SECTOR WATCH 

Innovation and Resources on Urban Waste

LATEST SECTOR WATCHES

Report

Plastic Waste: Global Solutions to a Global Problem

5 December 2018

The last two editions of Sector Watch have looked into policy developments and practice examples to deal with what some have termed the plastic waste crisis. But oceans do not respect country borders and plastic pollution is a global issue.

While Europeans are amongst the biggest plastic waste generators on the planet, in 2010, Europe and Central Asia combined only contributed 3,6% to global marine plastic litter. This is thanks to comparatively well managed waste disposal.

But 79% of global plastic is still accumulated in landfills or the environment, including the oceans.

And Europe is not exempt from responsibility in tackling the global marine litter problem. It hit the news last year when China refused to accept any more plastic waste exports: After 25 years as the world’s salvage king, China refused to buy any recycled plastic scrap that wasn’t 99.5 percent pure. And Thailand was quick to follow this October. This development sheds light on a key problem in European waste management: Plastic waste is a global issue and the fact that countries can get paid to accept plastic and other forms of waste poses a huge problem which the EU strategies to curb the plastics issue only partially address. Countries willing to take waste for cheap expose themselves to higher risks of pollution, particularly when they lack the capacity to treat plastic waste properly.

"East and West are inextricably connected by their plastic trash, as wealthy nations sell their recycled plastic scrap to Asia for the simple fact it’s easier to ship it around the world than process it at home." (National Geographic)

South-East Asian countries are among the biggest contributors to marine litter. It is also these countries that import the largest share of recyclable waste, including from EU countries. If the EU wants to address marine litter beyond its borders it needs to enforce strict waste treatment practices when exporting waste to countries at high risk of waste mismanagement.

Plastic waste: moving to solutions

Activists and policy makers alike have argued that waste treatment and recovery solutions are just the start of a comprehensive waste management strategy that tackles plastic waste globally. More efforts need to be focused on the source of plastic waste: packaging material and single-use items such as the ones banned by the EU.

Procura+ participant City of Oslo supports this stance: It is one of the first to completely phase out unnecessary single-use plastic. And the Mayor, Raymond Johansen, calls on the EU to take the next step and shift more responsibility to the industry through extended producer responsibility schemes, sharing the cost of cleaning up litter and to raise awareness. Industry stakeholders need to share knowledge about what is required for a product to be recyclable to get the design solutions that allow for high quality recycling, says the Mayor.

There are some inspiring examples out there showing that recycling can be profitable and environmentally sound. The Dutch company CeDo has combined a recycling business with a plastic bottle manufacturing line. The recycling arm of their operations is directly linked to the manufacturing end, closing the loop of the plastics value chain, a process that previously has been thought to be impossible.

The European Parliament seems to be on board: the ENVI committee (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) of the parliament proposed to direct EU funding to higher waste hierarchy options – waste prevention, reuse and recycling – to help member states advance towards a Circular Economy, while excluding funding for residual waste treatment facilities, e.g. waste incineration and Mechanical Biological Treatment.

While the policy world is slowly but steadily moving toward a plastic litter free world, others are taking on the task of removing the damage done: The Ocean Clean Up, a project seeking to remove plastics from marine environments without harming them, has launched its operations in the Pacific this October. So far, the newly developed technology seems to be highly successful. Hopefully, it will not have to run for too long.

Report

MEPs agree to ban single-use plastic items

21 November 2018

Plastic waste and marine litter are major environmental hazard that requires political action as pointed out in the last edition of Sector Watch.

EU policy makers have long looked to address the issue of plastic waste on multiple fronts. In what was celebrated as a major success, EU parliamentarians (MEPs) have recently approved a bill that bans various kinds of single-use plastics. The ban will have to be adopted by member states as of 2021. It covers plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks. These items were chosen because of readily available alternatives such as paper straws and cardboard containers. The new regulation also requires member states to reduce plastic items that have no alternatives by 25% by 2025.

The bill is part of a larger scale EU initiative to tackle the issue of plastic waste. The EU strategy for plastics in the circular economy, adopted in 2017, seeks to introduce a holistic approach. Among others, it requires that all plastic packaging put on the market is either reusable or recyclable by 2030.

