No-one likes environmental pollution and most of us view waste water as a burden. For it doesn’t just harm the atmosphere but, in a lot of cases, human health too. And that’s why US industrial and domestic waste recycling company Applied CleanTech are onto what many believe to be a world-wide winner – thanks to their patented Sewage Recycling System (SRS) and its product Recyllose.

Getting rid of today’s waste – whether it’s urban or industrial – can still cause headaches for business owners and local governments. Not only are current waste extraction methods costly, they’re still proving damaging to the environment. There is, however, a way to make waste pay.

And no, it’s not to do with the recent discovery by US geologists that actual gold particles and other precious metals can be found in sewage sludge.

Although that’s certainly an interesting aside. The reason gold, silver, bronze and other valuable metals are increasingly turning up in human waste is a result of their steady inclusion in such everyday household supermarket items as shampoo, deodorants and even washing powder.

The team who carried out the research for the US Geological Survey insists that extracting metals from human waste could cut back on well-known environmental pollutants such as toxic sewage and lead. That’s in sharp contrast to the current method of large-scale gold extraction where mining uses chemicals which, in turn, tend to damage ecosystems.

Happily gold extraction via sewage is already taking place in Tokyo while other sewage plants are removing substances such as phosphorous and nitrogen to give to farmers for use in their fields as effective fertilizer. Waste also contains other substances such as paper, plastics, proteins etc, of course.

Applied CleanTech’s SRS system turns sewage mining into reality

In America and Israel, sewage system technology provider Applied CleanTech aren’t searching for gold – but they may just have found it in a way. Certainly, the company’s tagline is “our green mine is your gold mine.” Their version of ‘gold’ is to turn environmentally damaging sewage into recycled cellulose that can be used in paper and even biofuel. That’s not a bad plan since it doesn’t only benefit the environment but that company’s finances too (sewage treatment costs are also dramatically reduced and the recycled cellulose creates a new bio-based circular economy).

Applied CleanTech have patented their own sewage mining process, which they’ve named Sewage Recycling System (SRS). It differs from conventional waste water treatment systems because it tackles sewage prior to the sludge forming (others do it after the sludge has been created). Doing it their way, Applied CleanTech say they can guarantee to cut back the amount of sludge in a waste water treatment plant by as much as 50 per cent. Certainly, both pilot and full scale projects show those figures are pretty accurate.

A unique proposition for the world’s liquid waste

Applied CleanTech’s CEO Dr Refael Aharon who founded his company eight years ago, said: “Right now we are the only company in the world which mines cellulose from raw wastewater, recycles then processes it into a clean, pasteurised, environmentally friendly product.

“This end-product is called Recyllose.™ It has already proven to be a valuable resource used in manufacturing materials such as plastics, paper, insulation and construction materials. It’s also a big part of bio-fuel production.”

With the SRS system all the recycling is done 24/7, automatically and on-site. According to Applied CleanTech figures it can result in a saving of 30 per cent (OPEX) when it comes to energy costs as well as a corresponding 30 per cent increase in capacity. Not only that but Recyllose itself can be sold to bring in more income for waste water treatment plant operators. In this respect the company says that using the SRS system can result in an average yield of $7 per capita annually for municipal waste water treatment plants alone. Then there is the kudos of being able to meet the government’s growing carbon reduction targets.

At the moment the SRS system is applied for both residential and commercial settings. In terms of the former it works best in areas with resident populations of at least 5000 and for industry use it’s more suited to those which tend to produce a lot of fibre-rich wastewater. This includes food and drinks manufacturing plants as well as textiles and paper.

The idea behind Applied CleanTech’s new technology is to “consider human sewage and its products as an asset, rather than a nuisance.” Wastewater treatment plants, the company insist, should be viewed in the 21st Century as wastewater recycling plants where the materials benefit the local environment.

The finished product – Recyllose

Recyllose takes the form of dry, odorless, pellets which are automatically packaged on site (however, the recycled waste can be produced in another form depending on need). The pellets can be used as an additive in the paper and pulp or building and construction industries. Another use is as an energy-efficient bio-fuel.

In order for a waste water treatment plant to achieve Recyllose production it has to be upgraded with the necessary parts. At present the system operates with local partners in countries such as Israel, Mexico, Canada, the UK and The Netherland, although there are currently plans to also access markets in Europe, America, Latin America and Asia.

Current world sewage mining activities of the SRS System to date include:

  • Bidding with Mexican partner Vert Energy for additional installations in Leon.
  • Plans for SRS in The Netherlands following a successful pilot with the Dutch government which resulted in savings of EURO 2,400 daily for one Waste Water Treatment Plant.
  • Canadian Sewage Mining Corporation Bioform signed a $13.5 million distribution alliance over a five year period with the first installation planned for Alberta next month.
  • In Israel they have successfully run SRS in the city of Safed for the past three years, and where they have achieved a 40 per cent reduction in sludge. Two other plants in the country are also recycling cellulose.
  • China – currently in negotiations with a local company which should eventually lead to manufacturing.
  • Worldwide the firm has worked with a number of strategic partners in the waste water treatment industry.

Last year Applied CleanTech’s revenues and contracts were sitting at around $1.5 million. By the end of 2015 the company hopes to have sold 10 units on a worldwide basis, estimated to be worth around $5.95 million.

There is no doubt that producing ‘green and cost-effective products’ are the industries of the future. Applied CleanTech are already leaders in this field – and which is why at BMW Worldwide we have awarded the company the well-deserved accolade of Clean Tech CEO of the Year, USA- 2015.