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Valencia Citizens Take Active Role in PlastiCircle Innovations

5 November 2018

The neighbourhood of San Marcelino (Sant Marcel-lí) in Valencia, Spain, has hosted an interactive workshop on better recycling of urban waste – part of a PlastiCircle initiative to boost local participation in the project’s many innovations.


On 23 October 2018, more than 30 people who live or work in the San Marcelino area linked up with PlastiCircle to contribute ideas on better waste separation and recycling in the neighbourhood.


San Marcelino will be the first of three European pilot neighbourhoods for the PlastiCircle project, so the consortium is eager to hear how citizens are separating their waste, and what ideas they have for the innovative ‘smart containers’ PlastiCircle is developing to collect plastic waste before it is transported from the area for further sorting and recycling.


At the workshop, citizens called for a more inclusive process in the design of PlastiCircle’s plastic waste containers, to better reflect the needs of the community. Neighbourhood representatives also echoed project leaders’ calls for economic incentives to encourage recycling. These aspects are intended to be fully integrated into the PlastiCircle project – not only in Valencia, but also in the other pilot sites in Alba Iulia in Romania, and Utrecht in the Netherlands.


Local people firmly welcomed the arrival of PlastiCircle in the neighbourhood, saying the project was both “positive and necessary” to improve recycling processes there. But citizens admitted that ignorance of good waste separation practices was hampering efforts in the community.


To combat this, the workshop’s various working groups were clear on the need to invest more time and resources in training citizens, with a special emphasis on dissemination of knowledge within colleges and educational institutes.


“It’s important that citizens are aware of the issues faced by public administrations, and vice versa; putting ourselves in others’ shoes helps us come to a consensus,” said Natalia García from workshop co-organiser SOSTRE.


But waste separation was only one aspect addressed by the workshop. During discussions, working groups were also set up to look at plastic waste containers and citizen reward systems for good separation.


Such incentives might include reductions in various public administration fees, direct discounts at shops in the neighborhood, discounts for municipal public transport or leisure services, and cut-price cinema or theatre tickets.


Workshop participants also had ideas for boosting overall citizen participation in the pilot, especially with smart solutions. Personal ID cards and the use of mobile applications to consult waste collection points could identify those who recycle most often, so they can then benefit from incentives and rewards.


Organised by PlastiCircle partner Las Naves and SOSTRE, the workshop was part of a series of events under the auspices of Valencia Canvia Pel Clima.

“What we want is to make plastics circular,” environment chief tells World Circular Economy Forum

23 October 2018

Some 95 per cent of the value of plastics is lost to the economy each year because Europe is not reusing or recycling enough, an international audience heard today in Japan.


Today at the World Circular Economy Forum in Japan, a global audience of experts, business leaders and policy makers heard that in the European Union (EU), 105 billion euros of value is lost each year due to a lack of plastics reuse and recycling – some 95 per cent of the value of plastics in the EU.


Daniel Calleja, director general of the European Commission’s DG Environment, told a packed session in Yokohama that plastic reuse and recycling rates in the bloc remain stubbornly low compared with other materials, but that the EU institutions continue to tackle the issue head on.


“The plastics sector in the EU is a very strategic sector,” Mr Calleja told the forum’s session on Circular Economy for Plastics.


“The sector employs 1.5 million people and has a turnover of 340 billion euros, but plastic is also at the origin of serious environmental issues,” he said, adding that in the EU and beyond, decision makers are exploring ways to make the plastic sector circular, save resources and “reduce plastic leakage into the environment”.


According to the European Commission, 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated annually in the EU, with less than 30 per cent collected adequately.


For its part, the European Commission has recently introduced a raft of proposals and concrete legislation in recent months to address the plastics challenge within and outwith the bloc.


In January 2018, the EU adopted a Plastics Strategy to ensure that by 2030, all plastic packaging put into the market is reusable or recyclable. Plastic packaging comprises the largest type of plastic waste in the EU.


Mr Calleja also told the forum that single-use plastics would be restricted where there are no alternatives, and that a “restriction dossier” was being prepared for micro-plastics that are intentionally added in products. “We are taking regulatory action at the European level,” said Mr Calleja, “but also at the level of the G7, G20 and within the United Nations to combat plastic pollution. Only international efforts will be able to deliver.”


