Impact Story

Getting climate-smart at the source

Water and waste treatment are normal parts of any city’s responsibilities. But they are emission-intensive. As an EU Mission city, the city of Helsingborg has committed to being climate neutral by 2030. To city engineers, water and waste management seemed like a potentially impactful starting point.

While fresh water flows freely into our homes and workplaces, much of it flows out equally as fast, wasted or underused. And whatever its condition, so-called “black” or “grey”, it travels together through the municipal sewage system to undergo the same emission-intensive treatment—maximum sanitation processing and disposal.

Food waste that gets thrown out is likewise a potentially valuable resource that eventually requires emission-intensive handling far from source.

Achieving the city’s 2030 goal requires questioning commonplace practice, and innovative cross-collaboration to identify opportunities, test alternatives and implement transformative solutions. One outcome has been the radical improvement to one test district’s waste-water and biomass management—Tre Rör Ut (three-pipes-out) source-sorted waste management.

From pipe dream to reality

Tre Rör Ut is a cross-collaborative initiative involving the city of Helsingborg, Northwest Skåne Water and Sewer, Lund University and Recolab. The system is operated and managed by Recolab from its hub in Oceanhamnen, which also offers co-development services and space, research facilities, and a working testbed.

Homes and workspaces in Oceanhamnen have been fitted with an innovative three-pipe waste separation system.

One pipe for ground food waste collects biomass for processing centrally, recovering nutrients and turning compostable material into biogas, in turn contributing to sustainable energy goals for the district.

A second pipe for baths, dishwashing, and washing machines collects “grey” water for lighter processing and reuse where fresh water isn’t required. Any heat still in the water is also recovered at source, and redirected for local heating, saving on district energy requirements.

And a third vacuum pipe is for toilet “black” water, connecting directly to central treatment where nutrients for agriculture are recovered and depleted materials are transformed into biogas.

Together they add up to lower resource use, more efficient energy use, sustainable energy production, and overall lower emission and environmental impact from waste management—without residents and tenants having to change habits or behaviour.

Tapping into global impact innovation

To date, Tre Rör Ut has proven to be a success with everyone involved. Local businesses can report the impact as part of their own sustainability initiatives. Pharmaceutical companies , for example, can demonstrate energy efficient waste water handling of their operations. Researchers, students and professors benefit from a live testbed for innovation. Local government enjoys an efficient and cost-effective solution that contributes directly to the city’s Climate Neutral 2030 goals. And the public appreciates and can take pride in their community’s innovative commitment to sustainability.

Source-sorting of waste has turned out to be a win-all-around solution: we reduce environmental impact, recycle resources, and contribute to a more sustainable future for Helsingborg and our planet. In other words, everything cross-collaboration for transformational global impact innovation set out to achieve.


Recolab entrance

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