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Reco lab: Sustainable management of domestic wastewater and food waste

The new residential area Oceanhamnen (The Ocean Harbour) in Helsingborg, is connected to three separate wastewater pipes; one vacuum pipe for toilets, one for food waste and a third pipe for the remaining greywater (showers, dishwashing and sinks). The separation of wastewater at the source enables recovery of resources from wastewater at Sweden’s first recovery plant; Reco lab.

By the year 2035, Helsingborg will have grown with approximately 40 000 new inhabitants and 1000 new residencies yearly. The project is called H+. The old harbor and industrial areas, around one million square meters in size, will evolve into a mixed city. The first district up for development is Oceanhamnen. Oceanhamnen will accommodate an innovative source separation and wastewater system for 2 000 people to deal with wastewater and food waste within the project scale of the RECO Lab. New buildings at the city district Oceanhamnen are designed to connect three different pipelines that separate the grey and black water and milled food waste. This enables effective separation of nutrients from gray and black water and more usage of fertilizer as a plant nutriment on arable lands through collecting cleaner food waste for biogas.

The environmental benefits of innovative technology

The RECO-lab is both showroom, development plant and testbeds. New buildings at the city district Oceanhamnen are designed to connect three different pipelines that separate the grey (bath, shower and wash water) and black water (toilet waste) and milled food waste through kitchen grinders. There are several environmental benefits of this system:

• Less contaminated food waste gives more biogas production and a clean certified biofertilizer that will be used as fertilizer on farmland.
• Vacuum toilets decrease water usage, but also enable recovery of the main source of macro nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and sulphur) from urban areas as nutrient products.
• The recovered nutrient products (struvite and ammonium sulphate) are certified via the EU end-of-waste criteria and made into tailor-made fertilizer pellets to fit agricultural needs. A great step towards closing EU dependency on fossil fertilizers.
• Efficient heat recovery from source separated greywater in the residential buildings generates a better energy footprint.
• Up to 80 % water recovery as drinking water quality from greywater.

The collection system reaches several environment goals, especially those of reduced eutrophication, increased production of renewable energy, reduced climate effects and reduced water usage.

The systems also contribute to several goals within Agenda 2030, specifically Clean water and sanitation, Sustainable cities and societies, Affordable and clean energy for all and Sustainable consumption and production.

In other words, the system will contribute to the city of Helsingborg’s environmental goals for the H+ area but also to the climate- and environment work that is being carried out on a national level.

The success story behind

The city of Helsingborg faced the challenges of meeting a high environmental profile for its new city district Oceanhamnen. To contribute to meeting the environmental goals the city of Helsingborg looked for synergies between the waste, water and energy sectors together with its utilities from these areas (NSVA, NSR and Öresundskraft). From the evaluation it was clear that source separation systems gave the highest environmental benefits, and that these systems intersect the management systems for waste, water and energy. Thus, increased cooperation between the cities utilities for waste (NSR), energy (Öresundskraft) and water (NSVA) was needed to complete the new system and the recovery plant Reco lab. The lessons learned so far is the challenges of introducing a recovery-based sanitation system are not so much technical but lie rather in management between utilities, and that good governance is needed to overcome these issues successfully.

Urban planning is a transdisciplinary work that involves different stakeholders and disciplines. The concept of Swedish sustainable city planning is focusing on minimizing the consumption of energy, resources and waste when planning and building a new city district. Everything that is waste is seen as a resource. This is also reinforced by governmental regulations. The other important perspective of the concept of Swedish sustainable city planning is good governance. Good governance means a strong collaboration between municipality, universities, companies and civil society. It is also important cities involve citizens in the decision-making process of public policies that create a holistic approach to the city’s long-term challenges. Reco lab becomes possible thanks to the anchoring of these perspectives on a political level.

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