It actually started with a business idea where I saw the possibility to expand our business in the area of waste water. We planned to separate multi-resistant germs found in waste water with the aid of membrane technology. In the meantime, the subject of multi‑resistant germs has become much more than just work for me.

When I myself had to spend a few days in hospital a few years ago I noticed that some areas were closed off due to the risk of germs and infection. It was then that I became aware for the first time of the personal risk for myself and my family. In that moment I understood the public should also be made aware of this subject. Since 2015 I have led the workgroup for micropollutants at the German Society for Membrane Technology. In this position I regularly hold talks at specialized events and conferences on the subject of multi-resistant germs, the dangers they represent, and what can be done against them.

Multi-resistant germs in waste water

This is because the things we cannot see are often the most dangerous. In the air these are harmful gases and fine dust. Water contains micropollutants, multi-resistant germs and microplastics. They are not visible to the naked eye, but can represent a serious threat to the environment and human health.

micro plastic in the ocean

The waste water circuit is a decisive factor in the proliferation of multi-resistant germs because the germs ultimately reach the environment after passing through a waste water treatment plant. Waste water treatment plants provide the ideal conditions for the emergence and proliferation of multi-resistant germs and the conventional processes used in the treatment of waste water are not able to prevent their proliferation.

At the present time the operators of waste water treatment plants usually use techniques to separate micropollutants with a combination of activated carbon and sand filters installed downstream. The activated carbon and sand filters reduce trace substances such as pharmaceutical residues and microplastics. However, they cannot stop multi-resistant germs. In addition, the sand filter is not able to fully separate the activated carbon which means it is partly able to enter and pollute the environment.

Pilot project in North Rhine-Westphalia

Therefore for some time now MICRODYN-NADIR has been testing a new process involving a combination of activated carbon and immersed membrane filtration in a pilot project in the municipal waste water treatment plant in Hünxe (North Rhine-Westphalia). And the results are positive. The combination of activated carbon with the membrane stage is able to retain trace substances, microplastics and activated carbon from the cleaned waste water. The use of ultra-filtration membranes which have a pore size of one thousandth the size of a human hair also enable the researchers to separate germs.

The combination is a very efficient and low-cost alternative to the conventional processes and is characterized by considerably improved separation performance and the additional separation of multi-resistant germs. The trial phase has already shown that our process meets the high requirements regarding the treatment of waste water and in particular sets standards when it comes to the separation of multi-resistant germs. As a result, we can make a valuable contribution to the protection of people and the environment.