WOW! - Wider business Opportunities for raw materials from Wastewater

Project Summary

Sewage contains valuable substances that can be used as raw materials for biobased products. However, in North West Europe this potential is hardly exploited yet. This results in loss of valuable materials, increased CO2-emmissions and less use of natural resources. The Interreg North-West Europe project WOW! - Wider business Opportunities for raw materials from Waste water (sewage) - aims to make the transition to a more circular approach by matching supply and demand of cellulose, lipids and PHA bioplastics from sewage. The international consortium consists of partners from the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Valuable materials from sewage

There are market opportunities for raw materials from sewage, but for this the sewage treatment plants and the industry need alignment. This calls for a transition: sewage treatment plants need to switch from treating sewage to producing valuable materials. On the other hand, market parties need to regard sewage as a valuable source instead of ‘dirty unsafe water’. Last but not least, the policies should better fit this new circular practice. To realize these opportunities the consortium aims to develop value chains for three different raw materials from sewage: cellulose, PHA bioplastics and lipids.

The following activities will be part of the project:

  • Identify high potential value chains for raw materials from sewage.
  • Develop a Decision Support Tool that guides sewage treatment plants in their transition towards a circular approach on sewage.
  • Build and run three WOW! pilots to optimize and implement innovative recovery and upcycling techniques.
  • Create bioproducts made out of sewage, such as bioplastics, biofuel and bio-char.
  • Create national policy action plans and an EU policy roadmap.

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Project Partners

Lead partner

Organisation Address Email Website
Regional Water Authority Vallei en Veluwe 10 Steenbokstraat
7324 AX
Name Contact Name Email Country
Wupperverbandsgesellschaft für integrale Wasserwirtschaft mbH Gerd Kolisch Germany
University of Kaiserslautern Heidrun Steinmetz Germany
University of Luxembourg Joachim Hansen Luxembourg
VLARIO Wendy Francken Belgium
Natureplast Guillaume lebouteiller France
Avans University of Applies Sciences Jappe de Best Netherlands
REMONDIS Aqua Industry Patrick Herr Germany
Flemish Institute for Technological Research Ruben Guisson Belgium
Pulsed Heat BV Rinus van Praag Netherlands
Severn Trent Water Ltd. Paul Knuckle United Kingdom
CirTec B.V. Coos Wessels Netherlands
Trinity College Dublin Laurence Gill Ireland
LAB University of Applied Sciences Ossi Marikka



Report: critical success factors for valorisation routes

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Partners within the WOW! team wrote a report that describes critical success factors for the recovery of raw materials from sewage and bringing these resources to the market based on lessons learned in EU subsidy projects. Why have some recovery techniques been successfully implemented while others are still in the pilot phase or did not succeed? Information was gathered via literature, an online questionnaire and interviews. Read More

Oil from sewage - the first installation in the Netherlands!

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At the beginning of 2021, the first pyrolysis plant in the Netherlands will be opened in Ede, which orders usable raw materials from sewage water. Namely the cellulose pilot of the WOW! project. In the installation that Pulsed Heat has built together with Waterschap Vallei en Veluwe and Cirtec, the cellulose in sewage water is upgraded to oil, acid fraction, gas and coal. Pulsed Heat is responsible for upgrading the residual flows, they are happy to tell you more about their role in the WOW! project. Read More

Decision Support Tool - testing

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The decision support tool (DST) developed as part of the Interreg WOW! project by Avans Hogeschool (NL) has been tested by Severn Trent Water (UK). This tool has been designed to provide water industry employees with an easy to use screening tool to assess the viability of carbon-based material recovery options (PHA, lipids and cellulose) at sewage treatment plants. The first testing period got us some nice results! Read More

The North Sea Commission recognizes the potential of recovered resources from sewage

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On the 6th of November Coos Wessels from CirTec, partner in the WOW! project, presented the WOW! project to the North Sea Commission (NSC). The NSC is one of the six geographical commissions of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) and a cooperation platform for regions around the North Sea. Their mission is to strengthen partnerships between regional authorities which face the challenges and opportunities presented by the North Sea. In line with the NSC work on protection of the sea from marine litter and harmful substances, the Annual Business Meeting on 6 November 2020 adopted a resolution on circular economy and the reuse of resources from sewage. Read More

Techno-Economic Assessment: from cellulose to biobased product

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Sewage contains about 25-30% of the particulate fraction in the form of cellulose fibers. The source of these fibers is mainly toilet paper due to its increased consumption. Utilizing these valuable materials could reduce the use of natural resources and subsequent carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and hence, realizing a circular economy. In the WOW project, a techno-economic assessment of the use of these cellulose fibers for bio-based products is performed at a pilot scale. Read More

New developments in the field of PHA

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Sewage water and sludge are raw materials for the production of PHA: biodegradable biopolymers made by bacteria. These polyhydroxyalkanoates can offer an interesting alternative to fossil plastics. The number of research projects in this field is therefore increasing. Reason for the Biobased Economy Lecturers Platform to organize the webinar "Recent results in PHA development" at the end of November. Read More

Turning sewage water into bioplastics

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Sewage and industrial wastewater often contain many valuable substances that can be used as raw materials for biobased products. However, this potential is currently not or hardly used, resulting in loss of valuable materials. The INTERREG NWE project WOW! looks into the possibilities to create sustainable value chains from sewage water using these valuable substances. One of the value chains under investigation is the production of PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates), a fully biodegradable bioplastic. Read More

WOW! - results of the project 

PHA - Cellulose - Lipids Pilots 


Technical reports: 

Market potential biobased products



Techno-economic assesment


Technical reports:

Desicion Support Tool

Critical succes factors for valorisation routes 

National policy action plans





United Kingdom: 

EU policy roadmap 

WOW! Capitalization 

Video Cellulose/PHA/Lipids pilot

General WOW! video

PHA pilot

Cellulose pilot

Lipids pilot

WOW! end results

Eliminate micropollutants with activated carbon at sewage treatment plants (WOW! Capitalization)

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