SECTOR WATCH 

Innovation and Resources on Urban Waste

SECTOR WATCH SEARCH RESULTS ( 1 - 2 from 2 )

Analysis

Modelling the Urban Metabolism for Circular Cities

22 February 2019

Becoming Circular is an important goal for cities worldwide. And it is promising. A circular economy could put an end to resource exploitation without halting global production.

But to get to that place, a deep understanding of current resource flows is necessary. Traceable data about most material stocks and flows is still scarce. This limits policy makers’ leverage to design new policies and hinders industry from reusing materials efficiently.

The UrbanWINS project sees cities as living organisms that eat, digest, and dispose of materials. It seeks to understand the process whereby resources enter, stay, and leave the system.

A key tool to reach this level of understanding is the Urban Metabolism Analyst (UMAn) model. It is a method of material flow accounting that allows decision makers to investigate the relationship between the economy, policies, lifestyles, and flows of resources. It helps to implement more efficient and targeted waste management and prevention tools – eventually transitioning to an advanced circular economy.

For this edition of Sector Watch, we have spoken to researcher Leonardo Rosado of Chalmers University (Gothenburg, Sweden) about the potential of analysing material flows on a city and regional level.

The UMAn model is a powerful tool to support cities and regions in the transition towards a circular economy. It is a holistic model of material stocks and flows that accounts for all product and material categories that enter, stay, and leave the urban system. Its power lays in the comprehensiveness that this overview provides to decision makers.

The model combines analysis of stocks and flows. The flow analysis provides insight into material consumption over time, which allows for comparisons and shows trends in material consumption. The stocks analysis shows which materials remain in the urban system – accumulating and eventually becoming so called waste in the future.

The UMAn model is about more than just waste. It addresses the broader topic of material consumption and therefore allows for active interventions rather than reactive waste management.

This can be achieved by modelling various future scenarios, which show the impacts of different waste management and prevention policies. Combined with environmental impact data on the materials that are tracked in the model, it can reveal hotspots in the environmental impacts of a city, identifying the most problematic product categories.

Results

As part of the UrbanWINS project, the UMAn model is used to research material stocks and flows of several cities. The results point to priority areas for intervention in the region. The analysis of the material flows in for instance the city of Leiria has successfully identified the top product groups and materials in circulation in the city.

Agricultural products such as straws and husks, maize and corn produced in the livestock industry and construction materials are among the biggest consumed products. These product types offer circular opportunities. By-products from straws and husks can be used to improve the nutrient level of the soil. Waste biomass can be converted to energy using the maize waste, and sands and other building materials can be used for new construction works. The City of Zurich is an inspiring example of how the construction and demolition waste can be used in new building material.

Challenges ahead

The UMAn model is designed to account for every conceivable product, which is a strength and a weakness since often the required data is either not available or it is confidential.

The fact that the model examines at the city level is another two sided coin: it allows for precise insight on the one hand, but on the other, the boundaries of a city are not as clear cut, and often it is more useful to look at regions.

Analysing the resource flow of a city with the UMAn model is just a starting point. The results need to be translated into solutions, such as sustainable procurement or urban planning tools and the model in turn can be applied to evaluate their success.

To learn more about the UMAn model and how you can apply it on your city join us at the UrbanWINS final conference in Brussels on April 4, 2019. For more information on this full day conference dedicated to the urban metabolism and local action for a circular economy click here.

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.