September 8, 2019 Industry

HighCon wins IWA Resource Recovery Cluster Award 2019

The International Water Association’s (IWA) Resource Recovery Cluster: Best Practice Award 2019 has been awarded to a consortium of the Technische Universität Berlin, DECHEMA, the DVGW-Forschungsstelle am EBI des KIT, Fraunhofer ISE, WEHRLE Umwelt GmbH, DEUKUM GmbH, SolarSpring GmbH, and Terrawater GmbH for their inspired project “HighCon – Resource recovery from concentrates arising from industrial water use”, which has developed innovative methods for the reuse of industrial wastewater using membrane processes.

Faced with increasing concerns over water availability, the search for innovative methods of treating industrial wastewater so that it can be safely reused has been on the increase, with promising cuts in water consumption of at least 50 percent and as high as 95 percent. At the same time, the processes of industrial water recycling result in residual streams – brines with high concentrations of salts, non-biodegradable organic compounds, and possible contaminants and heavy metals, which pose a serious ecological problem when they are discharged into the environment without previous treatment.

HighCon focuses on the recycling of concentrated brines, reducing disposal costs and offering an opportunity for the reuse of captured materials. With this innovative methodology, the consortium led by Prof. Sven-Uwe Geissen at TU Berlin aims to develop a complete closed loop for industrial wastewater systems.

HighCon concept: Reuse of concentrates as an option to increasingly difficult, harmful and expensive disposal.


“Recovering salt from industrial concentrates highly reduces the loads that are transferred into the environment, leading to a cleaner and greener production”, explains Prof. Sven-Uwe Geissen. In addition to its positive environmental impact, the salts recovered are also a viable secondary product that can be sold to other markets for the not negligible amount of 10 to 800 EUR/ton, while saving the disposal costs of residual brines that can amount up to 500 EUR/ton.

IWA Resource Recovery Cluster: Best Practice Award 2019 from IWA on Vimeo.


Partnered with Watershare, the 2019 “IWA Resource Recovery Cluster: Best Practice Award for closed loop industrial wastewater systems” was judged by an international evaluation committee chaired by emeritus Professor Willy Verstraete. The award is made for a proven technology on resource recovery, applied at full or demonstrative scale in the water cycle, which can serve as an excellent example for the water sector.

Summarising the decision Professor Willy Verstraete commented, “TU Berlin’s technological development of salt recovery puts in perspective the potential to recover a whole series of compounds from industrial wastewater, including various salts”. The technology is expected to be operated at a level of more than 1000 m3 per day and would allow recovering half a ton of salt per day, he explained. The process is being tested at various demonstration sites across industry sectors: DEK Deutsche Extrakt Kaffee GmbH (food industry), MEWA Textil-Service AG & Co. Management OHG (industrial laundry), Clariant Produkte (Deutschland) GmbH (industrial biotechnology) and L’Oréal Produktion Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG (cosmetics industry).

The award was presented to Technische Universität Berlin, Department of Environmental Process Engineering at the opening of the 3rd IWA International Resource Recovery Conference in Venice, Italy, taking place from 8 to 12 September 2019.

Photo: IWA Best Practice Award 2019. From left to right: Diane d’Arras (IWA President), Malena Kieselbach (TU Berlin), Sven-Uwe Geißen (TU Berlin), Willy Verstraete (IWA Resource Recovery Cluster, and Chairman of the award’s evaluation committee) and Ilje Pikaar, IWA Resource Recovery Cluster Secretary, at the IWA International Resource Recovery Conference in Venice. 


In addition, all qualifying cases will be shown on the platform “Best Practices on Resource Recovery from Water”, maintained by Watershare. Watershare is a worldwide network of water research organisations and utilities dedicated to applying global expertise to master local water challenges. Member experts collaborate in developing knowledge and science-based tools. The experts then apply this expertise in tackling a wide variety of water issues in their regions.

The first Award for Best Practice on Resource Recovery from Water in 2015 was granted to chain partners Reststoffenunie (now AquaMinerals), Waternet, Ardagh Glass and Desso for their successful valorization and high-value application of calcite pellets from drinking water softening, and the second Award in 2017, to technology provider POSCO Engineering and Construction, the Korea Environment Corporation (K-eco) and the city of Anyang, for the water- and energy-independent wastewater treatment plant in Saemul Park, Anyang, South Korea.