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Technologies and processes for wastewater and waste management

In summary

In a word

  • 113 permanent staff including 107 researchers, engineers and technicians
  • 42 top-ranking publications per year on average
  • 13 patents and 1 software tool
  • 1 research and technology platform dedicated to wastewater treatment (La Feyssine, Lyon)

Three lines of scientific research

  • Processes predominantly governed by a solid phase
  • Processes predominantly governed by a liquid phase
  • Technical and environmental evaluation of treatment and recovery chains

Editorial : Organic waste and wastewater -   Resources to recover

Sylvie Gillot, Deputy science director, TED- © M-L.Degaudez/Irstea

Although the first sewer systems date back to ancient times, it has taken centuries to progress to modern management of sewage and waste. Initiated to solve sanitation problems, significant advances have been made in the field since the 1970s and 1980s, coinciding with an increasing awareness of resource scarcity and the need to protect an environment mistreated by human activity.

Irstea’s expertise and its research activities made significant contributions to these developments. Their aim was to advance knowledge to support public and private organizations in designing, developping, operating and optimizing treatment and recovery facilities for wastewater, agricultural effluent and organic waste. Using a multidisciplinary and multiscale approach (from bacteria to processing chains, from laboratory settings to fullscale installations), teams from the Technologies and processes for wastewater and waste (TED) research topic are developing new processes and optimizing existing technologies. They are recognized within the international scientific community for work on topics such as anaerobic digestion, which responds to the dual challenge of recycling and recovering energy from organic waste, functional microbiology, modeling wastewater treatment, and wastewater treatment facilities adapted to small communities.

Other scientific themes are equally promising. Environmental evaluation tools (including life cycle assessment, LCA) improve identification of the environmental impact of waste management or wastewater treatment. Recycling phosphorus from livestock farming effluent and wastewater provides a solution to excess manure spreading and today’s decreasing phosphate deposits. Finally, wastewater treatment processes and chainsare currently being reviewed with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This research is conducted in partnership with public (Onema, Ademe, government ministries, water agencies, etc.), academic and private organizations as part of the Carnot Institutes program. All share the same objective: moving away from waste treatment toward waste recovery (producing electricity, fertilizers, high added-value molecules and reusing treated wastewater, etc.).


Selected research pojects

Field research into anaerobic digestion


Wastewater treatment minus the greenhouse gases


Working group for the evaluation of new
processes for small and medium-sized


From waste to biofuel with energy-filled microbes

Innovation and prizes

A warmly welcomed invention

Irstea won a prize at the Pollutec 2014 fair for its work on heat recovery from composting.

When organic waste is composted, the microorganism activity involved in biodegrading organic matter produces heat – and temperatures of up to 80°C. Until recently this energy was lost but can now be recovered using two processes developed and
patented by a team of Irstea researchers. The technology is based on condensing the water vapor contained in the gas effluent produced by forced aeration processes. The energy recovered can be used, for example, to heat livestock farm buildings and greenhouses as well as to dry various materials such as compost, waste and agricultural products. Relocating production of renewable energy and saving energy, unquestionably appreciated by users, are the key objectives.

Learn more about the prize

Technological platform

At the heart of wastewater treatment processes
Set up near the Lyon wastewater treatment plant, the La Feyssine research and development platform provides Irstea with a unique opportunity to study wastewater treatment processes in situ.
Provided by Greater Lyon as part of a long-term partnership with Irstea and equipped by Irstea, this platform is in a prime position to make use of effluent from various stages of the treatment chain. This makes it possible to conduct experiments in particularly realistic conditions on semi-industrial wastewater treatment pilots. Since the platform was opened at the end of 2012, many research projects have been conducted in partnership with public and private organizations both to optimize existing processes and to test new processes such as sieving during secondary treatment. Irstea scientists are also developing simulationbased management support tools and defining the future of micropollutants within the wastewater processing sector.