The UPC is coordinating a European project aimed at reusing cork waste to generate energy
The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) is leading one of the five LIFE projects, Ecorkwaste, which aims to reuse forest waste generated by the cork industry in Catalonia. The project has two aims: to treat wastewater from wine production and to convert landfill waste into a resource for generating energy. These two lines will be tested with corks used in the wine industry.
Ecorkwaste is coordinated by Joan de Pablo, a professor at the UPC's Department of Chemical Engineering. The project aims to demonstrate the technical, environmental and economic feasibility of different options for reusing cork in order to avoid landfill dumping of cork waste.
During the implementation of the project, which also involves the Catalan Cork Institute, the Manresa Technology Centre Eurecat-CTM (a Tecnio network member), the company Typsa and the Innovi Catalan Wine Cluster, the UPC will test two recycling systems. The first is a hybrid artificial wetland to be installed at the Codorniu plant in Sant Sadurní that will use waste cork as a granular absorbent material for treating wastewater produced by the wine sector. The second is a pilot gasification centre to be built at the CTM to evaluate the potential of cork stoppers as a substrate for energy production. The results of the tests will be used to draw up a comprehensive waste management plan for the cork industry.
With funding of over €1 million from the European Union (EU) through the LIFE programme, the project has a duration of three years and is expected to be completed in late 2018. It is estimated that during the experimental phase of the project 95% of the waste cork will be reused and 90% of recalcitrant organic compounds (polyphenols) in the wastewater of the wineries will be absorbed by the wetlands. Also, more than 2 kWh of thermal energy per kilogram of cork waste is expected to be generated in the gasification systems.
Iron sand for ceramic tiles
A project promoted by the CTM and one promoted by the Water Technology Centre (CETaqua), both research centres linked to the UPC, have also been selected. The aim of the first, called Foundrytile, is to use waste materials from iron foundries. The project has a duration of three years and aims to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of recovering the fine fraction and sands from foundries in the production of ceramic tiles, in order to contribute to the implementation of the Waste Framework Directive (EU/2008/98/EC). The project is in line with the objectives defined in the roadmap for a resource-efficient Europe. In the course of the project it is expected to produce 60 tons of different types of ceramic tiles, and quality tests will be carried out to determine the most suitable blends of foundry waste.
Real-time control of urban drainage
Effidrain is a project promoted by CETaqua that aims to develop a real-time control strategy for the integrated urban drainage system and water treatment systems in order to reduce the discharge of pollutants into receiving waters.
The strategy will be tested in Bordeaux, France and Badalona, and is expected to achieve an annual reduction of at least 40% of the pollutant content that reaches the receiving waters as a result of flooding during torrential rains.
Five Catalan initiatives
The European Commission has approved five projects in Catalonia through the LIFE programme, which funds environmental conservation initiatives. Of the total €7 million budget of the five projects, the EU is providing €4.3 million.