Assessment of Processes to Increase the Useful Life and the Reuse of Reverse Osmosis Elements in Cape Verde and Macaronesia

Membranes (Basel). 2022 Jun 13;12(6):613. doi: 10.3390/membranes12060613.


Reverse osmosis membranes could be reused in the same or another desalination plant by replacing the membranes in the dirtiest first positions with those in the least damaged last positions, also changing the best first stage membranes to the second and vice versa. The useful life of these membranes could be extended by chemical cleaning and giving them a second life in tertiary treatment plants, as well as reusing them in industrial processes where special reverse osmosis membranes are used and degrade rapidly, in processes with leachates from landfill waste, and also an interesting option is the oxidation of reverse osmosis elements to obtain nanofiltration, ultrafiltration or microfiltration membranes for the elimination of physical dirt. The main categories of recycling by thermal processing commonly used in the industry include incineration and pyrolysis to produce energy, gas and fuel. These processes can be applied to mixed plastic waste, such as the combination of materials used in the manufacture of reverse osmosis membranes. Recycling of reverse osmosis elements from desalination plants is shown to be an opportunity, and pioneering initiatives are already underway in Europe. Energy recovery via incineration is feasible but is not considered in line with the environmental, social and political problems it may generate. However, the recycling of reverse osmosis elements via the pyrolytic industry for fuel production can be centralized in a new industry already planned in the Macaronesia area, and all obsolete osmosis membranes can be sent there. This is a technically and economically viable business opportunity with a promising future in today's recycling market, as discussed in the article.

Keywords: desalination; membranes; reuse and recycling; reverse osmosis.