This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement 308363.

A cascade-like approach to the production of high-quality chemicals

At present, 220 million tons of residual waste are produced annually in Europe (EU27). Each and every citizen contributes to this with 1.2 kilograms of waste per day.[1] In view of its highly heterogeneous composition and the differing conditions from country to country, this waste is currently burned, biologically treated, or disposed of at landfill sites.

The Waste2Go project aims to enhance the value of waste by transforming it into high-quality chemicals. In connection with this project, the Life Cycle Engineering Department carries out ecological, economic, and social assessment of this innovative refuse utilization process. Waste2Go – a process that generates high-quality chemicals from a waste flow.

»Thermo-mechanical process« – In the first stage of the cascade, the entire residual waste is thermally treated. In the so-called Rotoclave the residual waste is subjected to specific pressure, temperature, and humidity levels for a defined period. This procedure ensures hygienization of the waste, and the biological fraction is also made more accessible to the enzymes in the next processing stage.

»Enzyme platform and production« – An enzyme cocktail with a high decomposition rate and maximum yield is being specially developed for the heterogeneous basic material. This mixture of enzymes is being produced as part of the project in a purpose-built large-scale industrial system.

»Biodegradation process« – Selected process engineering, and determination of the ideal process parameters for the enzymatic degradation process, ensure maximum yield of the end substance.

»Purification and separation« – A new cleaning and separating process on the basis of supercritical water is being developed, with which monomers and oligomers of biological macromolecules can be separated from each other.

»Derivatization and application screening« – The characteristics and quality of products obtainable from thermally treated residual waste by means of enzymes are investigated, and various options for the extraction of chemicals are examined and evaluated.

»Life Cycle Assessment« – The new Waste2Go process is to be assessed with regard to its sustainability in ecological, economic, and social terms. The results are compared with the currently used combustion process, the biological treatment of waste, and its disposal at landfill sites, or with conventional chemical production. The comparison gives rise to recommendations that will aid decision making regarding the future treatment of residual waste.

[1] Eurostat 2010