Used toilet paper is being processed in the Netherlands and repurposed as cycle paths. Cellulose – the natural fibres found in toilet roll - are being separated out from toilet sludge at a Dutch wastewater treatment plant. The entrepreneurs behind the project are selling this cleaned and sterilised residue in the form of fluffy material and pellets.
Toilet paper – derived cycle paths have already been constructed in the Netherlands as part of the two-year Cellvation project. It is one of many similar schemes around the country. Exact value from sewage has long been seen as an opportunity according to Noor Ney, head of sanitation with the Hollands Noorderkwartier water board. “Sewage isn’t only waste: it is a carrier of valuable resources such as phosphates, cellulose, energy and clean water,” she said. A preference for premium toilet paper among the Dutch is one of the reasons why the scheme works well in the Netherlands says Carlijn Lahaye, managing director of CirTec which is one of two companies behind the project.
“A lot of paper flushing through the toilet is high-quality fibre”, she says. “So, you remove something that costs energy to pump around; lower the operational cost and get money for something that would otherwise be burnt as waste.”
Meanwhile, some materials from the Cellvation project are being exported to the UK for other uses. Brunel University - a partner in the scheme - is working on technology to transform the waste into energy, bioplastic bottles and other products.