So why are plastic bans necessary when top-notch recycling practices are implemented? Practice has shown that despite all efforts to recycle plastics, several issues are not solvable by better recycling: some items are highly likely to end up in the environment, they are used outside, taken by the wind, forgotten. Recyclable and reusable, after all, does not mean that all plastics are actually recycled or reused. The move to straight up ban certain single-use plastic products could even improve recycling rates – the less waste there is to treat, the more of it can be treated properly in recycling facilities.  On top, recycling of plastics, depending on the type of plastic, still means down-cycling: The process hampers the quality of the product and can only be repeated a few times until the material is not recyclable anymore.

Within a circular economy, the priority is always to reduce material use, before recycling it.  A future looking circular strategy thus not only improves recycling practices, it also reduces the need to recycle at all.

The European project CIRCPACK is one example of how this could be achieved in practice. In three demonstration cases, it shows how plastic packaging waste could be reduced and transformed into a resource. For the first case, new bio-based polyesters are developed that have the potential to replace fossil based materials. The second case looks into eco-friendly packaging design that requires little material input put offers the same qualities as regular packaging does. And finally, the project also develops and enhances sorting and recycling practices to improve the reuse rate of recycled material and this way keep them in the loop longer.

Improving materials and their use is just one dimension of a comprehensive circular strategy. UrbanWINS, a European project that develops and tests innovative waste management and prevention methods, looks at the Urban Metabolism of cities. This helps to understand waste streams and to prevent or turn them into resources wherever possible. To learn more about the pilot actions that are implemented as part of UrbanWINS, go to the project website.

In the coming edition of Sector Watch, we will take a look a global perspective on the plastic waste problem. Stay tuned.

Report

A Circular Economy for Plastics

15 November 2018

The tides are turning for plastics and with them marine litter and plastic pollution will hopefully vanish. From the first image of a turtle squeezing its shell into a fishing net to recent news of microplastics found in human poop, the issue of plastic pollution is looking dire.

Plastic is not per se an evil material. It is highly flexible, stable, and durable, while also cheap in production. It can be used for a wide range of purposes, from light weight vehicles to prostheses. But its longevity is blessing and curse: Plastic items left to their own devices in the environment tend to stick around for up to 400 years.

Experts estimate that the total amount of marine litter might be as high as hundred million tonnes, crumpling into ever smaller pieces of non-biodegradable micro beads, entering marine life’s food chains with toxic and harmful effects.

A lot is happening in the EU to tackle the issue. And two EU stories hit the news recently: The EU bans single-use plastic items from 2021 while 14 EU member states are lagging behind on meeting the recycling target. For a small Sector Watch series on plastics we look into these developments in plastic waste management, what has been achieved and what still needs to happen to implement a successful circular plastics chain and to once and for all stop plastics from entering the oceans.

In May this year, European Member states approved a set of ambitious measures paving the way toward a more circular economy: By 2020, all EU member states have to reach recycling rates of at least 50% of household waste, 55% by 2025, and 65% by 2035. For packaging waste, a target of 70% recycling by 2035 has been set. Household waste only makes up for 10% of waste generated in the EU, however, it is one of the most complex sources of waste in terms of management and hence a major contributor to landfills. Landfills are the least desirable option for managing waste as they come with a range of associated adverse environmental and public health impacts.

And while some EU countries are well on track to meeting this goal, a recent report issues early warnings: 14 members states are at risk of failing to meet this target. The early warning report urges policymakers in the respective countries to step up their game in municipal waste recycling.

The UrbanWINS project's pilot actions show the way on how to tackle the recycling issue on a local level, involving citizens in the solution finding process. The City of Bucharest is testing a promotional tool for separate collection of waste generated during public events. These events usually generate tons of waste and separate collection could lead to recycling rates of up to 75%. And the City of Cremona is piloting household waste disposal charges that raise with the amount of waste disposed as to incentivise recycling on a household level.

Public procurement of innovation can stimulate higher recycling rates as well as high quality material recovery. This has been shown during the PPI4Waste project where a group of public authorities procured eco-innovative waste management solutions. Cooperation between the authorities helped them to better formulate their tenders and find the solutions they were looking for. More guidance material for public bodies on how to stimulate innovation in their waste management can be found here.

Stay tuned for the next Sector Watch which will look at another way of dealing with plastic waste: banning single use plastic.

InterviewStoryline

Circulus Berkel Interview with Michiel Westerhoff

6 September 2018

The textile industry is known for its devastating environmental and human rights impacts. According to recent estimates, the total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, are at 1.2 billion tonnes annually which are more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Textile production is steadily increasing – and with it the adverse effects it has on humans and nature.

