SECTOR WATCH 

Innovation and Resources on Urban Waste

SECTOR WATCH SEARCH RESULTS ( 1 - 7 from 7 )

Analysis

Don’t lose the thread – new technologies to make textiles circular

17 July 2019

Fast fashion is in the way of the transition to a circular economy – in a recent report the British organization WRAP estimated that around £140-million (€ 163 million) worth of clothing is sent to landfill every year in the UK alone. causing CO2 emissions, resource depletion, and pollution, in the production process as well as in the disposal stage.

In a past edition of Sector Watch, we have reported about the Dutch waste management organization Circulus Berkel and their recently opened textile sorting facility that has a strong focus on the sustainable and social reuse and recycling of textiles.

In the interview, Michiel Westerhoff, director of Circulus Berkel, stresses one of the major challenges for the textile sector to become sustainable and circular: Textiles today are not produced for recycling. They contain a mix of synthetic and organic materials, such a polyester and cotton, which improves wearing comfort but makes the material hard to recycle.

The use of polyester in the textile industry has risen from 8.3 million tonnes to 21.3 million, which equals a rise of 175%. These numbers illustrate how crucial it has become for the textile industry to develop better recycling techniques. Most of the mixed material products are still going to landfill or incineration, burdening the environment while becoming unavailable as a new resource.

Innovations in the textile industry are on the way to change this problem and to come up with recycling technologies that allow businesses, including SMEs, to recycle mixed material textiles.

The ‘Tex2Mat’ project is developing a technology that makes use of an enzymatic process, combining mechanic and biochemical separation techniques. The process separates the polyester based components of the textiles from the cellulose, cotton based components. The goal is to make the polyester available for reuse in the textile industry at high quality levels.

Other projects, such as the Relooping Fashion project, have developed techniques to recover the cellulose used in cotton based textiles and reuse it for new textiles while maintaining the quality of the material.

London based startup Worn again technologies has also developed a recycling process that recovers polymers from polyester based textiles. As the company claims, with this technology they are able to separate, decontaminate and extract polyester polymers and cellulose (from cotton) from non-reusable textiles and make them ready to be reused in textile production.

In true circular economy fashion, recycling textiles must come second to designing them to last, reducing overall consumption, and to improving reusability before recyclability. But until all fashion follows these principles, promising recycling techniques can help to recover material that would otherwise get lost in landfills and incinerators.

Analysis

Climate Action and the future of SPP

11 June 2019

Climate emergency

Four years from the Paris agreement and the implications of the need to drive deep decarbonisation are setting in, now discussed by central banks and finance ministries. At the recent Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund, Finance Ministers from more than twenty countries launched a new coalition aimed at driving stronger collective action on climate change and its impacts. How fast can they provide tangible results to drive global green investment? And how will public procurement be affected by the new climate goals, specifically coalition of finance ministers for climate action?


Helsinki Principles

The newly formed Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action endorsed a set of six common principles, known as the “Helsinki Principles,” that promote national climate action, especially through fiscal policy and the use of public finance. The number of countries involved now totals 20 countries, with Costa Rica joining in April 2019. World Bank CEO, Kristalina Georgieva emphasised the crucial role procurement has to play in climate-resilient economy of the future and that the coalition “demonstrates new levels of ambition from decision-makers in the fiscal policy arena and provides an important platform for Finance Ministers to share best practice on the jobs and growth benefits of the new climate economy.”


Green New Deal vs. greed

Facing the reality of the climate emergency will require collaboration of the collective, public and private interests and beyond, to implement the measures required; from putting a price on carbon, to soft and hard adaptation. In Helsinki, where 100% of procurement processes will integrate sustainability by 2020, a network based organisation called KEINO was created to support Finnish public contracting authorities with the development of sustainable and innovative procurement. It is comprised of key stakeholders working towards the objectives set for public procurement across all governmental levels in Finland. It is funded by The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (MEAE), and jointly steered by a conclave of six ministries. A proven way to kickstart the circular economy is to generate demand by launching a ‘green deal’ between the government, cities and companies on green public procurement.” These deals include an accompanying training programme where purchasing managers learn how to procure in a circular way.


Going forward

As Christian Aid's global climate advisor, Dr Kat Kramer urged: "vague incrementalism [...] is too little too late. We need rapid and radical action on climate, not financial risk assessments." Will states avoid or embrace the opportunity to be pioneers in the transition for planet friendly procurement?

