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New approaches for the valorisation of URBAN bulky waste into high added value RECycled products

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EU regions pilot a circular economy approach to bulky waste management

The URBANREC project is working to improve opportunities for recovering waste stream materials through enhanced management of bulky waste.

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This waste stream has many and varied environmental impacts, and poses numerous challenges related to logistics, use and management, explain Raquel Giner Borrull and Ana Isabel Crespo Soler, both of URBANREC coordinator AIMPLAS. “Other challenges are the lack of stringent regulation, and the lack of market outcomes due to, amongst others, the inexistence of cost-effective valorisation methods,” they add.

Bulky waste management across a diverse European space

Bulky waste management is regulated and organised in all the project’s demonstration countries: Belgium, Spain, Poland and Turkey. While each have different economies and social sensitivities, they have a common goal to improve their bulky waste management. The Flemish Region in Belgium is the territory that has one of the most developed collection schemes in Europe, recording several successes in advancing reuse and recycling (to obtain high added value products) of bulky waste. Flanders encompasses a well-organised network of reuse centres and shops and has implemented a landfill ban on recyclable and incinerable waste. In Valencia (Spain), “it is common for people with limited livelihood to have a means of subsistence through the sale of scrap metal,” the coordinators report. While this is usually tolerated by the municipalities, it creates difficulties in implementing an approach to the reuse or recycling of materials in the affected civic amenity sites (CASs). “The project has helped in Valencia to make visible and quantify the impact of the problem before our mayors, so that we can require their active collaboration, also seeking in the medium term the social and labour insertion of these people in the reuse preparation activity itself.” Warsaw (Poland) is currently implementing new rules for selective collection of municipal waste. Here, it is important to ensure conditions allowing for proper waste segregation – in the context of the activities on reuse or recycling of bulky waste – to obtain products and materials of appropriate quality. There is little specific regulation addressing bulky waste in Izmir (Turkey). However, new legal and practical steps are being taken towards its improved management. Project activities and results could, for example, help with arrangements for CASs still being constructed throughout the country.

Inspiring a basis for future legislation

To date, URBANREC’s most relevant achievements include knowledge transfer and experimentation, collection for the purpose of recycling and educational programmes customised to citizens’ needs. “The solutions developed in URBANREC will contribute to the reduction of the use of fossil resources, enhancing reuse and turning a waste material into raw material, thus contributing also to a 10-20 % reduction of CO2 emissions,” Giner Borrull and Crespo Soler enthuse. Finally, a guide has been prepared to implement URBANREC management at EU level where 15 project recommendations to improve the EU framework related to bulky waste will be included. Local authorities involved in the project are committed to considering its results as a basis for future legislation as well as reuse/recycling incentives in the framework of their competences. Commenting on the long-term impact of URBANREC, the coordinators believe this “should be a reduction of the total number of bulky waste and their better management through effective reuse and non-reusable items recycling (thanks to selective collection and an extensive network of CASs)”.


URBANREC, bulky waste, reuse, recycling, waste management, circular economy, environmental impact, civic amenity sites, municipal waste

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