So in the face of these facts - what needs to happen to make circular textiles chains a reality and what can public waste management companies do to contribute to a more circular textile industry?

One year ago, we talked to Michiel Westerhoff of Circulus-Berkel, the public waste management company that serves eight municipalities with around 440,000 inhabitants in the Dutch Province Gelderland, about their plans for a new textiles sorting centre. In July 2018 the centre starting operating and we are meeting Michiel once more to hear about how they got to where they are today. Read on to learn about the procurement process and how the centre tackles some of the major issues of the textile chain in a sustainable way.

 

Interview

You just opened a new textile sorting centre, which is operated by ReShare, tell us what is special about this centre.

We wanted to create an approach to used textile disposal that really challenged the business as usual – textile still lags behind in the whole recycling world. There is very little regulation about how to dispose of textiles and the whole situation is not very transparent. About 38% of waste textiles are currently collected in the Netherlands, which means first of all that 62% are going straight to incineration together with the regular household waste.

Although it is commonly assumed that used textiles are used for a charitable purpose, more often than not they are simply sold for the highest price to buyers around the globe [1]. And what happens once they are shipped is often unclear. They are sold on local markets or burnt or landfilled. And this is where we need to start – with the textile sorting centre we are taking a huge step towards more transparency. All reusable clothes that we sort are traceable. And with the idea in mind to keep them in the loop as locally as possible, they are either sold in Dutch second hand shops or within Europe.

Textiles that cannot be reused as clothing are recycled on the fibre level, where we separate the different fibres going into the product and sell them to manufacturers of recycled clothing or other materials that require fibre. About 25% of the collected textiles are still non-recyclable and will be incinerated. We are looking into the possibilities of new recycling techniques like chemical recycling to see how this number can be reduced.

But we aimed for more: we also created 25 full time equivalent jobs for people with difficulties integrating in the work force. This way we don’t only contribute to sustainability globally but also support our community here.

These are indeed some ambitious goals you achieved – tell us how you set up the tendering process to get to this point.

We were looking for a solution to textile sorting that did not exist before. Which is why we opted for an innovation procurement procedure. Our award criteria were based on four important pillars, on each of which we gave points.

Firstly, we asked bidders to show us how they plan to ensure full transparency along the recycling or reselling textile chain. Secondly, we required a strong vision on how recycling of non-reusable clothes was going to be organized. And thirdly, we asked for a risk analysis, since the quality and quantity of textile collection can always vary – something which the contractor needs to be fully aware of. And of course we judged the business case bidders were presenting.

Our contractors buy the textiles we collect in our eight municipalities and usually, contracts were awarded to those who offered the highest price for textiles. Unfortunately, this practices incentivizes unsustainable behaviour!

With this tender we wanted to send the right signal. We set a cap on how much we would ask the contractor to pay us for the textiles – just enough to cover our costs of collection. This price was clear from the start and therefore bidders did not compete on price. Any revenues the operation now has on top of a defined revenue is shared between our contractor and us. In this way we are both incentivized to create economic value within the framework of transparency, sustainability and social employment.

And how did you ensure that bidders came up with robust solutions that fulfilled these criteria?

Key to our success was definitely the intensive market engagement process that characterized the whole tender. Prior to publishing the call for tender, we consulted the market. We invited eight potential market parties and asked them about topics such as the necessary scale for a sorting operation, their sorting process, desired form of organization, possibilities for jobs for people with difficulties joining the workforce, location requirements, transparency and traceability, possible reaction on price and volume fluctuations and treatment of non-reusable textiles.

Based on this consultation we updated the business plan – asking ourselves, what can realistically be achieved? This resulted in a number of pre-conditions for the tender that required the support of our municipalities. On this basis we developed and published the tender. After a selection phase we then entered an intensive market dialogue phase with the selected parties. It was during this phase that we really fleshed out how to achieve everything we had set out to do.

What was the most important advantage of such an intensive process?

The goals we had set after the market consultation for transparency, recycling and creating job opportunities for socially disadvantaged citizens were quite challenging for the bidders. The intensive exchange helped them and us to come up with a good solution. We also involved the social institutions that were our contact for employing people with difficulties finding jobs. 

Which impact did your tender have on the market?

