The INCOVER project is developing innovative technologies along the whole technology chain of waste water treatment (WWT). These technologies will produce added-value products and energy from these otherwise wasted material and energy streams and thus fosters circular economy and resource efficiency. All the outcomes of the technology development efforts will be integrated in a Decision-Support System (DSS), where the different technologies are evaluated according to their environmental, social and economic performance (see below). The DSS will be based on this 3-dimensional Life-Cycle Sustainability Assessment framework to form a multi-criteria decision support tool. The DSS is tailored to the needs of the target audience, mainly authorities and managers and their typical decision making situations. In order to establish a user-friendly application, it will benefit from the INCOVER knowledge base and the INCOVER stakeholder dialogue. The DSS will provide the following:
INCOVER technologies are being assessed from an environmental, economic and social perspective considering their entire life cycle from the conception phase (early-stage) to their end of life (EoL). This is accomplished by means of a tailored-to-technology Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) using Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC), and Social Life Cycle Assessment (sLCA). Based on the results of the INCOVER LCSA calculations a Decision Support System (DSS) is to be developed to provide a tool for infrastructure planners.
The LCA of the INCOVER processes has been implemented first and has made good progress. For example, the water treatment train of the algae-based technology in high rate algae ponds (HRAP) delivered valuable results showing that the HRAP technology performs significantly better than conventional sequencing batch reactor technology (SBR).
Results of environmental assessment of HRAP
The LCC calculations have been made parallel to LCA and data has been collected with the same data collection sheet as used for LCA. Data collection comprised capital expenditures and operation and maintenance costs including energy and staff costs as well.
As part of the LCSA, a Social Life Cycle Assessment (sLCA) framework measuring social impacts of INCOVER processes will be developed. Based on a literature review of the available approaches and methods and on studying the applicability of different sLCA procedures the UNEP/STEAC Guidelines was chosen as a suitable inventory of social impact categories to assess the INCOVER technologies. An inquiry among the project consortium using questionnaires helped in identifying the relevant social impact categories for the INCOVER technologies. The results were used to establish a common framework for social impact assessment according to the UNEP/SETAC Guidelines.