17 May 2018
Hebron, Palestine
Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Waste Management

When it comes to tackling major industrial wastewater pollution for the benefit of the whole community these three Palestinian environmental engineers would meet this challenge with great success. They would implement an innovative concept of treating waste by waste to eliminate environmental pollution from both wastewater and solid waste. Here is the story of an extraordinary integrated treatment system that minimizes the economic losses for both industries and improve the surrounding public health and the environment.

During their experiments in Palestine Polytechnic University, Nareman Zahde, Nadia L’Qefan and Heba Dweik have already succeeded in treating dairy wastewater with stone-cutting solid waste particles. It is only when they heard of the possible closing of 10 local tanneries due to the disposal of untreated wastewater that they thought of redirecting this innovative solution to solve an urgent need.

Leather tanning industry provides hundreds of jobs for the Hebron community, but uses various noxious chemicals in its production stages. The most toxic and polluting one is chromium. The resulting wastewater from tannery factories contains a high concentration of this poisonous chromium that causes cancer. Some studies concluded that chromium can damage fish gills, and incite respiratory problems, infections, infertility, and birth defects. It can also instigate a number of serious cancers in animals and plants throughout the food chain.

In addition, stone-cutting factories produce large quantities of solid waste particles which cause land, water, pollution and clogging of the sewer systems.

The three researchers pulled up their sleeves and designed an eco-friendly, efficient integrated wastewater treatment unit that removes chromium tannery wastewater by adsorption on solid waste particles, thus eliminating pollution from both industries. Laboratory results proved that this treatment system efficiency is 99%. Moreover, chromium is removed within a 30min process reaction instead of a long-hours process using conventional methods. In addition, this sustainable wastewater treatment solution cost three times less than the current solution and saves 50% of treated wastewater for the industry, estimated at 6 cubic meters daily.

Yet, the methodology developed within the SwitchMed training programme helped the team address their needs and develop their green business canvases. They realized then that the customer segment can be enlarged to galvanization industry to absorb zinc, dairy industry to absorb organics, and lubrication industry to uptake wasted lubricants and grease. Thus, this project will provide five immediate jobs in the first year, and this number would likely double when the project expands to other customer segments.

Furthermore, during this current incubation phase, SwitchMed coaching sessions are improving Zahdeh, L’Qefan, and Dweik’s pitching skills in order to find potential funding and launch their project. Soon, SwitchMed will organize a ¨Green Start-ups Meet Investors¨ event where our researchers team can put in practice their learning and hopefully, obtain financing.

According to Dweik, Waste by Waste can be replicated and scaled up in many developing countries, improving their public health and working conditions as well as the surrounding environment. In fact, the project contributes to saving underground water, soil, livestock, and humans from chromium contaminations while protecting sewer systems from stone particles pollution.



The story was originally published on the SwitchMed website.

Waste by Waste Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management