Analysis

Trash tech: smart city and IoT infiltrate the industry

31 May 2019

New emerging infrastructure and capabilities offered by Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), Blockchain technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to play a vital part in the paradigm shift towards reducing waste and extending product lifecycles within the circular Smart Cities of the future. The IoT concept predicts a world in which physical, digital, and virtual objects are interconnected in a network with the ability to share data. If used correctly, the IoT ecosystem could see improvements in safety, turnaround times and customisation. But perhaps most far-reaching impacts will involve large data systems that drive sustainability in logistics and supply chains, via increased transparency of the product lifecycle through data collection and analysis, helping cities manage resources and infrastructure more efficiently.


Fast forward to the future   

IoT has the potential to improve in all three main waste management practices: prevention (e.g. product design, awareness campaigns, legislation), end-of-pipe strategies (e.g. recycling, waste separation, incineration, proper landfill) and environmental restoration. Prevention offers the most effective method with the lowest impact control costs, while environmental restoration is the most expensive practice with the lowest effectiveness. Currently, data are collected everywhere by different organisations, but communication between sources and an integrated and connected (product lifecycle) data cloud that can be shared between them is lacking.


IoT hierarchy

IoT may involve three core layers: (1) collection of product lifecycle data to maximise use (2) new business models based on connected and involved citizens for sharing products and service information to avoid waste generation, and (3) an intelligent sensor-based infrastructure for on-time collection and separation of waste to assure effective waste recovery operations. The first two aim to prevent waste, the third to improve efficiency of collection and recovery.


Barcelona

Working to become the “smartest city on the planet” (Fortune 2014), Barcelona’s mantra is to be an “inclusive, self-sufficient smart city in a hyper-connected zero emissions Metropolitan area”. Their end-to-end Smart City strategy impacts almost every urban service via open data initiatives, smart lighting, e-mobility and energy (heating and cooling networks). For street lighting for example, which uses most of a city’s energy consumption, a highly efficient remotely managed system saves energy, optimises maintenance and provides a safe environment for citizens. A smart water irrigation hydric balance system enables watering and irrigation organisation through sensor and electrovalves. The projects delivered 43 million Euro of benefits between 2011-2014, with an expected cumulative 832 million Euro by 2025, saving 9,700 tonnes of CO2 equivalent and 600,000 liters of water each year in the long term through reduced lighting power consumption, reduced travel and office space while increasing attractiveness and liveability.  


Transportation efficiency

Transportation is one of the greatest contributors to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, and one of the largest costs of waste management, IoT technology has great potential to improve its efficiency. Sensor-enabled and internet-connected garbage bins can collect information on fill level, temperature, location, or whatever data types the sensors gather and the sanitation department finds useful. With a user interface revealing the locations and fill levels of all bins, waste collectors can get an automated route planned for them that has prioritized areas in urgent need of cleanup and avoided disposal units that still have room. It is possible to track the location of waste containers, monitoring the level of garbage deposited, identify locations with the highest demand, suggest the shortest route for collection optimization of solid waste, or even interface with citizens to encourage disposal at times when the container can receive waste, which promotes citizenship and avoids significant problems resulting from the accumulation of garbage outside garbage collectors.


Focus on: Glasgow’s waste collection using GIS               

As well as optimising fleet logistics operations and reducing fuel consumption, the bins also record the number of times they’re emptied and how fast they fill up. Such data, when combined with statistics from other smart city systems, can facilitate more insightful, multi-pronged actions e.g. planning better distribution of garbage bins, zeroing in on problems like incorrect disposal practices) or reducing waste going to landfill.


Trash tracking

Sensor-based tracking technology has proven crucial for monitor recycling and recovery of e-waste after leaving of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) hands. A project by Greenpeace for example GPS tracked broken television sets, revealing the illegal actions of UK formal recycling sectors in selling second-hand items to developing regions, violating EU regulations. The Basel Action Network (BAN) and MIT Senseable City Lab tracked certain electronics dropped in charities and recycling sites, showing the export of e-waste from the US abroad - mostly to Asia - while others have exposed informal facilities and dump sites.

 

 

Analysis

186 countries take action to fight plastic waste

22 May 2019

We have frequently reported about the environmental, social and health impacts of plastic waste. Now, governments globally have acknowledged this issue and pledged to tackle it together. On 10 May, in a landmark unison decision 186 countries have agreed to put restrictions on the export of plastic waste.

An amendment to the global framework governing the movement of hazardous chemicals was adopted at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Convention places trade controls on hazardous wastes and regulates its disposal. This decision means that countries seeking to export plastic waste need prior consent from countries they are sending their waste to.

This will stem the flow of plastic waste into poor nations. Currently countries can send lower quality plastic waste across the ocean without obtaining the receiving countries government’s consent.  The export of plastic waste to these countries is a major problem for marine litter, since they lack the facilities to manage the amounts of waste imported. Much of the plastic that is dumped or landfilled eventually ends up in the ocean.

