Strategies for the recovery of urea from wastewater: technical, economic and environmental feasibility

The processes of printing cellulosic fabrics (cotton, viscose, linen) require the addition of urea to ensure the fixation of the dye on the fiber. The subsequent washing of the printed fabric gives rise to high volumes of waste water with color and a high concentration of urea which corresponds to high nitrogen contents.

The discharge of waste water with a high nitrogen content has a significant environmental impact in terms of eutrophication, for this reason, current legislation limits its discharge and obliges textile companies to carry out intensive treatments on this water. Today, the usual treatments involve the application of nitrification-denitrification processes in biological treatment plants with high volumes and very long retention times, which in many cases require the addition of organic compounds to compensate for the low COD/ N.

The present project consists of a technical feasibility and applicability study of the combination of different disruptive, efficient and sustainable technologies that will allow overcoming a key challenge in the textile and water treatment industry, the environmental and economic improvement in the treatment of waste water .

The innovative technologies studied in the project can be divided into two large groups: separation technologies (mainly membrane filtration and adsorption techniques) and elimination technologies (electrochemical oxidation, photo-oxidation, specific microorganisms, etc.). In addition, both technologies can be combined to separate the urea that can be reused and degrade the effluents that, due to their characteristics, cannot be valued and must be dumped.

The analysis of strategies for the recovery of urea from wastewater aims to validate the applicability of innovative combined technologies for the separation, elimination and potential recovery of urea from wastewater from textile industrial processes.

January 2023 – December 2023

Financing of the project
Iniciatives de Reforç a la Competitivitat (IRC) 2022 – ACCIÓ. Exp_ACE057_22_000018

Project coordinator

Universitat de Politècnica de Catalunya-BarcelonaTech (UPC), Control i Manteniment de l’Aigua (CIM Aigua) and Hydrokemos (HYK)

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