Converting sea-algal waste into a valuable bio-resource

“Sea algae are a challenging substrate to compost”

Uncontrolled growth and accumulation of algae in coastal areas (in Spain) negatively affect the water quality, the recreational use of beaches, and also tourism. This is why tons of algal biomass is being removed every year but, unfortunately, then disposed of in landfills or even destroyed. This is pity, as this practice increases pressure on waste management, but more importantly, a valuable organic substrate is lost, which is a waste in itself.

“Tauw Foundation offers a unique and simple format to obtain a significant budget to launch projects related to sustainability and independent of our regular projects. It’s a great motivation to try and develop ideas without having to look for external (out of Tauw) support”, says Alfredo Pérez de Mora, project leader of the Sea Algal Waste project that was approved recently.

His dream project proposes bioconversion of algal waste into a nutrient rich resource by means of co-composting. The resulting product can be used as an organic fertiliser for agricultural purposes, gardening or in tree nurseries. The result is twofold: a reduction of the need for inorganic fertilisers and a substantially smaller carbon footprint, as well as clean beaches!

What makes this a dream project? 

“This project is particularly special to me because it is related to an issue I observed for quite some time and always wanted to do something about. For Tauw Foundation the project is interesting, because it involves innovation, sustainability and circular economy aspects”, says Alfredo.

“Our main goals are to develop a composting approach for sea algal waste as so far there is very little knowledge on this potential approach: sea algae are a challenging substrate to compost! The final aim is to develop a mature composting process that can be easily adopted by coastal municipalities and commercial companies, resulting in a bio-product that can be used to support a more circular and sustainable economic model.”

“The project is still in its start-up phase, but so far we have received great interest and initial support from the municipality of Rota (our test city on the Spanish southwestern Coast of Cádiz). Recently, we took the first sea algae samples for elemental analysis in order to work out the best composting approach.”

Approved by Tauw Foundation

“This dream project is highly innovative and focusses on sustainable solutions”, says Eefje van Empel on behalf of Tauw Foundation. “We awarded it partly because it is supported by a large consortium in which universities and municipalities participate, but also because it is a dream project that provides a blueprint for businesses wanting to tackle this problem in the future. Our contribution is therefore intended as a kickstart for sustainable solutions on a large scale. The sheer beauty of this project is that the solution it offers is twofold: beaches are cleaner, and waste (algae) is then used for sustainable agriculture. The project thus contributes to a better world – precisely our mission.”

Sustainable development goals

The Sea Algal Waste project is a dream project that relates to the following SDGs:

 

Contact information

Any questions? We are happy to provide information.

Alfredo Pérez de Mora
alfredo.perezdemora@tauw.com
Phone number: +49 8989 0 5959 11

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