Recovering value from waste

Recovering resources from forestry and other industries as well as municipal waste is part of circular economy thinking. Scion's work in this area includes processing and recovering resources such as energy, carbon and minerals from biosolids (sewage) and organic materials.

Turning biosolids into resources

Effective treatment of biosolids (sewage) and other organic waste kills or removes harmful bacteria and contaminants that could affect the environment as well as recovering minerals and other components of value.

Hydrothermal processing

Hydrothermal processing, using a combination of heat and pressure, is an effective way to of breaking down the majority of organic components in biosolids and organic waste.

The prize-winning Terax™ process developed at Scion is a commercial example of this.

Watch a video explaining the process [YouTube]

The TERAX™ technology has the potential to reduce biological volumes that end up in landfill 30-fold. The volume of greenhouse gases can be reduced by approximately 70%. A large-scale pilot plant trial of the TERAX™ technology has been tested at Rotorua Lakes Council’s Wastewater Treatment facility.  Watch a video on hydrothermal processing at pilot scale [YouTube]

The resources that can be recovered include energy as heat, carbon dioxide, acetic acid, ammonia and ash rich in elements such as potassium and phosphate. The recovered resources can be used in industrial and agricultural applications including nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers, feedstocks for industrial process and electricity and transport fuels.

Our hydrothermal processing facilities include:

  • A lab-scale microthermal reactor that can process up to 20 mL
  • A 10 L Buchi reactor
  • A pilot scale plant

Watch the reactor in action [YouTube]

Read more about the micro thermal reactor for rapid screening.

Treating wastewater

The biological treatment of wastewater from the pulp and paper and other industries has been the subject of many years of research and development. Effective treatment of these effluents typically requires energy to power aeration systems and the addition of supplemental nutrients to ensure adequate performance. Scion’s N-ViroTech system uses nitrogen-fixing bacteria to decrease chemical costs of wastewater treatment and lower discharges of nutrients into the environment.

Improving water quality with zeolite

Scion has developed a zeolite polymer complex that binds phosphates and other anions. It has potential to improve the quality of waterways and lakes in both New Zealand and overseas. The zeolite is marketed under the name Aqual P by Blue Pacific Minerals.

Land application of biowaste

Biowastes can be applied to land as an alternative method of disposal. The results of Scion’s work are delivered through the New Zealand Land Treatment Collective.

The Centre for Integrated Biowaste Research

Scion is a partner in the Centre for Integrated Biowaste Research (CIBR) with ESR, Cawthron Institute and Landcare Research.

Find out more about CIBR.

The multidisciplinary team uses sustainable collaborative management approaches to provide solutions for the sustainable management of biowastes. It works with community groups and key regulatory and industry stakeholders to ensure systems and technical solutions are fit for New Zealand purposes.

CIBR’s project with the Kaikōura community shows how an integrated environmental, social, cultural and economic approach was used to derive sustainable solutions for the reuse of stockpiled biosolids for the community.


Paul Bennett, Portfolio Leader, Integrated Bioenergy