Sustainable Business Hub

RecoLab – Pilot Recovery Plant for Sustainable Management of Waste Water and Food Waste

The new city district of Oceanhamnen in Helsingborg has created a solution for separating and recovering different kinds of waste water and food waste at source. This leads to sustainable reuse of resources through Sweden’s first recovery plant, Reco Lab.

Like many other cities, Helsingborg in southern Sweden is growing fast. As part of the H+ project, the city is transforming the old harbour and industrial zone into new residential areas. One of them is Oceanhamnen, where innovative source separation and a wastewater system is being developed for 2,000 people as part of the Reco Lab project. The new buildings at Oceanhamnen separate grey and black water, and macerated food waste using three different pipelines. This significantly reduces water usage and enables efficient separation of nutrients that can be used as fertilizer.

Environmental benefits

The Reco Lab is a showcase , development plant and test bed for this new sustainable use of water and waste. By connecting the new buildings to three pipelines, grey waste water (bath, shower and washing water) is separated from black water (toilet waste), and food waste is ground and separated by macerators. This results in a number of environmental benefits:
• Less contaminated food waste leads to more biogas production and clean, certified bio-fertilizer for agriculture.
• Vacuum toilets decrease water usage and enable recovery of macronutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and sulphur.
• The recovered nutrient products (struvite and ammonium sulphate) are turned into tailor-made fertilizer pellets, which is a major step in reducing the need for fossil-based fertilizers.
• Efficient heat recovery from source-separated grey water reduces energy consumption.
• Up to 80% of grey water can be recovered to drinking water quality.

Contribution to many environmental goals

Reco Lab’s separation system contributes to several environment goals, particularly reduced eutrophication, increased production of renewable energy, lower climate impact and less water usage. It’s also in line with several Agenda 2030 goals, such as clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and societies, affordable and clean energy for all, and sustainable consumption and production. In short, it’s not only relevant to the H+ project but also to many other cities and countries too.

Bringing different sectors together

A key success factor for the project is the city’s focus on creating synergies between the waste, water and energy sectors through collaboration with regional operators in these areas; water/sewage company NSVA, waste management company NSR and energy company Öresundskraft. An initial evaluation showed that separation at source provides the greatest environmental benefits and that these systems intersect the management of waste, water and energy. Close cooperation between these utilities was therefore key to completing the new system and the Reco Lab recovery plant. The lessons learned are that the challenges of introducing a recovery-based sanitation system are less technical and lie more in management between utilities, and that good governance is needed to successfully overcome these issues.

The Reco Lab is a good example of Swedish sustainable city planning philosophy, focusing on minimising energy consumption, resources and waste and changing the perspective to view waste as a resource. Another cornerstone is strong collaboration between the municipality, universities, companies and civil society.


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