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With the Project:
ZAWENT: Circular economy in a sustainable district in Ghent

DuCoop implemented a system of circular economy in a sustainable district in Ghent, a city in the Flemish Region of Belgium. The project aims to demonstrate economically viable business models for the decentral treatment of residential wastewater. The wastewater treatment process involves the integration of sustainable technologies that allow for low-temperature district heating, resource and water recovery as well as smart energy control. Furthermore, the plant recovers waste heat from the effluent of the water treatment plant, using a heat pump and an aerobic membrane bioreactor.


A lot of European countries are confronted with water stress related issues, aggravated by the potential effects of climate change. Over-exploitation of natural reserves and poor management of water resources can increase the vulnerability of local ecosystems, households and industry. About 60% of large European cities have 140 million people living in or near areas of such groundwater over-exploitation. This can lead to restrictions on water use by both households and industry. Decentral water treatment systems create opportunities to significantly improve efficiency of water consumption, and create alternative sources of freshwater for local industrial processes.


After visiting a Dutch pilot site on source separation and black water digestion, a feasibility study was carried out to create a similar commercial scale project in Flanders, bringing to life the ‘ZAWENT’- project by 2012. Ducoop replicated a similar project in Belgium, with the intention of incorporating sustainable technologies such as low-temperature industrial waste heat, resource and water recovery and smart renewable energy systems into the decentral wastewater treatment plant. The Zawent decentral water treatment system creates the opportunity to significantly improve the efficiency of water consumption and develop alternative sources of freshwater for local industrial processes.


The project’s wastewater management, electricity and heating solutions are organised in integrated and decentralised value chains that enable investment opportunities. This is done by deploying innovative technologies on a district scale. The creation of a local scale was facilitated to enable the recovery of waste heat for use by apartment buildings, improvement of the availability of clean water and the production of fertilisers which can be sold to the agriculture sector. All of these activities combined have resulted in lowering the CO2 emissions of the newly built neighbourhood 'De Nieuwe Dokken' by 70%, as well as in zero liquid discharge, and minimal waste production. Maximum local sustainability and resilience to climate change are thus ensured.


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