European galvanisation sector produces more than 300,000 m3 per year of Spent Pickling Acids (SPAs), which are considered a hazardous waste with code 11 01 05 in accordance with European Waste List classification and may be of environmental concern due to their high content of zinc, iron and acids.


At present, this waste is mostly managed by neutralisation-precipitation procedures, in which large volumes of waste sludge containing metals are generated, being deposited in landfill.


The aim of LIFE-2-ACID project is to demonstrate a new technology that allows the selective recovery of metal zinc and iron chloride from SPAs generated in galvanizing processes, thus minimizing their environmental impact.

The innovative technological solution developed by LIFE-2-ACID integrates membrane based selective extraction (MBSEX) and electrowinning (EW):

  1. Separation unit based on reactive membranes that allows the selective separation of the SPAs in two independent streams enriched with iron in the retentate and zinc in the permeate
  2. Electrowinning unit where metallic zinc is obtained from the permeate stream.

The project will demonstrate the feasibility of a sustainable alternative for the valorisation of most SPAs, by means of the recovery of the metal content. The recovered zinc is reused in the galvanizing process, while iron chloride is employed worldwide as coagulant in wastewater treatment process, promoting the efficient valorisation of resources according to EU roadmap.


LIFE-2-ACID project aims at contributing to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation.

The present technology could drastically improve the management of SPAs in a strong sector, and hence it could be positioned as Best Available Technique (BAT) for the surface treatment and ferrous metal processing industries. In this sense, a set of specific objectives has been drawn:


  • Demonstration of innovative technology that allows to recover 90% of the non-renewable metallic resources contained in the SPA.
  • Reduction by 90% of the waste generated by current treatments of SPA.
  • Validation of a new technology to enhance the recovery process of SPA demonstrating its replicability in EU galvanizing process through a Transferability and Replicability Plan.
  • Promotion of a more sustainable technology towards the circular economy in the galvanizing sector to be considered as BAT in the EU policies.
  • Maximize the impact of the actions and means involved through a Communication Plan.

The following results of the execution of project LIFE-2-ACID are expected:

  1. Develop a prototype pilot plant based on integrates selective membranes and electrowinning to treat 200 L/day of SPAs.
  2. Show the replicability and transferability of the innovative technology to most of the 300,000 m3 of SPAs that the European galvanizing sector produces every year.
  3. Extension of the proposed technology in Europe: recovery of 40,000 tons/year of metallic zinc.
  4. Recover 90% of the metallic zinc and iron (as iron chloride) contained in the SPAs.
  5. Demonstrate that the recovered material can be reused: zinc in the galvanizing process and iron chloride as coagulant in waste water treatment.
  6. Reduction of environmental impacts
    1. Soil and water: 90% reduction of waste sludge (around 380,000 tons/year).
    2. Air: reduction of CO2 emissions associated to conventional processes.
  7. Reduction of 50% of environmental indicators, mainly Global Warming potential.
  8. Confirm the techno-economically feasibility of the system. According to preliminary calculations, the total investment and operation costs of the proposed technology may offer a profit margin of 50%.


  • A1. Baseline definition. Get information to support the efficient and robust design of the proposed technology.
  • A2. Design of a pilot plant to demonstrate the technology proposed.




  • B1. Pilot plant construction and integration. Construction and integration of the MBSEX and EW prototypes in one single pilot plant.
  • B2. Technology demonstration. Start-up and operation of the constructed pilot plant and physical-chemical characterisation.
  • B3. Reuse of the recovered materials. Demonstrate the feasibility to reuse the recovered metallic zinc and iron chloride.




  • C1. Environmental sustainability assessment. Development of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), analysis of the process indicators and evaluation of the socio-economic impact.
  • C2. Replicability and transferability of the novel technological process. Definition of a guide of transference to ensure successful replication in different EU locations.




  • D1. Public awareness. Website and logo creation, outreach activities, online and offline communication and after LIFE communication plan.
  • D2. Dissemination of advances. Dissemination of the research results and results to intended stakeholders and end-users.
  • D3. Contribution to policies. Meetings with relevant policy-makers.




  • E1. Project management. Structures, responsibilities and procedures for administrative management and daily coordination of the project and procedures for risk management and quality control.

Relevant implication in dissemination activities. It has a powerful structure to disseminate the outputs of the projects to intended stakeholders and end-users, as well as to the general society.

Chair of the Technical Committee for Policies Contribution. Coordinator of baseline definition. Technology integrator with considerable experience in electrochemical processes.

Project coordinator. Chair of the Executive Committee. Technology integrator with extensive experience in advanced membrane processes.

Validator of the innovative technology developed. Hot-dip galvanizing facility that generates SPAs that will be used to assess the process performance.

Validator of the quality of the iron chloride recovered. Wastewater treatment company aiming at promoting the consumption of renewables materials.

Chair of the Technical and Innovation Evaluation Committee. Coordinator of environmental sustainability assessment. Technology developer with considerable experience in advanced membrane processes.

Chair of the Advisory Committee. Coordinator of valorisation of the recovered materials. Technology developer with substantial experience in electrochemical processes.

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