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



PHA article published!

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Researchers from Avans University of Applied Siences: Michiel Michels, Guilherme de Souza Reis, Gabriela Fajardo, Ischa Lamot and Jappe de Best recently worked on an article about PHA from sewage water. This within the framework of the Interreg Nort-West Europe project WOW !. The article "Optimization of green extraction and purification of PHA produced by mixed microbial cultures from sludge" has been published in the journal "Water" . Read More

Advisory board meeting

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On the 15th of November, the Advisory Board meeting for WP3 came together at Avans. The attendees were Coos Wessels (NL, Cirteq and project leader WP3), Katrien Bijl (NL, Water Authority Vallei & Veluwe), Mark Fletcher (UK, Arup), Marjolein Weemaes (BE, Aquafin) and Raymond Erpelding (LUX, Siach). Wendy Francken (BE, Vlario) and Francesco Fatone (IT, Università Politecnica delle Marche) were able to join in via Skype. Read More

First event WOW!

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Sewage consists of many valuable raw materials. But why is only 1% re-used? Katrien Bijl, project leader of the WOW! project kicks off the first WOW! event in Leuven. “In the WOW! project we want to show that it is technically possible to subtract raw materials from sewage in relation to their use as bio-based products for different markets. Creating an European framework for the legal and policy challenges in sewage treatment is also one of our goals”. During the event companies, governments and scientists listened to the inspiring presentations of the project partners which resulted in interesting discussions. Read More

First parameters for lipid accumulation

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With the beginning of this year the lipid-team from the WOW! project started to work on the process enabling the selection of bacteria responsible for lipid accumulation from municipal sewage. The lab-experiments in bioreactors allowed to determine first key parameters (such as wastewater composition and aeration mode) to select corresponding bacteria. Read More

Pilot Cellulose on the way

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Regional water authority Vallei en Veluwe will start this fall with the construction of the housing for the cellulose pilot on their treatment plant in Ede. In this hall, there will be an installation to produce four raw materials from cellulose, extracted from sewage. Read More

First WOW! student exchange

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Bora Çetin is the first student to be exchanged between the WOW! project’s partners. He is an Avans student studying Biology and Biomedical Research with a specialization in Biotechnology now doing his internship at TU Kaiserslautern. During an Avans project, beginning of this school year, he got inspired with the WOW! project and especially with PHA bioplastic. We asked Bora about his experiences. Read More

Brazilian students extract bioplastic from sewage

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Sewage contains all kinds of valuable matter, such as PHA or bioplastic. This is produced by the same bacteria that can degrade it. This makes PHA very suitable to replace the plastic used to package food like salads or smoothies, the kind that currently ends up as residual waste. At the Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy, a team of Brazilian students is doing research into PHA in sewage. Read More

WOW! - results of the project 

Market potential biobased products from sewage - factsheets

The partners within the WOW! team excecuted a market potential study. The objective is to identify viable value chains for 5 carbon based products (CBE) from sewage water: PHA-bioplastic, biodiesel, bio-oil, biochar, and acetic acid. In Figure 1-1 a simplified scheme of the recovery of the 5 CBEs is shown. The full report is finished and can be downloaded! We also created a summarizing factsheet for each product which you can find here:

Factsheet: PHA Bioplastics
Factsheet: Activated Biochar
Factsheet: Bio-oil
Factsheet: Biodiesel
Factsheet: Acetic Acid 

Market potential study 

Techno-Economic Assessments biobased products

When developing innovative technologies, such as the recovery from cellulose from wastewater and its conversion into for example bio-oil, it is important to have a clear idea of the economic performance of the process. A techno-economic analysis (TEA) helps to optimize the development of a process and to determine the most important parameters. In this project TEA's have been performed for PHA, lipids and cellulose.

> TEA Cellulose

> TEA Lipids


Market potential biobased products from sewage - report

The partners within the WOW! team excecuted a market potential study. The objective is to identify viable value chains for 5 carbon based products (CBE) from sewage water: PHA-bioplastic, biodiesel, bio-oil, biochar, and acetic acid. In Figure 1-1 a simplified scheme of the recovery of the 5 CBEs is shown. The full report is finished and can be downloaded!

Market potential report 

Designing value chains for carbon based elements from wastewater - state of the art report

The objective of work package 1 in the WOW! project is to identify viable value chains for 5 carbon based products from sewage: PHA-bioplastic, biodiesel, bio-oil, biochar, and acetic acid. This state of the art report is a result of the work package that focusses on the market potential of carbon based elements (CBEs) from sewage. This report contains analyses on the state of the art of current supply and market uptake of materials from sewage in North West Europe (NWE). Analyses comprise an overview on past (best practices) and current attempts to reuse CBEs.

> State of the art report 

National policy action plans

Based on the information gathered in the report Critical success factors for valorization routes, two important drivers can be distinguished that determine whether resource recovery from sewage becomes a success in the EU: - Acceptance of raw materials from sewage - Policies related to use of products from sewage The drivers and critical success factors are elaborated further in the National Policy Action Plans which you can download below:


Action plan Luxembourg (English)
Action plan Luxembourg (Luxembourgish) 
Action plan Luxembourg (French)
Action plan Luxembourg (Portuguese) 
Action plan Luxembourg (German) 


Action plan Netherlands (English)
Action plan Netherlands (Dutch) 


Action plan Germany  (English) 
Action plan Germany (German) 


Action plan Flanders (English)
Action plan Flanders (Dutch)

United Kingdom: 

Action plan United Kingdom (English) 

Critical success factors for valorisation routes - report

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.

> Report: critical success factors for valorisation routes - report 

State of the Art report on legislation

The WOW! team finished the State of Art report on legislation in Europe and the partner countries of the Interreg NW Europe project: Germany, UK, Luxembourg, Belgium, France and The Netherlands. The objective of this report was to describe the main juridical and policy context for bringing raw materials from wastewater to the market, including national differences.

> State of the art report 

Video Cellulose/PHA/Lipids pilot

General WOW! video

PHA pilot

Cellulose pilot

Lipids pilot

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