The Value of the Circular Economy of Waste Water

The Value of the Circular Economy of Waste Water

In this paper - based on interviews with Dutch experts - we describe the Energy & Raw Materials Factory (ERMF) of the Dutch Water Authorities, also known as the Resource Factory, as one of the solutions to this global challenge of water in the circular economy.

The ERMF enables the recovery of clean water, cellulose, bioplastics, phosphate, bio-ALE, and biogas from municipal wastewater. The value of the recovered resources including the reduction of maintenance cost in the Netherlands is estimated at €233 million per year from 2030. This is approximately €14 per person per year. Similar investments are needed to create ERMFs.

Assuming that all the necessary investments for ERMFs are provided and the revenues of €14 per person per year are extrapolated to a global population of 7 billion people, the total revenues will be about €100 billion per year. The ambitions articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on water and sanitation of the UN have recently been estimated at US $114 billion per year up to 2030 by the World Bank. The circular economy (introduction of ERMF at global scale) and the UN SDGs on water and sanitation provide potential win-win’s.

The ERMF demands significant investments but the return on investment is high both from a financial and environmental perspective, provided that markets can be realized. More information and the link to the open access publication in Environmental Management can be found here