We got a lot of surprising and positive feedback. For one, as I said before, the textile sorting and recycling model is far more ambitious than the business as usual because it achieves higher and traceable rates of recycling and higher rates of reuse of clothes. On top of that, we managed to create jobs for socially disadvantaged groups. Our tender pushed the market in that direction. But even the losing parties thanked us in hindsight, because they learned a lot throughout the market dialogue. This really surprised us but also shows how much need there is to work together if we want to move toward more sustainable solutions in waste management.  

If you had to do it all over again – what are the most important lessons learned?

The most important aspect of this process was its cooperative nature – as purchasers we weren’t sitting across the table from our market parties and testing them. We wanted to create an atmosphere of collaboration, a shared mission that we work towards together. If you challenge the market in a fair way – innovative solutions will come up!

As you said, the textile sector is lagging behind in recycling. Which challenges do you still see ahead?

Most importantly, the recycling of textile materials that cannot be used as clothing anymore is still in its infancy. There are some small brands that use recycled fibre, but most of our fibre is currently down cycled rather than kept in the fibre loop. For example, fibres are used for insulation material instead of new clothes. Here we really need designers and producers of clothes to think with us and produce for recycling, which means using high quality fibres, and non-mixed materials. This allows us to produce high quality fibre which can be used for textile production. The market and the entire supply chain need to develop and adapt in this regard.  

What drives you to change the game in textile recycling?

We are a public service company. Our goals are set by our elected officials and luckily, politics in our region are quite ambitious. The region has the goal to become completely waste-free by 2030. Without this political commitment and broad societal support for our mission we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Thank you so much for speaking with us and good luck for your future ambitions!

In addition to intensifying the high quality recycling of textile and textile fibres, Circulus Berkel is currently also working on a plan to improve the recycling of diapers, which make up 8% of residual waste, improved plastic packaging recycling, extraction of protein from food waste and creating more jobs in the field of recycling, including repair, reuse, and remanufacturing of e-waste



[1] 71% of the collected textiles are exported.

Storyline

London Mayor's Environmental Strategy and waste

24 October 2017

Since Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's London Environment Strategy (LES) was published in draft for consultation this August, commentators have pointed to the strategy's broad reach and ambition - as well as its detailed analysis of the environmental challenges faced by the city of over 8 million people. The LES covers air quality, green infrastructure, climate change mitigation and adaptation, noise, the transition to a low-carbon circular economy, but most importantly for SectorWatch - waste.

While the Mayor's preface foregrounds the improvement of air quality, a recurring theme of the LES is the overall intention to ditch the 'linear approach' in favour of a circular economy in a number of areas. The waste section updates a 2011 strategy on municipal waste, and points out the looming problems: landfill will run out by 2026, only half of the 7 million tonnes of waste produced can be recycled, food waste is not being valorised. Of these 7 million tonnes the largest proportions are: 22% food and green garden waste; 60% common dry recyclables paper, card, plastics, glass and metals; 18% other materials including textiles, waste electricals (WEEE) wood, furniture and household cleaning chemicals.

Integrating waste into the Circular Economy

Another highlighted statistic is that London produces around 1.5 – 1.75m tonnes of food waste with a value of £2.55bn a year. One curiosity here is the expression of the amount of food waste, which is financial. Whether this portends a circular economy strategy which seeks to give organic waste a saleable value, or is merely a method of demonstrating scale is not clear. A question for procurers and others in the European municipal waste sector might be, "does the transition to a circular economy in waste necessarily mean attaching financial value for organic waste?"

" Single use packaging materials" are also identified as an area of focus, with UK national figures from WRAP extrapolated to demonstrate the pressure this puts on London's 33 municipal waste authorities.

Waste targets and challenges

The headline waste target of the LES is "by 2026 no biodegradable or recyclable waste will be sent to landfill and by 2030, 65 per cent of London’s municipal waste will be recycled". The LES points to a number of actions which will help achieve this, which angle the focus of the Strategy at this stage more towards the 33 municipal waste authorities than directly at the citizen, reflecting who is most likely to submit responses to the consultation.

The breadth of the LES and its reliance on the buy-in at local government level within the London region means that the results are really in the hands of the local authorities and agencies who will have to implement the strategy.

What will be interesting to observe as the consultation and political processes behind the LES continue is how high a priority waste will have in comparison with other aspects. This week the Mayor announced a new emissions charge for a much wider area than the original congestion charge, and issues of infrastructure (air, rail and underground) around London often dominate regional and national political agendas. Waste is one of seven areas identified, and up until now the main challenge has been achieving compliance with European level regulation. With Brexit looming, the impact of the European Waste Package and Circular Economy agenda might be felt less in the UK capital.

