Neighbourhood bio refinery : producing nutrients and heat from waste

Waternet will implement a neighbourhood bio refinery, a small scale treatment unit in which raw materials (nutrients such as phosphate) and energy (biogas) can be recovered from black waste water.

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Location : Buiksloterham, Amsterdam

Project team :  Waternet

Contacts : Otto Reinstra

The project

City-zen partner Waternet, public water company for the Amsterdam region, is involved in the development of ‘Circular Buiksloterham’, a new residential area in the north of Amsterdam. For this purpose the water company is developing a so-called ‘New Sanitation’ system: a system in which waste water streams are separated at source (in households) and processed locally.

Neighbourhood bio refinery

Waternet will implement a neighbourhood bio refinery, a small scale treatment unit in which raw materials (nutrients such as phosphate) and energy (biogas) can be recovered from black waste water (waste water coming from toilets and possibly food grinders). The black water is captured through a vacuum sewer system.

Currently the grey waste water stream (coming from showers, washing machines and the kitchen) will not be collected and treated locally yet but the Buiksloterham system has the potential to do so in a later stage. For now, it will still be collected via a traditional sewer system. A local grey water treatment unit would facilitate the recycling of water and heat. 

Change the way we handle our waste water 

Waste water carries raw materials (like plant nutrients) and energy (heat and biogas). Most of these are lost in our current waste water systems. A good example is phosphate: it is essential to feeding the world, but its excessive use as a fertilizer has led to widespread pollution and eutrophication. A huge amount of phosphate is flushed out into the surface water by waste water treatment plants around the world. At the same time many of the world’s remaining phosphate reserves are starting to be depleted.

To recover minerals like phosphate we should change the way we handle our waste water, and treat it as a valuable resource. In practical terms this means that we should keep the different types of waste water separated to be able to recover energy and minerals efficiently.

Circular solutions, urban innovation and start-ups in the royal spotlight

At the invitation of His Majesty the King, Her Excellency Madam Halimah Yacob President of the Republic of Singapore, visited the Netherlands for a state visit on 21 and 22 November 2018. AMS Institute and Waternet were invited to share their innovations with the delegation. The visit was hosted at Prodock, an innovation hub for start-up companies. This state visit is an affirmation of the close ties between the Netherlands and Singapore, and an excellent opportunity to broaden and deepen bilateral cooperation, especially in the realm of commerce and innovation. Read the full article by AMS [2016, November 22]

–  –  -> First stop: future sanitation concept for houses

[In Dutch] An article by City of Amsterdam, Schoonschip

De duurzaamste drijvende woonwijk van Europa is bijna klaar. Na jaren van dromen, onderzoeken, ontwerpen en bouwen, begint Schoonschip vorm te krijgen. Het project komt te drijven op het Johan van Hasseltkanaal, in Buiksloterham. [2016, November 12]

–  –  -> Schoonschip maken

[In Dutch] Short interview with Waternet about the Bio-refinery

Op 10 oktober was het de dag van de duurzaamheid. Blok 35 op IJburg is al jaren voorloper op het gebied van duurzaamheid en hield die dag open huis. Verslaggever Ephraim Fuks ging langs en deed de duurzaamheidstest. Video waarin Frans Halsema van Waternet wordt geïnterviewd – vanaf 2:58

An article by The Hackable City, Buiksloterham

In this article Matthijs Bouw specifically discusses the Buiksloterham Hackable City project, which explores how digital technology can facilitate city making. Waternet is working on a ‘bio-refinery’ as a decentralized waste management system. [2016, April 11]

–  –  -> A new way of city-making

Interested to know more about this project? Read all about it here or contact one of the involved partners.


  • The Project

    A city operating entirely on clean energy. In theory, it's possible. But in real life? How to integrate new solutions in existing buildings, systems and people's lives? What are the technical, economic or social barriers? And how to overcome these? That's what we've learned by doing in 20 projects in Grenoble and Amsterdam.

  • Our Activities

  • Achieved Impacts

    • 20 innovations in Grenoble & Amsterdam
    • 35,000 tonnes CO2 saved per year
    • 76,000 m² renovated residential buildings
    • 10,000 dwellings connected to a Smart Grid