There have been NGO reports of US origin plastic trash spilled across villages in Indonesia, Thailand, and Maylasia. Even though the US is not part of the Covention it will no longer be able to export waste without consent from the countries that are part of it.

Supporters credit this successful development to raising awareness among the general public and political leaders, not least because of the relentless reporting of trash filled animals and nano-plastics found even inside humans.

In UrbanWINS, the city of Cremona took on the issue of plastic waste in agriculture, where it is at risk of remaining in the environment and not being properly discarded and recycled. Read more about this pilot action on the project website.

Analysis

EU Ecolabel: untapped potential

14 May 2019

Out of the most common Type 1 (third party assessed) ecolabelled products (goods and services), the EU Ecolabel represents the best performing ones on the market, alongside ecolabels such as Blue Angel, TSO and Nordic Swan. The EU Ecolabel Regulation provides a voluntary framework for the setting of environmental criteria for defined product groups with the aim of reducing the negative life cycle environmental impacts associated with the production and consumption of the products. Although their benefits are far reaching, and are expected to see increasing popularity, such schemes, and the synergies between them, their advantages could be promoted more throughout Europe. One way being to purchase more strategically through public procurement.


EU Ecolabel in focus

Established in 1992 and recognised across Europe and worldwide, the EU Ecolabel is a label of environmental excellence that is awarded to products and services meeting high environmental standards throughout their life-cycle: from raw material extraction, to production, distribution and disposal. It promotes the circular economy by encouraging producers to generate less waste and CO2 during the manufacturing process. Its criteria also encourage companies to develop products that are durable, easy to repair and recycle. Identifying goods that are within the top 10-20% of the most environmentally friendly in their industry/category, today it covers 34 goods and services including paper, textiles, cleaning products, lubricants, appliances, home and garden products and tourist accommodation. Criteria cover environmental as well as technical performance, with social criteria included for products groups where particularly relevant (e.g. textiles). All are locateable in their comprehensive catalogue.


Flooring, furniture and formaldehyde

EU Ecolabel furniture, which restricts the use of chemicals such as formaldehyde, solvents and flame retardants known to be toxic for human health and particularly for children, acts as a guarantee for safer products. For example, Italian company Mobilferro, awarded with the EU Ecolabel, manufactures eco-friendly furniture mainly for public schools that is carefully selected and closely monitored, with very little formaldehyde. The EU Ecolabel criteria for wood floor coverings similarly guarantees a high-quality product with optimal performance while restricting the number of harmful levels of chemicals like formaldehyde, polybrominated diphenyl ethers found in fire retardants and which have been found to be toxic to humans in furniture, as exemplified by the Polish furniture company Famos supplying Scandic Hotels. It also requires sustainable wood sourcing to limit deforestation, subject to third-party certification such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), and ensures the durability of goods, thus reducing long term costs.


Copenhagen

The City of Copenhagen’s Ecolabel procurement policy demands EU Ecolabel or Nordic Swan where there are many labelled products on the market. If there are too few products on the market, the ecolabel requirements can be used as award criteria, but a key challenge faced was how the issue of equivalence is addressed. However, the ecolabel was established to serve as a common instrument that ensures harmonisation and alignment of criteria of different labels so as to avoid confusion.


Green your spring clean

In the detergents and cleaning products category, the EU ecolabel saves energy, is safer for humans and for the environment including aquatic organisms - it must be biodegradable and free of contaminants to improve recyclability. “Conventional” non-ecolabelled detergents may include triclosan (suspected of interfering with human hormones[1]), nanosilver (linked to neurological disorders), or substances that release formaldehyde (suspected of causing cancer, allergies and asthma. As well as sustainable certifications for ingredients like palm oil, the label requires circular packaging, and promotes proportionate-to-its-content, refillable and recycled and recyclable packaging materials as well as recyclability, thus slashing plastic use. Austrian company Hagleitner for example offer refillable containers for their “clean chemistry and clean production” detergents that attempt to break the dichotomy of science vs. nature.


Synergies and scaling

Despite its long term business advantages and increasing expectations regarding environmental impact, the EU Ecolabel remains "very niche”, covering only 10% of the environmentally best-performing products, according to European Commission policy officer Kristine Dorosko. A recent drop in labelled products is likely due to the entry into force of new criteria to which companies willing to continue using their EU Ecolabel need to prove compliance. And it is getting stricter. Upfront costs can also put potential clients off. However, a number of funding support schemes are available and green public procurement is increasingly using ecolabels as award criteria, incentivising higher uptake of the label.

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.