Gold-diggers to be sniffing around in Brussels' sewers


Researchers from the VUB and the ULB will be looking at whether they can filter and recycle precious metals, such as gold and silver, from the sludge to be found in Brussels' sewer water purification facilities as part of the Sublimus project until February 2022. After all, the question of whether there is anything of value in our wastewater is beyond dispute.

In the first instance, you might be wondering how these raw materials could end up in sewers. Every time gold jewellery comes into contact with water, for example when we wash our hands, miniscule particles come loose and are washed down the plughole. Certain medications for rheumatism, as well as some disinfectants, also contain gold or other precious metals. The silver in sportswear, well-suited to combatting the smell of sweat, is also released in eye-watering quantities in every wash cycle. This adds up quite nicely over the course of a year: up to 5 to 10kg of gold and 70 to 100kg of silver for the entire Brussels-Capital Region.


When we recall that the natural ores from mines, such as gold, silver, tin, zinc and lead, may well be used up by 2040, re-use becomes very important. As an aside, the traditional mining industry eats into wildlife areas, making it particularly damaging ecologically. Consequently, the scientists are now devoting themselves to a cheap and environmentally conscious reclamation, purification and recycling process, to take place in three phases.

In any event, a golden dawn lies ahead!