoustic spectroscopy for characterisation of organic wastes and determination of their usefulness for bioenergy and soil amendmentGeorge Bekiaris’ PhD project explored the development of less time-consuming and inexpensive techniques for the characterization of organic wastes and determination of their usefulness for bioenergy and as a soil amendment. 

4.1: Development of enhanced mechanical separation efficiency by combined separation techniques, pre- and post-treatment: Separation efficiency of mechanical slurry separators vary widely, due to differences in separator design and variable physical and chemical composition of animal slurry. Olga’s project aimed to determine the effect of the addition of additives to raw pig slurry and co-digestate on separation efficiency of mechanical separation technologies .

4.2: Development of combined Acidification and Separation of slurry: Effect on slurry fractions composition and gaseous emissionIntensified livestock operations have created the need for novel slurry management technologies that can reduce negative environmental impacts whilst recovering nutrients and energy. Iria conducted an integrated study of the combined treatment of slurry by acidification and separation of slurry. This included a systematic study of different slurry acidification additives, target pH values and approaches. 

4.3: Development of membrane technology for production of concentrated fertilizer and clean water: Solid-liquid separation of farm effluents is a common practice for obtaining a phosphorus-rich fraction and a liquid fraction rich in nitrogen and potassium. Membrane technologies have previously proved to be a suitable technology for separation and concentration of liquid fractions from farm effluents. In this PhD thesis, microfiltration, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and forward osmosis have been applied during concentration and separation of raw slurry and digestate liquid fractions.

4.4: Development of composting technology for bio-fertiliser production: Composting of animal manure is a very promising treatment technology that is a potential win-win scenario – composting can reduce GHG emissions and increasing carbon storage whilst reducing the need for synthetic fertiliser inputs. Andre’s work set out to develop the most optimal methods to produce high quality biofertilisers by co-composting pig slurry with plant residues.

5.1: Development of anaerobic digestion methods for optimal energy yield and P recovery from animal manure production: Phuong’s research addressed questions of how source separation of manure influences manure composition as input for anaerobic digestion as well as how pre-treatment methods influence biogas production and nutrient speciation in an AD system.

5.2: Thermal treatment technologies for low moisture and dehydrated manure feedstockFarm and animal wastes are increasingly being explored for gasification and pyrolysis, due to the urgent necessity of finding new waste treatment options. The primary focus of Natalie’s research was to assess different ways of using low moisture and pre-treated manure feedstock for bioenergy and biochar production and utilization to mitigate environmental burdens.

5.3: Optimal combustion and gasification technology for on-farm conversion of animal manures to energy and ash: Daya’s PhD work focused on the development of Thermodynamic equilibrium-based models of gasification and combustion process for manure based biomass and optimizing syn-gas production while focusing on improving energy and P recovery. He investigated the effect of temperature in the fluidized bed gasifiers (FBG), moisture content, equivalence ratio, steam to biomass ratio (SBR) on syngas composition and quality of product gas.

6.1: Field application and gas emissions of slurry treated by additives and mechanical separation: Maxwell set out to evaluate the agronomic and environmental consequences of mechanical separation of cattle slurry and slurry additives during anaerobic storage and after field application under a double cropping forage system.

6.2 Land utilization, crop nutrient value and green house gas emissions from digestates and compost based bio-fertilizers Biochar obtained from the pyrolysis of crop residue and manure is a potential solution to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions, increase carbon (C) sequestration, and as a beneficial soil amendment. Raghunath’s study aimed to evaluate and understand the soil application effects of crop waste- and manure-derived biochars on ammonia (NH3) and GHGs emissions, nutrient availability, crop growth and soil quality.

6.3: Assessment of soil quality effects and nutrient availability of manure ash and biochar based biofertilisers: Anaerobic digestion of animal manures has been proposed as a process with multiple advantages – providing energy, increasing the agronomic value and reducing environmental impacts. However, the residual of anaerobic digestion, called digestate, may need a combination of treatments to improve its manageability. Thanos’ PhD project aimed to assess the effects of different digestate acidification levels on nutrient dynamics, soil quality and nutrient uptake.

7.1: Integrated assessment of manure management chains in EU-27: Livestock manure contributes considerably to global emissions of ammonia (NH3) and greenhouse gases (GHG), especially methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Yongs work set out to increase the understanding of the agronomic, environmental and social-economic performances of the animal manure management chains in Europe at country scales, and to examine options for improving performances of the integrated system.

7.2: Nitrogen recycling from organic waste streams and biofertilizers: Seans post doc focused primarily on the feasibility and stakeholder acceptability of alternative biofertiliser solutions, whilst a second task was the screening of organic fertiliser treatment technologies. 

