This action will analyse the regulatory aspects (including potential obstacles and drivers) of the main EU legislations influencing the production of biobased products (e.g. biobased chemicals, plastics, fertilisers, feed ingredients, etc.) from the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) and/or urban wastewater sludge (UWWS).
Cities are geographical and economic areas with a high concentration of biowaste flows: they produce about 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste annually, of which roughly 50% is organic. On the one hand, urban biowaste poses economic, social and environmental challenges to cities agendas: e.g. its management is costly and it is still too often landfilled causing GHG emissions and potential hazards to the human health and the environment. Moreover, its recycling (when applied) is generally limited to compost and biogas. On the other hand, emerging biobased technologies can help to turn these challenges into opportunities: the OFMSW and UWWS contain valuable substances that urban waste-based biorefineries can process into high-value biowaste-based products such as chemicals, plastics, fertilisers, feed ingredients, etc. These innovative value chains can have several economic, social and environmental benefits:
- Generating new local jobs;
- Improving the sustainability of local waste management schemes (e.g. reducing landfilling of biowaste);
- Helping to preserve natural resources and contribute to resources security: urban biowaste and wastewater sludge are a secondary feedstock available all-year round in significant quantities and without conflicts with land use and food production; the extraction of valuable substances from this feedstock contributes to reduce their imports from outside the EU, including critical materials;
- Supporting industrial symbiosis between the waste and wastewater management sectors and the biobased industries producing chemicals, fertilisers, plastics, feed ingredients, etc.;
- Providing significant local contributions to achieve EU targets in the policy fields of circular economy, bioeconomy, reindustrialisation, sustainable growth and GHG emissions reduction (e.g. contributing to achieve climate mitigation targets by reducing landfilling and keeping stored in new products the carbon contained in urban biowaste), urban-rural cooperation, production of renewable energy; etc.
Nevertheless, as pointed out by experts to the Partnership, some technical, regulatory, financial and social aspects are challenging the development of the value chain for bioresources. For example:
- some biowaste-based processes are not achieving yet a commercial Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and its upgrade is often costly;
- further research is needed to assess the presence of hazardous substances in some biowaste-based products;
- some elements of the EU regulation on waste, chemicals, wastewater, fertilisers and other policy areas are perceived as regulatory obstacles for the production of urban biowaste-based products;
- the policy and political discussion on regulatory obstacles and drivers is still limited;
- the creation of a market for biowaste-based products faces some concerns among consumers due to their origin;
- there is a significant knowledge gap among urban and regional policy-makers on the potentials and challenges of this value chain;
The Partnership has identified several EU policies and initiatives that can support the implementation of an urban circular bioeconomy. For example:
The new EU regulation on waste should lead to an increase of the amount of (urban) bio-waste available also for biorefining. According to the new Waste Framework Directive, by 31 December 2023 biowaste shall either be separated and recycled at source or collected separately. The directive wants also to reduce landfilling and promote the use of materials produced from bio-waste;
- the Bioeconomy Strategy, among the actions on 'reinforced policy interaction and stakeholder engagement' suggests to 'enhance short chain, local economic activities and urban-rural and coastal interlinkages to cater for the increasing demands for regional and diversified food and non-food products';
- the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy provides to EU cities a political and policy framework to reduce GHG emissions in their waste sectors.
Nonetheless, as mentioned above, the Partnership has identified some EU regulatory areas that can affect the development of this value chain. For example, according to the Nordic Council of Ministers, 'a precondition for a more circular economy is a more efficient use of resources and the utilisation of waste as a resource. However, the existing regulation of waste does not always promote this as its primary aim is to ensure safe waste handling' – innovative biowaste-based technologies should therefore demonstrate to be safe for our health and the environment, while producing/extracting more from biowastes. Moreover, subsidies for energy uses of biomass do not facilitate the use of urban biowaste for producing the high-value biobased chemicals and materials. Furthermore, the climate mitigation potentials of this value chain are not formally recognised by the EU regulatory framework for climate mitigation, etc.
Policy- and decision-makers should be provided with information on regulatory aspects for boosting an urban circular bioeconomy in EU cities, with special reference to the producing of urban biowaste-based products. This action aims at providing an analysis of the main EU legislations influencing the development of the value chain producing high-value biobased products (such as biobased chemicals, fertilisers, plastics, feed ingredients, etc.) from the OFMSW and UWWS.
Action leader: City of Oslo
Participants: DG RTD, Porto, Europa Decentraal, Finland and Greece
During the first half of 2018, the Partnership launched a survey on EU regulatory obstacles and drivers for producing urban biowaste-based products addressing experts from cities, industries and academia. Together with several other stakeholders the Partnership also organized a workshop on the topic in Brussels in May 2018, discussing the barriers and solutions towards a bio-economy. The replies of the survey will be analysed during the summer providing the basis for a survey report to be delivered by the end of 2018.
- Circular Economy full Draft Action Plan (Parts 1 & 2)
- About the Public Feedback
- Introduction to the Draft Action Plan of the Partnership on Circular Economy
- Draft Action 1: Help make waste legislation support the circular economy in cities
- Draft Action 2: Help make water legislation support the circular economy in cities
- Draft Action 9: Analyse the regulatory obstacles and drivers for boosting an urban circular bioeconomy (open to Public Feedback)
- Draft Action 3: Prepare a Circular City Funding Guide to assist cities in accessing funding for circular economy projects
- Draft Action 4: Mainstream the circular economy rationale into European Structural and Investment Fund programmes
- Draft Action 5: Prepare a Blueprint for a Circular City Portal
- Draft Action 6: Promote Urban Resource Centres for waste prevention, re-use and recycling
- Draft Action 7: Develop a 'Circular Resource Management' roadmap for cities
- Draft Action 8: Develop a Collaborative Economy Knowledge Pack for cities
- Draft Action 10: Manage the re-use of buildings and spaces in a Circular Economy (open to Public Feedback)
- Draft Action 11: Develop City Indicators for a Circular Economy (open to Public Feedback)
Draft Action 12: Develop a “Pay-as-you-throw”-toolkit with coaching (open to Public Feedback)
 World Economic Forum (2017) Project MainStreaming - Urban Biocycles.
 The percentage of municipal waste recycled (including urban biowaste) is still limited within the EU – with significant difference among Member States and regions: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=File:Municipal_waste_treatment,_EU-28,_(kg_per_capita).png
 Nordi Council of Ministers (2017) Barriers for utilisation of biowaste, Analysis of institutional barriers for using biowaste as a resource, p.5.