The environmental policy chief added that innovation would be a key tool in delivering circularity for the European plastics sector – with heavy investment to follow.


“In the coming years we are spending more than 350 million euros in order to promote innovative solutions linked to plastics. We’ll be looking at design and circularity. We do not want to demonise plastics; what we want is to make plastics circular, to make sure we can recycle and reuse them.”


Mr Calleja’s comments echoed those of other international participants in today’s session, all keen to emphasise the link of smart product designs to improving circularity in the sector.


“In Germany we have good collection and sorting systems but this is not enough,” said German environment ministry speaker Regina Dube. “We should also improve packaging design to get to a circular economy.”


In the Europe, the EU’s innovation drive is notably being supported by the bloc’s research and innovation agenda, and the Horizon 2020 programme.


Multi-million euro initiatives including the CIRC-PACK and PlastiCircle projects are being driven forward to improve the circularity of plastic packaging, promote innovations in collection and sorting and boost the production of added value products from recycled plastic packaging waste.


With global plastics production set to double in the next 20 years, the need for regulation, partnerships with the private sector, and strategic investment in circular economy solutions is becoming ever more urgent.


Today's session at the World Circular Economy Forum was co-organised by the Japanese Ministry for the Environment, the Finnish innovation fund Sitra, and the European Commission.

Could Innovative Plastics be in Line for Procurement Boost in Europe?

9 October 2018

On 3-5 October 2018, the PlastiCircle project was present at the EcoProcura conference for public procurement and innovation professionals from around Europe.


Projects such as PlastiCircle and CIRC-PACK, another Horizon 2020 project aiming for a circular economy for plastic packaging, were represented among a clutch of circular economy experts looking to assess future opportunities for future innovative products, including high-quality recycled and bio-based plastics.


EcoProcura, held in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, was a timely reminder that public procurement accounts for some 14 per cent of GDP in the European Union, and as such represents a sizeable potential market for materials with sound environmental credentials.


According to Dr John Watt, sustainable economy and procurement officer at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, public procurement could have an “important role” in enabling the transition from single-use plastic and fossil resource-based plastics – currently an imperative at the European level.


“In addition to packaging, plastics are used extensively for products in sectors such as furniture, electronics and construction,” added Dr Watt.


“If public authorities set procurement requirements for plastics to include an amount of recycled and bio-based content, it would help boost the market demand for such solutions.”


The pan-European PlastiCircle project, which aims to develop new added-value, recycled plastic products for the market, will continue to monitor developments in public procurement at the European level.

Europe’s Towns and Cities in Line for CIRC-PACK Benefits

2 October 2018

Europe’s towns and cities stand to make real gains from new knowledge and innovations in plastic packaging, according to CIRCE’s Montserrat Lanero in a new interview.


Montserrat Lanero, project manager for the CIRC-PACK project and at Zaragoza-based research centre CIRCE, has told circpack.eu that local authorities across Europe could benefit long-term from knowledge transfer and key recommendations that CIRC-PACK will produce for municipalities.


As part of the European Union’s circular economy objectives, the CIRC-PACK project is applying new innovations to plastic packaging design (to improve sorting and recycling), and for the production of new bio-based, biodegradable plastics from renewable resources – as opposed to finite fossil fuels. It is hoped the innovations will ‘close the loop’ on plastics in the environment, and go some way to alleviating Europe’s plastic problem.


Ms Lanero said that across Europe, local authorities with low rates of recovery of plastic waste – and especially plastic packaging – had become an issue, but projects like CIRC-PACK “could help through knowledge transfer”, boost recovery and recycling rates, and raise awareness of circular economy principles.


“In terms of the environmental impact of plastic packaging, CIRC-PACK can really increase awareness among consumers in Europe’s towns and cities, but also among local authorities and public administrations,” said Ms Lanero.


“These actors could certainly benefit from project recommendations and enhance their current policies on plastic packaging.”


Each year in the European Union, more than 25 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced by EU member countries – the majority of which is plastic packaging. Less than a third of plastic waste is recycled.


Asked what consumers could expect from projects such as CIRC-PACK, Ms Lanero said that the advent of biodegradable plastic materials, made from bio-based renewable resources, would prove crucial.


“With CIRC-PACK, we have been collaborating with consumers since the very beginning of the project to take into account their expectations of future products and what they want to see from us and other actors in the ‘lower impact’ packaging market.”


“In the end, we will have more useful materials and better quality materials. This is key for consumers and the environment.”


Among multiple European initiatives to close the loop on plastics, CIRC-PACK is a three-year initiative funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.


The project aims to transform the plastic packaging value chain from a linear to a circular value chain, and transform waste to resource by producing new added-value products for a range of sectors (such as the automotive and hygienic product sectors).


The full interview with Ms Lanero is online.

Smart Containers to Reward People for Recycling Properly

18 September 2018

Smart recycling containers that reward people for proper use could help drive up the rate of plastic recycling, reducing the amount of plastic that goes into oceans and landfill, and creating business opportunities out of the challenge to cut back on waste.


(This article appeared in Horizon 2020 magazine on 5 June 2018 - Author: Joe Dodgshun)


It’s part of a wave of innovations aiming to keep plastic circulating in the economy, which also include a way to turn empty bottles back into raw materials and a new supply chain model enabling the recycling of plastics from electronic waste.


Cesar Aliaga from the ITENE Research Centre in Valencia, Spain, says that it’s a challenge that can only be tackled if everyone in the recycling industry works together — and the first step is to encourage people to recycle properly.


He coordinates a project called PlastiCircle, which is developing a smart container for apartment buildings or neighbourhoods with the aim of increasing the proportion of waste that is recycled and reducing the amount sent to landfill.


‘The aim of the smart collection container is to make it easier for citizens to separate waste,’ said Aliaga, ‘but also to tell who is doing it well and to reward them for this behaviour.’


Equipped with arrays of sensors, the containers will be able to sense the quality and quantity of the waste deposited, as well as who is doing the depositing.


Incentive


As an incentive, those people or neighbourhoods separating waste correctly could receive benefits like reduced city rubbish taxes or decide to spend such savings on community projects.


But a smart container is just the start — once sensors in the container detect it’s full enough, they alert the waste truck, which is optimised for efficiency with both compacting systems and pickup routes based on container and city data fed into a cloud platform.


Aliaga says the project’s partners are developing an innovative sorting system to more efficiently separate the different plastics collected, combining a range of scanning and imaging technologies with the near-infrared sensing traditionally used to sort plastics.


‘About 30% of plastic is recycled, but with (most) packaging waste this material is currently only used for low-end applications,’ said Aliaga.


‘There is plenty of room to boost reuse of plastics and our idea is to use this in new, high-value applications ... such as automotive parts with Centro Ricerche FIAT, roofing membranes, garbage bags and high-quality urban furniture,’ he said.


PlastiCircle will, in the next few years, launch project pilots in neighbourhoods of Valencia, Alba lulia in Romania, and Utrecht in the Netherlands.


If successful, initiatives like this could be vital for hitting the EU’s strategic goals for plastics in a circular economy, which aim for all plastics packaging to be recyclable by 2030, in addition to a proposed crackdown banning single-use plastics, like straws and cotton buds.


The 2030 targets essentially require that plastic is kept in circulation, with waste products being turned into new resources circulating in biological and technical loops.


Sadly, the current reality is far from circular. Less than 30% of the more than 25.8 million tonnes of plastic Europe produces every year is recycled.


Goldmine


Even ignoring the huge CO2 emissions and environmental impacts this has, let alone the need for oil as an input for the majority of these plastics, Europe is sitting on a potential goldmine — the plastic material lost every year represents €10.56 billion in wasted resources.


Garbo is an Italian company that’s trying to prove there’s good money in making plastic circular. They are tweaking a chemical process known as glycolysis to recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET), very often the base element of plastic bottles.


The current problem, says Garbo’s general director Fabio Fizzotti, is that only a small percentage of recycled PET pellets can be used in new bottles, while the low demand for coloured PET bottles and other PET waste sees this go to landfill or incinerators.


Under a project called ChemPET, which finished last year, Garbo found it could efficiently use glycolysis to dissolve and break down PET-containing plastics into a form that can be used to create new PET bottles without the need for any virgin plastic.


‘Technically speaking, we can recycle any kind of PET, and in the long-term such recovered materials must be cheaper — you cannot convince people to create a project without (an) economic reason,’ said Fizzotti. ‘But in Italy, people have to pay several hundred euros per tonne to burn the waste, so at that point, we can be competitive with virgin plastics.’


With a successful trial run out of the way, Fizzotti says the right funding could see Garbo opening its first plant capable of treating 50 tonnes per day within six months, thanks to its experience and facilities for glycolysis recycling of silicon powders for the solar industry.


He says this could expand to 100 tonnes per day with further partners and easily be scaled to factories across Europe, with no lack of raw materials available in the EU.


‘The amount of refuse in Europe is so high that 100 tonnes per day is just a small part of the pie. Even looking at black, carbon-coloured bottles, these are not recoverable with normal recycling methods and there are huge amounts of this just being burnt for thermal recovery.’


However, one of the biggest sources of unrecycled plastic is waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Europeans throw away, on average, 16.6 kg of plastic WEEE every year, with the bloc annual total expected to reach 12 million tonnes by 2020.


Misconceptions


According to Violeta Nikolova of the United Nations University in Bonn, Germany, one of the barriers to recycling WEEE is that there are outdated misconceptions about the value, quality and attractiveness of recycled plastics.


‘For costs and benefits, for example, investing in recycled plastics would soon be essentially the same as investing in virgin plastics, with the difference of being able to tap into a fast-growing e-waste stream that contains billions of euros worth of plastic materials,’ says Nikolova.


She works on the PolyCE project, which is aiming to create a circular economy supply chain for WEEE plastics. Over the next three years, the project, which is led by the Fraunhofer Institute IZM in Berlin, Germany, will develop a grading system for recycling plastics based on their material properties and potential applications, and draw up guidelines for designing new electronics with recycled plastics. 


Their work includes technical innovations such as the development of a purer recycled plastic that removes toxic flame-retardants — thus creating a product appealing to the whole supply chain, from designers to consumers.


The project is also developing attractive, colourful demo products to prove that recycled plastics are no longer the grey, inferior products of yesteryear. The specific ideas are still under wraps but partners include Dutch electronics firm Philips, American appliance manufacturer Whirlpool and Finnish start-up Circular Devices.


Nikolova says the role of this in winning over consumers and product designers is important as then companies will begin to sit up and take notice.


‘Once you have the buy-in from the consumer, this is key as bigger companies will then take the lead in introducing recycled products, followed by competitors and smaller businesses in the supply chain — and then policy-driven incentives help with scaling this recycling up.’


 


(This article appeared in Horizon 2020 magazine on 5 June 2018 / Author: Joe Dodgshun)

PlastiCircle Preps Pilot Initiative in Romania

17 September 2018

The PlastiCircle consortium took a step closer to its circular economy innovations last week, with a technical visit to the Romanian town of Alba Iulia – home to the third and final pilot for Plasticircle innovations in plastic collection, transport, sorting and recycling.


On 12-13 September 2018, the PlastiCircle team visited Alba Iulia, with a series of briefings and study visits to assess conditions on the ground for the local pilot project beginning in the spring of 2020.


Following briefings by the departmental environmental protection agency and the municipality of Alba Iulia, the team embarked on a series of visits around the area: to the local Goldis neighbourhood, and to Alba Iulia district’s integrated waste management plant outside the town.


The Goldis neighbourhood, through which the Strada Vasile Goldis runs towards the central citadel area of the town, will be the location of piloting for waste collection and transport methods designed by PlastiCircle experts in collaboration with local authorities.


Innovations such as smart container technology for plastic waste and optimised transport routes for collection trucks will be rolled out – probably in from March 2020 for a period of five to six months.


The consortium also visited the newly built integrated waste management plant near Alba Iulia. This recently completed infrastructure is ready to host plastic waste sorting activities as soon as local authorities select a company to take over operations. At present, a number of candidate companies are in the running for the contract to begin operations in 2019.


Following the technical visit, Valentin Voinica of Alba Iulia municipality said: “We are expecting to improve a lot in Alba Iulia, in terms of recycling plastic, and also in terms of obtaining new goods from the waste which is currently land filled.”


Aside from introducing innovations in plastic waste collection and transport, the PlastiCircle approach also involves improving plastic sorting using innovative optical technologies and even developi9ng new added-value, recycled plastic products.


With pilot projects in Valencia in Spain, Utrecht in the Netherlands and Alba Iulia, Romania (and with ‘follower city’ Velenje in Slovenia), the PlastiCircle project has a truly European dynamic.


The technical visit to Alba Iulia follows similar visits to Valencia and Utrecht, ahead of the pilot initiatives that will take place there in spring 2019 and autumn 2019 respectively.

Destination Alba Iulia For PlastiCircle’s Final Technical Visit

5 September 2018

Next week’s visit by the PlastiCircle consortium to the Romanian town of Alba Iulia is the last visit by the project team in a series of technical excursions.


On 12-13 September 2018, the PlastiCircle team will be in the Romanian town of Alba Iulia to consolidate preparations for the project’s crucial pilot phase.


As with previous technical visits – to Utrecht in the Netherlands and Valencia in Spain – the consortium will hold intensive discussions to lay the ground work for the project pilots later in the project calendar.


In Alba Iulia, the partners will visit the Polaris plastic sorting plant for a closer look at the specificities of working in Romania come crunch time in 2019.


The consortium will also, as with Utrecht and Valencia, visit the district in which pilot waste collection – and the waste transport arrangements – will take place.


Project co-ordinator César Aliaga said: “With the final technical visit to Alba Iulia, we’ll have an even clearer picture of what is needed for the remainder of the PlastiCircle calendar”.


Mr Aliaga added: “For effective collection, transport, sorting and recycling in this project, we need to take a closer look at Alba Iulia’s infrastructure, the municipality’s capabilities and its needs for the pilot phase. We’re ready to get to work!”


Further updates on the technical visit to Alba Iulia will appear on the PlastiCircle website at www.plasticircle.eu and on Twitter via @circ_economy.

Successful Valencia Visit Points To Crucial Work Ahead

25 July 2018

Last week’s visit by the PlastiCircle consortium to the Spanish city of Valencia was another key chapter in the PlastiCircle story. With two technical visits down and one to go, preparations for PlastiCircle’s crucial pilot phases are well under way.


On 17-18 July 2018, the PlastiCircle team conducted a successful technical visit to Valencia, Spain – to the Picassent sorting plant (outside the city), and to the San Marcelino neighbourhood, home of the upcoming PlastiCircle pilot phase in Valencia.


Hosted by project partners Las Naves, the technical visit was a real opportunity to lay the groundwork for the pilot in San Marcelino, where local authorities will pilot PlastiCircle’s innovative solutions in waste collection and transport.


“San Marcelino is a working neighbourhood with diverse demographics, so in that respect it is the perfect place for the pilot phase to take place,” confirmed project co-ordinator César Aliaga.


Located in the south-west of Valencia, San Marcelino is home to just under 10,000 inhabitants spread over 33 km2​, with the first inhabitants having settled as early as 1954. The district has been used for municipal pilot projects before, owing to a favourable demographic and population structure for trial initiatives.


During their visit to the district, the PlastiCircle consortium toured municipal waste collection infrastructure (both permanent and mobile), and fielded questions from local media who were keen to understand both the interest of an international consortium in this corner of Valencia, and the connection between the Valencia pilot and those in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and Alba Iulia, Romania.


For the PlastiCircle project, the technical visit – whether to Utrecht, Valencia or Alba Iulia – is a crucial component of forward planning for the pilot phases. Even at this relatively early stage of the multi-year project, PlastiCircle innovations must be properly explored by the consortium; innovations including “smart” containers, the cloud-platform-connected waste transport system, optical sorting technologies, or even the incentive schemes which will be introduced so that citizens can fully engage in plastic waste collection in their local neighbourhoods.


“Seeing how the existing waste management infrastructure works in this pilot neighborhood is crucial if we are to be able to implement the PlastiCircle approach and improve the quantity and quality of recyclables,” said Axion’s Richard McKinlay.


In an interview with local media, Jan Bloemheuvel of the city of Utrecht said: “It’s good to make the people and citizens of your city aware that plastic needs to be separated; that it needs to be collected in a good way so we can re-use it and avoid using more resources to make new plastic.”


Mr Bloemheuvel added: “It’s also important for people to know what to recycle – what kind of plastic to put in one bin, and what type of plastic we need to put in another bin. People need to be informed about how to do it.”


This Valencia visit was the second of three technical visits undertaken by the PlastiCircle consortium. Following the work in Utrecht and Valencia, the partners will now turn their attention to the technical visit to Romanian pilot city Alba Iulia on 12-13 September 2018.


Further updates will be available on this website and on Twitter via @circ_economy.

PlastiCircle To Visit Key Project Sites In Valencia Visit

9 July 2018

The PlastiCircle project consortium will visit key sites in the Spanish city of Valencia next week, during a highly anticipated technical visit on 17-18 July 2018.


Hosted by local project partners Las Naves and SAV, and notably joined by Valencia-based project co-ordinators ITENE, the PlastiCircle partners are set to put in place vital planning for the forthcoming pilot project in Valencia – one of three pilot projects featured in the innovative PlastiCircle Horizon 2020 project.


Following the June visit to Utrecht in the Netherlands, the PlastiCircle team will now visit a plastic waste sorting plant run by SAV, in addition to an all-important visit to the San Marcelino neighbourhood. This district will be the location of the Valencia pilot project, so early intelligence gathering and an appraisal of on-the-ground conditions will be key for the future success of this phase of the PlastiCircle project.


Additional work onsite will include presentations by project partners SAV, ITENE, PICVISA, Axion, SINTEF, KIMbcn and ICLEI Europe, who will also be holding bilateral meetings with Las Naves to discuss future communications efforts in Valencia (including citizen engagement).


This Valencia visit is the second of three technical visits undertaken by the PlastiCircle consortium. Following the work in Utrecht and Valencia, partners will then turn their attention to a technical visit to Romanian pilot city Alba Iulia in September.


Further updates will be available on this website and on Twitter via @circ_economy.

PlastiCircle’s Dutch Visit Gets Ball Rolling For Pilot Projects

2 July 2018

On 25-28 June 2018, the PlastiCircle consortium undertook its first European ‘technical visit’ to Utrecht in the Netherlands, gathering vital data and intelligence ahead of PlastiCircle’s impending pilot projects in three separate European municipalities.


PlastiCircle kicked off its municipality-focused pilot projects in earnest with a visit to the Dutch city of Utrecht on 25-28 June 2018. The technical visit, combined with the consortium’s latest general partner meeting, was a vital opportunity to see firsthand how PlastiCircle innovations will have a lasting impact on the ground for citizens and plastic sector professionals alike.


The PlastiCircle project will pilot a series of innovations in plastic waste collection, transport, sorting and recycling in three municipalities across the European Union: in Alba Iulia, Romania; in Utrecht, the Netherlands; and in the Spanish city of Valencia.


Technical visits in each city allow for the project partners to lay the groundwork for the respective pilot projects by opening key lines of information sharing, discussions on logistics, and of course by setting important planning priorities with the municipalities in question. In the case of Utrecht, PlastiCircle innovations will be piloted from the beginning of 2020 onwards in one of the city’s neighbourhoods, but the planning begins in earnest with meetings on technology deployment and communications and citizen engagement.


The Utrecht visit featured a number of key activities, notably a tour and discussion session at the Suez plastic packaging sorting plant near Rotterdam, as well as meetings at Utrecht city hall, a visit to a waste collection depot and a whistle-stop tour in a possible pilot neighbourhood.


Eric Velthuizen of Utrecht city council said: “The value of the PlastiCircle project to the city of Utrecht is clear. Although our city is either well advanced or making steady progress in many aspects of plastic waste collection, transport, sorting and recycling, PlastiCircle innovations in these areas can be a real boost to our activities as we deploy cutting edge solutions fit for the city of Utecht.”


Mr Velthuizen added: “It is clear that more efficient treatment of plastic packaging has become a priority at European level, so aside from the improvements this will mean for Utrecht, we are also ready and able to share our expertise so that PlastiCircle can have an impact across the continent.”


The PlastiCircle project consortium will be undertaking more technical visits in 2018: to Valencia on 17-18 July, and to Alba Iulia on 12-13 September. PlastiCircle will provide more updates via this web page and live on Twitter via @circ_economy.