Alu Circles: pre-commercial procurement boosting the circular economy

Can cost reduction and sustainability go hand in hand? The answer is yes, as already proven in practice for residuals from drinking water production including lime pellets and ferric sludges. Aluminium based sludges are the next target, the disposal of which comes at a substantial and ever-increasing cost. Alu Circles, an initiative based on PCP (Pre-Commercial Procurement) principles, will make this happen. July 2019 we have started the first phase – the Market Dialogue – of a PCP-process on aluminium sludges.

The results of this Market Dialogue were published in Tender European Daily on 30 June, 2020, please click here for the pdf version of the Market Consultation Results Report, or visit EUSurvey.

The market consultation consisted of an online questionnaire and a webinar. The survey is available here. The deadline for the survey was 30 September 2019.

On Wednesday 2 October 2019 the Alu Circles Initiative and the market consultation were explained in more detail during a webinar, which is available for viewing.

The issue: aluminium based sludges in drinking water plants

Aluminium based flocculants are generally used in drinking water plants treating surface water. The remaining sludge is typically sent to a disposal site, as beneficial uses are few. The sum of internal and out-of-pocket costs of disposal often exceeds 100 €/ton sludge (as is). For a water plant producing 100 million m3/year this represents a cost in the order of 100.000 €/year. The challenge is to convert this one-off use of material into a sustainable solution, including upcycling or recycling, at lower cost. And this is exactly the goal of Alu Circles.

Pre-commercial procurement (pcp), what it does

PCP stands for a co-creation by technology providers, water suppliers and researchers in a multi-stage process. The PCP instrument ( has been specially developed to support innovation procurement in the public sector. Examples of current PCP projects in progress pertain to supercomputers (, or – more close by – smart meters for the water sector ( Clearly, PCP is a young venture. We will be happy to share experiences from the PCP methodology with the professional and scientific community whilst adhering to the bounds of confidentiality.

As regards to Alu Circles, we are confident that PCP provides the basis to develop new, sustainable solutions at (near) industrial scale within a period of about two years, achieving a cost reduction of more than 30% for the aluminium sludge issue. During the Market Dialogue (phase I), technology providers will be invited to propose their innovative solutions, targeted at TRL-level 7 (i.e. system prototype demonstration in operational environment) or higher; for explanation of the TRL-system, see September 2 the invitation has been published in Tender European Daily (2019/S 169-414264).

Next, phase II (PCP deployment) is planned to start Q4 2019 and will focus on developing selected options on pilot scale, jointly with the technology providers. Water suppliers are welcome to participate during this phase.

Who are behind Alu Circles and how to join?

AquaMinerals (NL) and De Watergroep (BE) have initiated Alu Circles and have designated Allied Waters and Corvers Procurement Services to set up and execute the organization, economic and legal support and the communication.

Further information

During the Market Dialogue we will communicate about the progress and invite interested parties to provide their input and express their interest to participate.

For any question, you can contact Allied Waters: Nicoline Scholman or Jos Boere.

About us

Allied Waters focuses on implementing game-changing innovations in the urban water cycle. ‘Driving the circular economy’ is our central motto ( We collaborate in Collabs, public-private partnerships including  research centers, commercial-enterprises and end-users.

Corvers Procurement Services ( and partner Vtrek ( are specialized in European public procurement law, innovation, economics, IPR and contracting. Corvers acts as an advisor and external expert for governmental bodies offering a complete range of services  from legal academic research and analysis to legal consultancy & training.

AquaMinerals is a Dutch enterprise fully dedicated to upcycling residuals from the water sector ( Annually, over 250.000 Mt of residuals are given a second life in number of applications. Continuous development and innovation are key elements to establish sustainable and economically feasible valorization routes.

De Watergroep is the largest water supplier in Flanders, Belgium (, serving 3 million people and hundreds of companies. Further, as an integrated water cycle company De Watergroep offers products and services in the industrial water and wastewater area.


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