ReUseWaste Ph.d students graduated 

Most of the Ph.D students in ReUseWaste have by now defended their theses at Ph.D viva or examination seminars with external assessor(s), depending on the local university Ph.D school requirements. Most recently the ‘greek team’, Ph.D students at University of Copenhagen, George Bekiaris and Athanasios Pantelopoulos, defended their Ph.D theses successfully . Read more...

Reflections on participating, training and coordinating in a Marie Curie ITN project

Early Stage Researchers, young scientists, research fellows – the Ph.D students and post-docs in Marie Curie ITN project have many different titles. In the past 3-4 years they have all been part of shared community with their peers and senior supervisors and mentors. The ReUseWaste project offered all participants a wealth of learning opportunities at many levels - we want to share some of highlights of this learning:

-       For research planning, fellow secondments were considered to be the best instrument to facilitate the linking of different experiments and this has actually been successfully completed for many of fellows, resulting in many joint publications across the partner organisations and of the project. 

-       Training of fellows was discussed, including type, format and number of courses. Many fellows felt that perhaps fewer courses should be offered next time, with more focus on statistics and scientific writing.

-       The study tours were a highly appreciated aspect as was the individual feedback at the half-annual project meetings.

Participants agreed unanimously that being part of a Marie-Curie ITN project strengthened their research network - the interdisciplinary nature of the network helped to broaden the perspectives of the individual PhD projects. 

Finally, participants unanimously  noted the general importance of well-managed project coordination by the UCPH team, which has been instrumental in this successful and rewarding partnership.  If you want to learn more, please read the full reflections document...  

Future perspectives and further development in the field 

As evident from the research highlights of ReUseWaste and all the detailed findings of the Ph.D and postdoc projects, there are many potential opportunities and avenues for further development of existing or new techniques for manure processing and utilization.

It is also clear that while many of the technologies are efficient at recovering energy, nutrients and/or organic matter from the various waste streams, some of them are not likely to be economically viable currently or in the near future. However, with the increased focus on circular economy and public and political prioritization of a more resource efficient society, the outlook for many of these novel technologies may well develop positively in the coming years.

Epecially relevant technologies from this project include both high-tech separation (micro, ultra, nano, RO, FO filtration), acidification (both liquids and solids), drying (stabilized fertilizer product), composting (including optimized additioves), and gasification/pyrolysis (biochar bio-digestion, etc.), all capable of producting agronomically and environmentally efficient fertilizer products (e.g. high nutrient availability, soil amelioration quality, low environmental emissions and soil contaminant impacts) – with the proposed revision of the EU Fertilizer Regulation, most of these will be covered with the potential for CE certification and greatly increased market value.

The project has also shown that a wide range of stakeholders (farmers, advisors, administrators, researchers, decision makers) have very positive attitudes and expectations for many of these technologies, indicating great scope for their development. Furthermore, we have also surveyed farmers interest in new processed manure and waste products, showing significant interest and willingness for application of these products, provided high quality, nutrient efficiency, safety and competitive pricing can be provided.

We see an essential and hitherto under‐researched link between innovative waste processing technologies and the utilisation of these as fertilizers and soil conditioning products of added value, resulting in improved crop utilisation and soil quality. At the same time environmental and societal impacts, including market development, regulations and stakeholder preferences needs to addressed.

We therefore think our project demonstrates the need for further development of new treatment and formulation technologies for the sustainable upcycling (i.e. transforming by-products, waste materials, useless and/or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and/or higher economic or environmental value) of organic waste resources into high-quality, bio‐based fertilisers.

This vision is based on the cradle‐to‐cradle concept, that all nutrient containing products can be recycled in a waste‐free and cyclic system, where their entire lifecycle is considered and dealt with. We are convinced that this can be developed into successful business cases at both farm level, local and regional scale. Furthermore, this will be able to contribute substantially to the development of a circular economy, with large business opportunities and potential for societal benefits through job creation and ‘green growth’.

ReUseWaste publications 

Scientific papers from the project will continue to be published through 2016. We will update the publication list of the project as new papers are accepted. Get an overview of the 20 papers already produced by ReUseWaste

Thanks, and lets keep in touch!

In parting, we as coordinators of ReUseWaste would like to thank all those that have contributed to making this a successful project. The list of who to thank is long, so we will suffice with thanking all.

Should you wish to get in touch with the ReUseWaste team at University of Copenhagen, please send a mail to Professor Lars Stoumann Jensen. 



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Sendt d. 12 April 2016

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