For further analysis, see the Zero Waste Europe website

The consultation is available here

Interview

Helsinki's approach to using sewage waste

7 September 2017

Sector Watch will cover the development of a project by Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) which seeks to develop ideas around the possible use of sewage sludge as a fertiliser product.

HSY is a municipal body responsible for waste management and water services to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, which also provides information on the city's environment and engages with citizens to on environmental issues:

Water services: HSY supplies high-quality drinking water to over 1 million inhabitants throughout the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. It treats wastewater generated by households and industry in order to protect the Baltic Sea as well as build and repair the water and sewage network.
Waste management: HSY organises waste management for residential properties and the public administration, both in the Helsinki Metropolitan Are and in Kirkkonummi.
Regional and environmental information: HSY monitors the air quality in the Helsinki Metoropolitan Area at 11 monitoring sites. They promote the implementation of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Climate Strategy 2030 and the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.

Impetus and goals in sewage sludge utilisation

At the moment, sewage sludge is composted in HSY's eco-industrial centre in Ämmässuo. Composting requires vast space in surrounding fields and causes strong odour in the surrounding area. In 5 years, it is projected that the amount of sewage to be processed there will double and the space will not be available to absorb this increase. The project therefore seeks to explore other ways of treating and reusing sewage sludge, as well as study methods used elsewhere.


A second impetus to start this project was uncertainty around the potential future use of sewage products as fertiliser in Finland.


The current goals of the project are therefore to:

  • study different kinds of treatment methods for sewage sludge
  • study different options for reuse of sewage sludge
  • to pilot selected treatments in Helsinki

Project process and schedule

The project started in June 2015 and conducted preparatory studies of the different methods employed in Finland and wider across Europe in sewage treatment and reuse. In 2016, market dialogues were conducted which produced small-scale pilots with companies to test the suitability of available technologies. In spring and summer 2017, the pilots were concluded and the results will be analysed by the project team.

In Autumn 2017 the project team will make recommendations based on the pilots of the treatment methods and refer these to a local steering group.

Analysis

Barriers to innovation procurement in waste management

3 July 2017

A recent study conducted in the framework of the PPI4waste project shows that despite the fact that Public Procurement of Innovation (PPI) has the potential to introduce powerful solutions to fulfil present needs; it is still very much underused.

Public procurers often do not have the knowledge about how to carry out PPI in practice and do not use the available tools that could facilitate the process. In some cases, procurers are not aware of available new technologies in the market while in others; they are simply overwhelmed by the flow of new developments around products and services and the lack of trust about the effectiveness of the results.

On the other hand, procurers – even those willing to engage in PPI – often do not see incentives for buying new solutions. They are afraid of new solutions leading to higher costs or are faced with wrong incentives that do not encourage them to take the risk of buying innovative products from innovative suppliers.

Effective waste management requires a critical mass in terms of demand, in order for new investments to be cost-efficient. This is not the case of smaller municipalities, which have been traditionally responsible for their own waste management and have difficulties reaching this critical mass. Conducting join public procurements among different municipalities, which are located close to each other, is in many cases the best approach to reaching the necessary critical mass to make investments worthy. This is unfortunately not the case of most countries in Europe, which still relay in small budgets and long term contracts that difficult the introduction of innovations in the waste sector.

 

Knowledge exchange & joint procurements – the best solutions to address these barriers


At several “meet the market” events targeting public procurers and suppliers of innovative solutions for the waste sector conducted in Bilbao (Spain), Zagreb (Croatia), Utrecht (Netherlands) and Saragossa (Spain), it was made clear that these barriers regarding PPI implementation in the waste sector still exist.

However, a clear outcome of all the meet the market events was also that PPI in successful waste management is not just about the procurement of innovative products, but also about innovation at all levels, including in the organisational structure within current waste management units and in their overall approaches to waste management.

Barriers need to be addressed among others by:

-          encouraging the interaction between the existing market of innovative waste management solutions and public procurers;

-          improving the general knowledge on existing available tools and techniques;

-          disseminating successful approaches to waste management from other municipalities and waste management companies

-          facilitating networking opportunities and interaction between close-by municipalities, that can potentially conduct joint procurements and thus reach critical mass.

