Discover the Acea Group online 2020 Sustainability Report

Environment segment

Environment segment


The chapter includes ACEA Elabori, for the project “Smart Comp”; the activities of the waste treatment hub, waste-to-energy plants and compost production plants, all within Acea Ambiente; and the activities of Aquaser and Acque Industriali.

Our projects

Acea Ambiente coordinates the “Sludge Mining” project on critical raw materials

The "Sludge Mining" project, coordinated by Acea Ambiente as the leader in this area, aims to contribute to identification of solutions to two significant problems: the lack of plants for recovery and disposal of treatment sludge, with the goal of offering sector operators, at sustainable costs and in line with circular-economy principles, forms of disposal that promote the recovery and reduction of certain raw materials considered "critical" (Critical Raw Materials) by the European Union, such as minerals, nutrients and fossil fuels, due to intensive exploitation of mines and deposits.
The design solution proposed combines advanced industrial technology and innovative processes for the recovery both of the organic component and materials of value contained within treatment sludge, transforming waste into a resource. "Sludge Mining" combines technologies for upgrading of products obtained from the hydrothermal carbonization reaction, referred to as hydrochar, and the liquid phase. The aim of the process is to extract the highest-value inert products from the solid (critical raw materials), including phosphorus, silicon and magnesium, and reduce the content of ash, increasing the concentrators of carbon. The carbon produced will be used as a replacement for coal, for the production of advanced materials and innovative biological products, thus contributing to achievement of the goals for reduction in the use of fossil fuels in manufacturing and energy industries. The liquid phase will be processed by anaerobic digesters to produce biogas, which will be separated to form biomethane. The process will enable optimised energy efficiency throughout the system. A demonstration plant will be developed aimed at validation of the project.
The project partners, in addition to Acea Ambiente, are the National Interuniversity Consortium of Materials Science and Technology, The University of Florence, the University of Pisa, the University of Siena, the Politecnico di Milano university and the Renewable Energy Consortium for Research and Demonstration.

Acque Industriali coordinates the “Nanobond” project: treatment of contaminated sludge and sediments

The project coordinated by Acque Industriali, entitled "NANOBOND" – Nanomaterials for the decontamination associated with dewatering of environmental materials – approved for regional co-financing through the European Development and Research Fund (POR-FESR 2014-2020), proposes the development of a new integrated treatment system for the management of contaminated sludge and dredging sediments, based on the use of innovative nanostructured materials with eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable characteristics. The project aims to implement tubular elements in draining geotextile for the dehydration of sludge and sediments (dewatering), integrating this with the decontaminating action of nanostructured materials (nanoremediation). This will allow the removal of contaminants present in wastewater and sediments, significant reduction of the volumes and relative costs of transport and transformation of processed sediments from "waste" into a resource, for the management of riverbanks, recovery of the water component and other possible applications.
Through development of nanoremediation techniques associated with dewatering, "NANOBOND" approaches dredging and management of sludge and sediments, connected with the stabilization of watercourses, providing tangible solutions for hydrogeological instability and maintenance of port areas, increasingly subject to build-up of sand. This technique is efficient in terms of its capacity to reduce contaminants and implementation times, and it is easily scalable for on-site applications on a large scale with competitive costs.
The system has been tested on dredging of marine sediments (Port of Livorno), brackish waters (Navicelli Canal) and freshwater (drainage channels), where the need to remove variable quantities of contaminated sediments has become an absolute priority at the regional, national and European level. There has been a particular focus on the choice of raw materials from renewable sources, also from recycling, starch from tubers and waste paper pulp for the synthesis of nanomaterials/structures, with competitive production and process costs, and environmental compatibility. These are the principles underlying green nanotechnology for the development of nanotechnologies that are safe for the environment and human health (nano-ecosafety), which minimise the risks linked to production and use throughout their life cycle.
In addition to Acque Industriali, heading up the project, partners include: the National Interuniversity Consortium of Materials Science and Technology, the Universities of Siena, Pisa, Turin, and the Politecnico di Milano, ISPRA, ERGO (start-up of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna high school in Pisa), LABROMARE, BIOCHEMIE Lab and the BARTOLI paper mill for the production of (nano)materials and ASEV Ag. for development and Technology District.