Urban mining and the circular water economy
Dec 21 2021
Wastewater treatment is essential to our well-being and to the health of the ecosystems around us; however, the sector has a long way to go to achieve the circular economy our society desperately needs.
According to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, access to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right, and European institutions have played a major role in securing access to safe water across the continent: Today, 97% of households in western-central Europe and 70% of households in southern, south-eastern and eastern Europe are connected to wastewater treatment facilities. However, whilst there has been important progress, existing wastewater treatment plants must be improved to support the achievement of other SDGs such as ‘Good health and well-being’, ‘Responsible consumption and production’, and ‘Life on Land’. How can we therefore optimize wastewater treatment?
Existing wastewater treatment technologies and wastewater treatment plants still disturb our ecosystems by releasing pollutants into the surrounding natural environment. Furthermore, many of these ‘pollutants’ have valuable qualities, and if properly extracted and re-used, they can contribute to society and the economy. Urban-mining – the extraction of valuable materials from wastewater through urban waste water treatment – reverses this trend by recovering valuable resources and giving them a second use. After all, this is what circular economy is all about.