Currently we are in the middle of the preparation of an EU market dialogue for the creation of a textile sorting plant for about 1900 tons of textiles from our household, which will take place between the months of May and June.

Our aim is to start it on January 1st 2018.

We expect to create about 40 new jobs in our region with the new sorting plant.

 

The sector approach


After interviewing experts from different countries across Europe, five specific areas were identified as the priority areas where procurers should focus:

-   Bio waste management;

-   Plastic separation;

-   Bulky waste management;

-   Separate collection for specific waste streams at collection points;

-   Decision support system for waste management.

These areas present specific barriers and challenges to PPI, which will be discussed in upcoming articles of this sector watch.

Storyline

Circulus Berkel’s approach to the recycling of textiles

2 June 2017

Established in 2014, Circulus-Berkel is an association of 8 municipalities, which serves eight municipalities with around 440,000 inhabitants in the management of waste and resources and the management of public spaces.


Their mission is “A waste free society, a clean environment, a society concerned. In this way we add value to the region."


The main areas where the organisation works are the following:

 

Environment: reduce waste and improve the use of raw materials
Social activation: by increasing working opportunities
Improved citizen participation to achieve better results and provide a more satisfying service.


Main triggers to start the procurement and goals pursued


Textiles represent a huge environmental burden for society, derived mostly from the use of toxic and hazardous substances in the production process for textiles and the generation of greenhouse gas emissions derived from the production of textiles. Furthermore, clothes and textiles which still are in good condition are thrown away together with the residual waste and end up in landfills.
In the Netherlands only 30% of used textiles are separately collected, 30% end up in the residual waste and 30% can currently not be traced.


There are currently many ongoing initiatives that seek collecting used textiles and giving them a second life; initiatives that have been started by social companies and NGOs mostly at local level.
In our region, we introduced in 2016 the “BEST tas” (BEST-bag), a resistant bag made of recycled plastic that aims to collect items such as books, small electric appliances, toys and textiles, items that otherwise end up in the residual waste stream. The bags are picked up at home a number of days a year. In the past year, we managed to collect 60,000 BEST bags in our region, diverting over 420,000 kilos of used items from the landfills. 


The introduction of the BEST bag has resulted in an increased 8% in the separated collection of textiles and 11% for small and medium-sized electric and electronic appliances.
The total number of separated collected textiles has grown to 1900 tons in the regions.

 

Our current goals are:

 

To achieve better transparency in the reuse of textiles and the recycling chain. At the moment as it is the case of many other regions, a big part of the collected textiles are being exported to other countries, without sufficient transparency on the process and the consequences
Create (social) jobs within the region
Increase our re-use and recycling quotes and reduce the amount of residual waste.
For the non-reusable textiles, we are currently looking into new techniques for mechanical or chemical recycling.

 

Approach to the procurement process & time schedule


Currently we are in the middle of the preparation of an EU market dialogue for the creation of a textile sorting plant for about 1900 tons of textiles from our household, which will take place between the months of May and June.


Our aim is to start it on January 1st 2018.


We expect to create about 40 new jobs in our region with the new sorting plant.

 

 

Related information


Information to the BEST bag approach (in Dutch): http://www.waardemagazine.nl/#/artikel/best-tas-houdt-grondstoffen-uit-het-restafval

Circulus Berkel main website: https://www.circulus-berkel.nl/

Storyline

Waste Package targets - on track?

4 April 2017

Since the European Commission announced the withdrawal of the Waste Package in 2015, to be replaced with a more comprehensive strategy towards a Circular Economy, there has been a familiar level of debate and disagreement over its content and approach.


However, the acceptance in January by the European Parliament of challenging targets towards recyclable waste was heralded as a milestone on the path towards a more resource- and waste-efficient Circular Economy in the EU.

Revising Directives

The new "Waste Package" is, in legislative terms, designed to synchronise various Directives relating to waste, recycling and the related topics of packaging and disposal. The new targets relate primarily to the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.


The targets, when initially mooted in early 2016, were greeted by the waste sector with some concern. The complexity of introducing targets to an area of the economy characterised by rapid but uneven innovation and technological development meant that the Commission's approach had to be to impose relatively long-term targets: to prohibit landfill of recyclable waste by 2025 and to recycle 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging waste by 2030.

