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Join the 'Plastic, construction and bio-waste - too valuable to waste' session at Mannheim2020

2 September 2020

Cities around Europe are piloting and implementing solutions to become more circular. Plastic, construction and bio-waste are three of the waste streams cities are seeking to reduce or reuse due to their environmental impact and socio-economic value. Which levers do cities have to effectively close these materials loops?

This will be the focus of the session Plastic, construction and bio-waste - too valuable to waste at the 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns - Mannheim2020 (30 Sept - 2 Oct), in which the PlastiCircle approach will also be presented and discussed. In this session, we will hear the experience of three cities that have got down to the job of moving from a linear to a circular economy regarding these three waste streams. What have they done? What did they learn? Can their solutions be replicated elsewhere? Moderated by Ashima Sukhdev, Government & Cities Programme Lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the audience will also be invited to challenge speakers.

To take part in the session (Friday October 2, 9.30 - 11.00), register to the Conference (no fees) here

PlastiCircle improves the quality of recycled plastic

17 July 2020

Cities that have used the PlastiCircle approach to manage plastic waste have not only recycled more, but also better. In the Spanish city of Valencia, the first one to implement the pilot in 2019, the recycled plastic sorted by neighbours in the pilot phase was of superior quality than regular material.

In the first half of the project, PlastiCircle achieved its main objective of increasing efficiency and recovery in the sorting stage of the process. Picvisa, the partner responsible for the sorting process, worked on improving the segmentation algorithms to be able to better detect objects on the conveyor belts. As a result, improvements were made to the analysis of the NIR hyperspectral information to improve the classification of material, especially regarding the identification of multilayer materials.

Besides, the sorting process in Valencia resulted in more recycled plastic and less material thrown to landfills, as explained by Luís Segui, managing director of Picvisa. The project also demonstrated the recovery of the polythene (PE) film and the importance of also treating PET Trays as an important material to be detected and separated.

The consortium is confident that the improvements developed within PlastiCircle will be soon available for the market of recycled plastic. The next aims are to improve the purity of PE film to achieve the objective of keeping precision in sorting higher than 95 percent (it is currently 91 percent) and keeping the PE film and polypropylene (PP) film with rejects lower than 5 percent.

The PlastiCircle approach, aimed at improving plastic packaging from waste to valuable resources, is divided into four phases: collecting, transport, sorting, and reprocessing. The third and final pilot was launched on 1 July 2020 in the city of Alba Iulia, Romania, and will run until 30 September 2020. You can find more information about the pilots here

14 July: Repair3D Summer School Webinar

10 July 2020

On 14 July 2020 Lavrion Technology and Cultural Park (LTCP) will organise the Repair 3D Summer School Webinar, in the framework of the Repair3D project, funded by the Horizon 2020 programme. The webinar will take place online via Zoom, from 11-14h.

The Webinar includes a number of lectures from academic and industrial experts, related to plastic circularity, recycling and manufacturing of plastics composites using 3D Printing Technology. There will be a slot of participants' questions and an open discussion session. Young researchers from industry and academia, undergraduate students, and post-graduate students (Masters and Ph.D. students) are encouraged to apply. The participation is free of charge and all participants will receive a certificate of attendance.

More information about the webinar, including the programme and the speakers, can be found here.

Interested? Fill in the application form!

"You select, because you care" - Valentin Voinica on Alba Iulia's PlastiCircle pilot activities

30 June 2020

Following pilots in Valencia and Utrecht, PlastiCircle has now set foot in Alba Iulia where it will roll out its third and final pilot in the Arnsberg - Goldis district. The pilot originally was supposed to begin in April, but had to be delayed because of COVID-19. Valentin Voinica, coordinator of PlastiCircle's activities in the city, tells us how the pandemic affected the pilot, what its main focus will be and how Alba Iulia wants to engage its citizenes in the pilot activities. 

What are the main plastic waste-related challenges in Alba Iulia? And what effect did the COVID crisis have?

The main local challenges related to plastic recycling include: a) the transition from two existing waste fractions (“wet” – general waste and “dry” – recyclables) to a new system involving four fractions including a dedicated plastic container and b) the migration to an integrated waste management system operated at district level. We also feel that we must provide more support to the local companies specialised in recycling in order to improve the economic contribution of this sector to the local economy. The Covid-19 pandemic had (and still has) important effects, including the introduction of special public health measures and changes in the way the city hall operates to maintain the quality of services provided to citizens. In the waste management field, our local partner (Polaris M Holding) made substantial efforts in preparing a new waste transfer location and sanitizing all container locations, apartment block entrances and public areas.

What does Alba Iulia hope to achieve through its participation in PlastiCircle?

Whereas Valencia and Utrecht focused on improving plastic recycling rates and transport efficiency, in Alba Iulia the emphasis will be on raising awareness and engaging citizens in the plastic recycling process. Our logo -“You select because you care!” - was designed to convey the message that we want the citizens living in the pilot area to play an active part in all the interesting pilot activities and make a direct contribution to our city’s look, health and economy. Secondly, we will test several solutions for waste transport efficiency. Finally, we want to collect sociological data and detailed information on the quantities and types of waste which can be recycled in order to shape the development of the local waste management system in the near future.

