The third Urbaser Partnership Prize was presented on 8 June at the Universidad de Zaragoza.

June 2019, web copy

This award is aimed at recognising final projects completed during the 2017-2018 school year with themes focusing on waste treatment, recovery, recycling, and urban spaces, or the management of urban waste and water, integrated into the circular economy. All of these themes are directly related to Urbaser’s main activities.

The winner of this third edition was Environmental Science degree-holder Daniel León for his final thesis entitled “Study on the recovery of phosphorous from the Tudela wastewater treatment station’s sludge dewatering return water.”

This is how Daniel explains his winning project:

“The main goal of my final thesis was to recover the phosphorus in water from the Tudela wastewater treatment plant’s sludge treatment process so that this phosphorus does not end up in rivers, and instead can be reused as fertilizer.

This recovery is carried out with the precipitation of phosphorous in the form of a salt called struvite.

In the final thesis, optimal operating conditions were determined, pilot-scale work was carried out, and finally an estimation was made on the application of this method for real-life scale.

The idea came from a university internship at the Tudela wastewater treatment plant.

Being there and talking with Jairo Gómez, the wastewater treatment plant’s manager, led to the opportunity to develop a study on this theme. It seemed like a really interesting topic since it faces a real environmental problem in a sustainable way.”

Daniel is certain that working on recovering and valorising natural resources is a fundamental part of a sustainable future.

“We’ve seen that resource consumption has increased a lot in recent decades, and the problem is that we are consuming finite resources. Sustainable development was born out of this context, which is focused on covering current needs without compromising the needs of future generations. Up to that point, there’s no issue. The problem arises when we there is no current consideration for this, as we over-exploit resources.

So, measures like those introduced in my final thesis are fundamental to ensuring development is sustainable, because, in this case, it allows the current flow of phosphorous consumption to be transformed into cyclical consumption where phosphorous can be reused, creating a new source of phosphorous.”

Daniel was quite happy to receive news of the award.

“I was thrilled because, well, it’s so gratifying for the hard work and effort you put into a final thesis to be recognised. The cash prize is always exciting, but I’m just happy that a project that I spent so much time doing my best on was recognised like this. I’m really happy.”

YHe took the opportunity to thank the institutions and individuals that helped him complete this winning project: NILSA and Jairo Gómez for their support and the work spaces provided at their facilities during the project, and Natividad Miguel, Daniel’s tutor at the Universidad de Zaragoza.

Daniel is continuing his training with a Masters in Secondary Education in Biology and, although he is orienting his future towards education, he recognises his interest in the world of research and does not rule it out as a possible career path.

At any rate, Daniel is certain that it will be key to continue working to seek out viable and sustainable solutions to current environmental problems, which he reminds us are “increasingly numerous and serious”.

Thank you, Daniel, and congratulations on your award.