Challenges for cities

The achievement of these targets across the EU will be no mean feat. While many local and city-regional authorities who have invested in recycling innovation will have little difficulty reaching such targets, currently only 44% of municipal waste across the EU is recycled or composted.
The interpretation of the targets in member states might also present difficulty. The decision over which method should be used to calculate recycling and recovery rates was hotly contested in the drafting process throughout 2016, with industry and municipalities lobbying for the method laid out in the Waste Framework Directive, while environmentalists pushed for the more challenging WEEE Directive to be used. Looking at a process of implementation which extends over 8 years, the definition of "recycled" waste will come in for scrutiny in the application of these targets.

Focus of targets

The European Commission has been keen to demonstrate the potential value of waste targets to the private sector, which has greeted the European Parliament's vote with enthusiasm for the project job creation and market opportunities the targets create in various member states.
However there has been criticism of the targets from proponents of a Circular Economy for being uni-dimensional, and not challenging enough. The focus of the targets on waste output rather than on product manufacture, plastic-sourcing and reduction of e.g. packaging has led some actors in the waste sector to conclude that the Waste Package represents a non-binding, transitional legislative intervention. But proponents of a more product-oriented, differentiated policy had some success in influencing the outcomes - for example, a target of a 30% reduction in food waste is considered likely to have some impact on the food and drink sector. Overall there will be some concern that an opportunity had been missed, through a focus on residual waste, to regulate further on packaging and inefficient manufacture.


Sector Watch will follow developments on the targets through the EU Council and the formal decision-making process in the coming months.


More information on the vote in the European Parliament's Environment Committee on 24 January 2017 can be found at europarl.europa.eu/news

Interview

InnoNet workshop, Brussels 31 January - 1 February

10 February 2017

On 31 January – 1 February took place in Brussels a NEW InnoNet workshop - A practical side of innovations for circular economy.

The workshop connected stakeholders in the field of waste management with the aim to present and discuss real innovation cases, experiences and lessons learned on closing material loops, especially for materials recovered from ICT waste, WEEE, ELV and packaging.

Some of the ongoing and upcoming European initiatives presented at the workshop were the following:

EIT Raw materials

EIT Raw materials – initiated by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), aims to connect academic partners with businesses in Europe to collaborate on finding new innovative solutions to secure the supply of raw materials and improve the performance throughout the value chain, from extraction to the creation of products and its final disposal.

Based in Berlin, the network has currently over 120 partners in 22 EU-countries, which benefit from sharing knowledge, information and expertise.

At the event Ignacio Calleja, thematic officer for circular economy and Recyling at EIT Raw Materials, shared the objectives of EIT Raw materials and some project examples of partnerships between research institutions and the private sector. Some of the supported startups can be consulted here.

More information about EIT Raw materials

The Circular Lab

Rosa Trigo, Tecnology and Innovation Manager at ECOEMBES presented The Circular Lab, a new initiative around the recycling of waste packaging that will see the light in the spring of 2017.

The idea is to bring together all proposals that seek closing loops through innovation in the field of waste packaging. The Circular Lab will be based in La Rioja, Spain and it will turn the region into a great centre for experimentation, as it aims to test at real scale new contributions in the field of:

-    Development of the packaging of the future

-    Integrated waste management within smart cities

-    Responsible consumption

-    Development of new techniques and processes that facilitate the recycling of packaging waste by citizens


More information about the Circular Lab

 

Second life for products: RREUSE

The aim of RREUSE is to reinforce the importance of giving semi-new products a second life. Instead of improving recycling targets, RREUSE advocates for including re-using targets in EU legislation.

The organisation represents social enterprises which are active in reusing, repairing and recycling products and represents approximately 77,000 employees and over 60,000 volunteers and trainees that work at any of their 30 member networks across 18 countries.

Mathieu Rama, policy officer at RREUSE provided an overview of the barriers and challenges of giving products a second life and bringing them back into the market, presented approaches from other countries promoting reuse of products such as Sweden or Austria and suggested recommendations to several EU Directives and the EU Circular Economy Package.

More information about RREUSE

 

Competitive markets for products designed from recycled plastics: ZICLA

G. Borge, Project Manager at ZICLA proved during the event that the market is ready to integrate recycled products made from old products if the required techniques are used.

Some of the most demanded products include the Zebra system, a product made from post-consumption and post-industrial waste that is used to separate bicycle lines from normal car roads and the Vectorial system, used to improve accessibility and mobility for public bus users.

More information about ZICLA