Development and demonstration of an innovative system to reduce volatile organic compounds in EU waste treatment plants, reducing CO2 emissions and energy consumption.

Technical details

  • Subjects:
  • Status:
    En curs
  • Municipality:
  • Programme:
  • Project number:
    LIFE22 ENV /101113838
  • Total budget:
  • AMB budget:
    €605,209.12 (60 % EU funding)
  • Project management (AMB):
    Julia Hereza (Digital Information, Quality and Innovation Service technician), Glòria Sánchez (head of the Quality Control section) and Joan Carles Fernández (head of the Digital Information, Quality and Innovation Service)
  • Other partners:
    University of Valladolid (ES) (coordinator), Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona (ES), Aeris Tecnologías Ambientales, SL (ES), Kalfrisa, SAU (ES), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-Barcelona Tech (ES), FCC Medio Ambiente, SAU (ES)
  • Financing:



Important information

Co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

Project challenges


The LIFE ABATE project poses several challenges.

  • Waste generation on the rise

    The rapid growth in the world’s population, rising living standards and technological advances are leading to a steady increase in the generation of municipal solid waste (MSW). Current global MSW production amounts to approximately 2 billion tonnes per year and is estimated to reach 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050. Specifically, 225 million tonnes were generated in the EU in 2020, of which 52 million tonnes was sent for final disposal. Landfill has long been the most common treatment system for unsegregated MSW due to its low operating and capital costs. However, implementation of EU regulations (Directive 31/1999, Directive 62/1994) and efforts to achieve near zero landfill led to a drop in the EU landfill rate from 61 % in 1995 to 23 % in 2020, and this is expected to decrease further.

  • Emissions generated by municipal waste treatment

    While treating municipal waste, mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) plants can generate a wide range of chemical emissions, mainly volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ammonia and hydrogen sulphide. The main cause of emissions is the degradation of organic matter due to the action of micro-organisms.

    Waste treatment, like many other anthropogenic activities, generates VOCs, carbon-based chemicals (hydrocarbons, alcohols, ethers, ketones and terpenes, among others) that evaporate at room temperature. Typical VOC concentrations in such facilities are estimated at between 3 and 21 mg/Nm3, resulting in high odour concentrations, so these air streams require treatment before release into the atmosphere.

    In addition to VOCs, carbon dioxide (CO2) is another gaseous component emitted by TMB plants. This anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) accounts for approximately 82 % of total global GHG emissions and is expected to increase in the coming years. Recent recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make strong calls for a 55 % reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 to limit global warming and achieve climate neutrality (zero emissions) by 2050 in Europe. In the specific case of the waste management sector, 2.92 billion tonnes of CO2 were emitted in 2020.

    Currently, the most commonly used technologies to treat VOC emissions from these facilities are thermal processes (regenerative thermal oxidators, RTOs) and biological processes (biofilters, BFs), which can be combined with scrubbing, cryogenic condensation, adsorption or catalytic oxidation. Although these are efficient technologies, they are also very expensive and energy intensive and generate a large carbon footprint when treating large air flows.

  • LIFE ABATE Project

    This is the context out of which the LIFE ABATE project arose, coordinated by the University of Valladolid, in close collaboration with the AMB (who provided the idea) and four national organisations: Aeris Tecnologías Ambientales, SL; Kalfrisa, SAU; Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-Barcelona Tech and FCC Medio Ambiente. The project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of an innovative system for highly efficient and sustainable treatment of air from MBT plants.

    The project is expected to last four years and will have a total budget of €3,246,062, of which 55 % will be co-funded by the European Commission through the LIFE programme, €605,209 of which will be managed directly by the AMB.

The LIFE ABATE solution

In order to reduce the environmental and economic impact of MBT plants for municipal waste, the LIFE ABATE project proposes implementing an innovative scheme.

