Israeli Firm Mines Sewage for Recyclable Bounty

Raw sewage is nothing but waste to most, but for Israeli Israeli firm Applied CleanTech it's like gold.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Israeli firm Applied CleanTech has developed a sewage mining system that picks out and recycles useful fibers from raw urban and industrial wastewater, increasing the efficiency of treatment plants and reducing the amount of unwanted sludge.

The company's first commercial system, housed in a shipping container weighing 17 metric tons, sits beneath the hillside town of Safed in northern Israel and sifts through sewage before it enters the municipal treatment center.

At the end of its conveyor belt, the device spits out pellets made from cellulose fibers, which are found in many discarded items, like baby wipes or fruits and vegetables, said chief executive Refael Aharon.

The wastewater from Safed is stained dark brown from runoff of a nearby coffee factory. The fiber-rich coffee beans are a windfall for Applied CleanTech's system.

The material in the pellets feels like the lint that gathers in a clothes dryer and is completely sterile, Aharon said.

It has a number of purposes. Aharon's business cards are made from recycled paper that in part came from the fibers. The pellets from Safed are mostly sold as an alternative combustion source.

The sewage then flows into the main wastewater plant for a more complete treatment. One of the plant's final by-products is called sludge, a semi-liquid waste that is often used as fertilizer, but can also be hazardous and is costly to dispose.

"Our system saves sewage treatment plants 20 to 30 percent of operational costs. The plant will consume less electricity, need fewer chemicals, and at the end it will have significantly less sludge," Aharon said.

A unit that can serve a town of 25,000 to 30,000 people costs in Israel about NIS 2.5 million ($700,000).

A handful of cities, in Israel and abroad, have already ordered Applied CleanTech's technology, Aharon said, and he expects about 10 more orders for 2014.

One of the company's investors is Boston-based venture capital firm Saturn Partners.

Applied CleanTech Chief Executive Refael Aharon stands next to pellets made from cellulose fibers picked out from the firm's sewage mining system in the town of Safed in northern Israel, October 2013.Credit: Reuters

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Prime Minister Yair Lapid, this month.

Lapid to Haaretz: ‘I Have Learned to Respect the Left’

“Dubi,” whose full name is secret in keeping with instructions from the Mossad.

The Mossad’s Fateful 48 Hours Before the Yom Kippur War

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer