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Valencia’s Las Naves: “We’ll pass the baton to Utrecht and Alba Iulia”

2 April 2019

In a crucial year for the PlastiCircle project, we caught up with Julián Torralba, R&D manager with Las Naves. Julián tells us how Las Naves is bringing PlastiCircle to citizens, how marketing will make the difference, and why the San Marcelino neighbourhood is the perfect test bed for PlastiCircle innovations.


Julián, why is the period of April-May 2019 so important in the PlastiCircle calendar? What is happening right now?

In April, residents of Valencia’s San Marcelino neighbourhood– adults and children alike – will have their first contact with the PlastiCircle project.

As we know, PlastiCircle will be rolling out innovations in plastic waste collection and transport in the neighbourhood. What this means for citizens is that they will be sorting their waste and depositing plastic packaging into “smart containers”. Good sorting and recycling habits will be identified with unique user IDs, and incentivised with points – points which residents can use for all sorts of benefits in the city. So before and during the pilot we are staging a wide variety of local activities and events designed to encourage citizen engagement and to let people know what this is about!

These street-level activities all consist of strategically-placed ‘monitors’ who will explain the PlastiCircle pilot to residents, how to take part, and also to inform residents on other issues related to the environment, the circular economy and recycling.

In parallel, a communications campaign will kick off through various channels and media so the residents of San Marcelino can become familiar with the changes that the pilot will bring about in their neighbourhood.

And in May we’ll be officially unveiling the pilot – both to residents and to the media – under the ‘Reciplàstic’ brand. Everyone is invited, including project partners and everyone who is involved in the organisation of the project.


Tell us about Las Naves... what is Las Naves' role in Valencia, and specifically in the PlastiCircle project?

Las Naves is the innovation centre for the city of Valencia. We therefore manage and develop projects and innovative solutions that improve the quality of life of the residents of the city.

Our projects revolve around five main areas: energy, mobility, agro-food, culture and health. The theme of sustainability runs through all these areas, with a special focus on citizen engagement. So at Las Naves we have a lot of experience with social innovation tools such as citizen engagement and communications.

That’s why at Las Naves, aside from organising local activities that support the PlastiCircle pilot in the city of Valencia, we have played an important role in the design of the  citizen communication and citizen engagement strategies for Utrecht and Alba Iulia (PlastiCircle’s other pilot cities). These strategies include important elements such as marketing plans and resident participation plans. As such, the three PlastiCircle pilot cities have a tool that will help them define common objectives and innovative activities for each respective pilot.


About the San Marcelino pilot area… why is this neighbourhood such an ideal place for the PlastiCircle pilot?

The neighbourhood of San Marcelino has various characteristics that make it highly suitable for hosting a pilot initiative such as this. Among other factors, San Marcelino has a population of approximately 9,900 people in a space of 33 hectares – making the neighbourhood the third most populated district in Valencia, and with the third highest population density. So from our perspective it is a very strategic district – with a sizeable population in a limited space -, something which helps us considerably when planning both communications-related and technical activities.

Equally, San Marcelino has a well established residents’ association – more than 30 years in action and with a great capacity to mobilise and get residents involved.

Finally, this is a neighbourhood with a sizeable population of young people and adults: 64.6% of inhabitants are between the ages of 16 and 64, with a further 23% aged more than 65 years old. Both these demographics really fit the bill when we take into account the PlastiCircle pilot and what it sets out to do.


What will you be doing to train citizens and professionals, and make citizens aware of the pilot initiative?

To make sure the pilot runs smoothly it is indeed crucial to keep citizens/residents informed. And the same goes for the various entities involved in the waste management sector in the neighbourhood.

First off, a marketing strategy was designed with the creation of a special local brand and logo – to make the pilot more relatable for, and closer to, the local residents. This ‘localised’ branding extends to all the corporate material being distributed and also to the various smart containers at the collection points.

Next, with our local partners, we planned an ambitious series of events in strategic locations: local schools, neighbourhood associations, municipal swimming pools, health centres, public squares and so on. In all these places we can engage with people directly to explain the pilot and encourage participation.

Advertising also has an important role in these types of processes. By advertising through local media with significant local reach, we can publicise the PlastiCircle pilot. Radio, newspapers, local TV or even municipal bus lines all have advertising space and all engage with local residents.

Each person that is informed about the project through these channels can sign up quickly and easily through a dedicated website, and get to know the plastic recycling points and rewards system in place. All of which is designed to encourage recycling for the benefit of the PlastiCircle pilot and the neighbourhood as a whole.


The pilot is undertaken in Valencia, but what happens then? What are the next steps?

When the pilot in San Marcelino is over, we’ll pass the baton to the cities of Utrecht and Alba Iulia so they can deliver their respective pilots. They will surely benefit from the experience of Valencia and the information we have gathered.

At a local level, if the pilot turns out to be a success, we would ideally share the results with the municipality, or city of Valencia, so it can replicate the initiative in other neighbourhoods and districts. That way, every Valenciano could benefit from the innovations PlastiCircle is piloting.