Detoxification and Resource Recovery
Despite improved recycling infrastructure and public awareness, the UK still sends a staggering 17 million tonnes of municipal solid waste into landfill every year. This leads to the build up of leachate, the liquid which drains from a landfill site. Leachate contains trace chemicals, which can have strong contaminating effects on the environment, and therefore effective treatment methods are required. More to the point, however, ambitions for waste management should go beyond protection of human health and the environment, with conservation of energy and recovery of natural resources high on the agenda.
This translational project aims to demonstrate an integrated process for leachate treat went and resource recovery. It involves three innovations: a novel physical pre-treatment, enhanced treatment with adaptively evolved microbial consortia and resource recovery through efficient biomass harvesting, and hence, contributing to the UK circular economy.
Leachate can vary considerably in composition, depending on the age and type of waste within the landfill, containing both dissolved and suspended organic and inorganic material. Viridor Waste Management Ltd is the third largest waste management organisation in the UK, owning over 40 sites. Approximately half the sites use foul sewers to carry contaminated wastewater to a sewage works for treatment, the rest is either transported using tankers or released to surface waters.
The previous work includes isolation of natural microbial consortia from leachate, novel harvesting method development and estimation of potential resources recovered. The main translational activities in this project are to design and build pilot scale photobioreactor that is fitted with all the innovations from previous NERC and non-NERC funded research. This will be installed by Varicon Solutions, TUOS Research Technician and staff at Viridor at a local landfill site (Erin). Pre-processed leachate will be fed into the photobioreactor and growth and operating parameters carefully monitored.