You have chosen to implement the pilot in the city’s Arnsberg - Goldis district. What makes this district so suitable for the pilot?

After careful consideration of our options with our partners, we decided to concentrate on apartment blocks. We already have a successful system for individual homes, which involves a general waste container and a big yellow bag for recyclables. Apartment blocks use a different waste system which poses distinct challenges that we wanted to investigate through the pilot. We opted for the Arnsberg-Goldis district because it is centrally located, well integrated socially and responds very well to the project requirements - it mainly consists of apartment blocks, it covers a limited area, hosts over 4000 families and has about 20 waste container locations.

Aside from delaying it, did you have to make any other adjustments to the pilot because of COVID?

The initial implementation plan was dependent upon the Sociology Faculty of the local university actively supporting us with door-to-door activities, manual registration of citizens, the info kiosk, questionnaires and events. COVID forced us to revise our plan and think of other ways to contact citizens as meetings were banned and universities were forced to shift activities online. Our updated approach consists of engagement and education activities conducted mainly online, combined with offline information disseminated with the help of apartment block residents associations.

What will be your main focus in the pilot?

Our main focus will be on teaching families from the pilot area how to prepare plastic waste for recycling correctly and how to use the nearby dedicated PlastiCircle intelligent containers based on RFID cards and the labelling system. Collecting feedback via the project platform and testing our eco-point rewards system based on plastic quantity, separation quality and project participation will play a very important part in the pilot and beyond; our approach to feedback and rewards is probably the first of its kind tested at this scale in Alba Iulia.

How long will the pilot take and what is going to happen in Arnsberg - Goldis?

The PlastiCircle pilot project will run for 3 months, from July to September. During the pilot, citizens will apply the information received on sorting plastic for recycling, use smart containers and participate in feedback questionnaires and social media activities. Their participation in the pilot will be rewarded in eco-points which can be exchanged for small rewards at the end of the pilot. Depending on developments in social distancing measures and bans on large gatherings imposed during the national state of alert, we will reconsider the possibility of organizing other events together with the citizens from the pilot area.

How are you going to involve the citizens in the project?

In response to the current ban on face-to-face meetings, we have developed a dedicated project web site, containing all the relevant information about our project objective and activities and a clear step-by-step registration process, interconnected with the project platform. In terms of offline engagement, the apartment blocks involved in the pilot will receive posters inviting citizens to enrol in the project and informative leaflets on the project and the steps for registering. We will collaborate closely with apartment block administrators, who are in contact with the majority of the residents. In special cases, the municipal dispatch and our team will enagage citizens in order to provide a minimum offline registration process.

What were the biggest challenges when setting up the pilot and how did you overcome them?

Our main challenges were related to limitations imposed by Covid 19 on contacting and working with citizens and running various activities face-to-face. We also encountered several technical challenges in adapting labeling systems to our containers, testing sensors, finding locations for transceivers, establishing transport routes, translating and customising the citizens and administrative platform, adapting questionnaires, activities and waste profiling procedures. We successfully navigated these challenges through the focus and dedication of our team and the full support of our project partners in all these activities.

What did you learn from the pilots in Utrecht and Valencia?

Running the pilot last offered us some advantages in terms of using the best practices identified in Valencia and Utrecht for engaging citizens and improving the project cloud platform. Both previous pilots were successful in attracting citizens and testing innovative solutions, using creative campaigns (Super Marcelina and Madame Plastique), eco points and non-monetary rewards. Other important lessons learned were adapted and included in our implementation plan.

What are the most important differences and similarities between Alba Iulia and Utrecht and Valencia?

Alba Iulia has a much smaller surface and population than Valencia and Utrecht and is at an earlier stage in the process of improving the waste management system and applying circular economy principles on recycling. This is why we are more focused on informing citizens on correct recycling activities and the importance of recycling and we are trying to test social and behavioral changes in the pilot area. We have similar project indicators to Valencia and Utrecht, but in terms of citizens and project platform our pilot is in many ways an adaptation of the Valencia pilot to the local context.

How can this pilot benefit Romania as a whole, on its way towards a circular economy?

Alba Iulia is not just a historical gem and a symbol of the unification of Romanian provinces, it is also the host of the largest national smart city pilot project which saw numerous smart solutions tested, many being replicated in other cities at present. The PlastiCircle pilot can be viewed as an extension of the IoT, cloud platforms and applications tested during the smart city project since we will be testing smart containers, efficient collecting and transport solutions, and the cloud management platform. Furthermore, waste management will be an important chapter in our next smart city strategy, together with environmental management. The insights from the PlastiCircle pilot will be used in another project which will provide dedicated underground containers in limited space areas that can accommodate different recycling fractions based on RFID access cards.

Given our numerous partners in the smart city project and our active participation at dedicated events, we are convinced that solutions tested during the PlastiCircle pilot will be highly visible to other cities working on improving their waste management systems. Romania has a limited number of automatic waste sorting equipments and recycling companies, which is why the other two pillars of plastics circular economy tested in PlastiCircle pilot (automatic sorting and developing high value products using recycled plastics) are of major importance for closing the loop of plastics economy on a national scale.