New Slough reactor turns sewage into fertiliser

The Slough sewage treatment facility The sustainable nutrient-recovery reactor could help global food supplies, the Soil Association said

Related Stories

A £2m reactor that turns sewage into fertiliser has been installed by Thames Water at a plant in Berkshire.

The nutrient-recovery facility takes waste water from the Slough Trading Estate and turns the phosphorus in it into crystalline fertiliser pellets.

The company says it is the first of its kind in Europe and will save it £200,000 a year, which it will pass on to its 14 million customers.

About 150 tonnes a year of fertiliser will be produced and sold to farmers.

Phosphorus is the key ingredient in fertiliser and is usually mined in countries such as Morocco, China and the US.

Peter Melchett of the Soil Association said: "With the world's affordable mineable reserves of phosphorus set to start running out in the next 20 to 30 years, this new technology could offer a solution to securing global food supplies over the coming decades.

"Without fertilisation from phosphorus, wheat crop yields will fall by more than half.

"Meanwhile, as the planet's population is predicted to hit nine billion by 2050, demand for food will increase."

Clogged pipes

Thames Water said nutrient-recovery facilities were only suitable for certain sewage works in industrialised areas, where high-strength organic waste from businesses mean effluent entering the works is rich in struvite, a nutrient compound containing ammonia and phosphorous.

If left unchecked struvite settles as a rock-like scale on pipes at the sewage works until it clogs them completely.

Thames Water said until now it had spent £200,000 a year on chemical dosing to clear pipes of struvite at Slough, money it can now save.

Algae in the Regents Canal at Paddington in London in August 2013 Phosphorus-rich sewage effluent can cause increases in algae in waterways, like this one in the Regents Canal in London in August

The process will also improve the quality of treated effluent leaving the sewage works, reducing nutrient levels and in turn reducing algae growth in rivers and streams, which can leave little oxygen for fish and other wildlife.

Piers Clark, commercial director for Thames Water, said: "This is a classic win win.

"We are producing eco-friendly steroids for plants, while also tackling the costly problem of struvite fouling up pipes at our works."

A Thames Water spokesman said if the reactor, built by Canadian firm Ostara, proved successful, the firm would consider installing more.

Waste converter installed at water plant

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More England stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreFinal score Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show


  • A robotClick Watch

    The latest in robotics including software that can design electronics to solve problems

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.