A large volume air stream (20,000 m3/h) but with a low VOC concentration is blown through a filter and a rotoconcentrator (RC), which concentrates the VOCs in the waste gas stream and reduces the flow requiring treatment by up to 10 times. This means that, for every 100,000 m3/h, only a concentrated stream of 10,000 m3/h need be treated.

This concentrated stream is then treated in a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO), resulting in lower natural gas consumption in the TMB plants due to the greater VOC concentration. This reduces the use of natural resources, lowers energy costs and cuts greenhouse gas emissions.

Alternatively, the concentrated gaseous emissions after the RC can be treated in a two-phase biotrickling filter (2P-BTF). This approach improves enhancement of hydrophobic VOCs compared to conventional biofilters, and also requires less space.

Finally, to close the process cycle, the CO2 emissions produced will be used for greenhouse farming to store the CO2 and prevent emission into the atmosphere.




The main objective of LIFE ABATE is to test an innovative air treatment system to reduce the environmental and economic impact of MBT plants for municipal waste. This will be achieved by increasing the efficiency of VOC and odour removal, as well as decreasing energy requirements (saving on natural gas and electricity) and operating costs.

  • Specific objectives
    • Increase VOC removal efficiency

    Increased VOC removal efficiency of conventional biological alternatives, starting from 30-70 % for hydrophobic VOCs up to 90-95% removal.

    • Reduce thermal energy consumption in RTO by 90 %

    Reduction of annual thermal energy consumption in the RTO from 32,461,968 MJ/year to 3,246,197 MJ/year.

    • Reduce electrical energy consumption in biological systems by 45 %

    Reduction of annual electrical energy consumption compared to conventional biological systems from 9,937,723 MJ/year to 5,450,693 MJ/year.

    • Reduce operational costs in RTO by 82 % and in biological systems by 94 %

    Reduction of operating costs (CAPEX) of RTO per m3 treated from €0.118/m3 to €0.021/m3, and of biological systems from €0.018/m3 to €0.0011/m3.

    • Reduce carbon footprint in RTO by 90 % and in biological systems by 45 %

    Reduction of annual CO2 emissions in the RTO, from 350,683 kg CO2-eq/year to 35,068 kg CO2-eq/year, and from biological systems, from 320,216 kg CO2-eq/year to 175,633 kg CO2-eq/year.

    • Increase agricultural production by 30 %

    Promote crop growth and improve production by 30 % by transferring CO2 emissions generated by the system.

Demonstration sites

Sites where the project will be implemented

  • Ecoparc 3, Barcelona


    Ecoparc 3 in Sant Adrià de Besòs is the first site where the LIFE ABATE solution will be implemented, operated and demonstrated. 

    This TMB municipal waste plant has been in operation since 2006 and has a treatment capacity of 192,000 tonnes of MSW from the non-segregated fraction (grey container) per year. This means that it treats about 100,000 Nm3/hour of VOC-laden gases.

    Although the solution will be demonstrated with a flow rate of 20,000 Nm3/h, once the project is completed, the intention is to scale it up to industrial levels where the air flow requiring treatment can be reduced tenfold. Thus, in Ecopark 3 only 10,000 Nm3/h would need to be treated, instead of 100,000 Nm3/h.

  • Las Dehesas, Madrid


    Once the LIFE ABATE system has been tested at Ecoparc 3, the solution will be replicated at Las Dehesas waste treatment centre in Madrid.

    This waste treatment centre, which opened in 2000, includes an MSW sorting plant for the source-separated organic fraction (brown container), which needs to treat approximately 165,000 Nm3/h of air.

    As at Ecoparc 3, the semi-industrial scale demonstration will have a flow rate of 20,000 Nm3/h, the aim is to reduce tenfold the airflow requiring treatment. Thus, only about 16,000 Nm3/h would need to be treated at Las Dehesas instead of 165,000 Nm3/h.

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Ecoparc 3. Sant Adrià de Besòs
Las Dehesas. Madrid
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