Towards a circular economy with resource recovery

Resource recovery

There is growing worldwide interest in resource recovery in the watercycle. The transformation of residuals into valuable products is an important element in the transition from a linear to a circular economy. KWR researches how technology, society and government can address the challenges of resource reuse. A sustainable and cost-effective use of residual streams and an integrated approach are central. Water, energy and resource conservation are naturally part of the thinking. The water sector can thus implement resource efficiency in practice.


Video – 02:10
Resource Recovery

Resource recovery as a circular economy building block

The depletion of resources and of fossil energy sources make a transition from today’s linear economy to a circular economy necessary. This has also led to growing interest in the water sector worldwide in resource recovery – the reuse and recovery of watercycle residuals for their transformation into valuable products. Alongside the reduction of consumption of primary resources, resource recovery constitutes an important building block for the circular economy.

Technology, society and government face many challenges in using waste streams as residual streams, and then exploiting them as sources of energy, water, nutrients and other components. It is essential that old and new concepts be combined into an integrated approach that leads to a circular economy.

Membrane installation for water reuse.

Membrane installation for water reuse.

Making residual streams sustainable and cost-effective

KWR researches how to enable resource recovery in the watercycle through the sustainable and cost-effective use of residual streams. We focus on the development of technological and organisational methods for the collection of residual streams, and on technologies for the recovery and extraction of water, resources and energy from these streams. The results of our research are translated into practical recommendations, techniques and concepts for water companies, waterboards, municipalities, industry and others.

Here are a few of our resource recovery research paths:

Residuals in the (urban) watercycle
• Development of vision, official support and technology for the recovery of components, energy and water from the watercycle. Our areas of expertise within this theme include drinking water, wastewater, industry water, environmental technology and biotechnology. We work closely for example with Reststoffenunie, water companies and waterboards.
• Research into product formation and the creation of value chains from wastewater and drinking water (calcite, protein, cellulose, struvite, biogas, iron sludge).

Water reuse and closing loops in industry
• Research into process water production, cooling water conditioning, demiwater production and industrial wastewater treatment, partly directed at reuse.

Wastewater treatment modernisation
• Integrated process solutions for the optimal use of chemical energy from wastewater and sludge, for example, by characterising and improving biological processes through the development of microbiological tools, among others.

Water and energy
• Research into the possibilities and consequences of using water as a medium for the storage and transport of heat, and the place of the watercycle in an all-electric society, with a focus on locally generated energy, subsurface energy storage and energy conversion.

Knowledge networks
• Exchange and sharing of knowledge and experience to build up expertise and possibly innovate.


Video – 01:42
Power to Protein

Benefits of resource recovery

Resource recovery offers the water sector a number of benefits. After all, it contributes to a circular economy in which energy efficiency and sustainability are central. In certain cases, the reuse of water can produce significant cost savings, and water production capacity can be increased without using more (ground)water.