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Cutting waste

Recycling targets across the EU have been increased, the aim is now 55 % by weight from 2025, and 65 % for packaging waste. The target climbs every 5 years after that. Can we reach that goal? Repurposing, repairing, recycling – our three guests are doing their bit to get there.

Industrial Technologies

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Insights and ideas

In 2018 the EU’s old rules on how to cut back waste and reduce landfill were revised and new targets set. Then along came the Circular Economy Action Plan which set out to help Europe move towards a carbon-neutral future with zero waste at the heart of the vision. To get down to specific examples: Did you know that it takes 3 to 4 tons of nitrogen-rich substrate to grow a ton of mushrooms? There’s a lot of it: over 3 and a half million tons are generated in Europe every year. What happens to that once the last mushroom is harvested? Recycling is a key battleground in combating climate change – but how can we sort through everything to reclaim what can be reused? Currently metals like aluminium, gold, silver and zinc can’t be economically recovered from mixed recycling – most recyclers do not have a sustainable solution for the separation and recovery of these valuable resources. How can that change? And then there’s industrial plastic. In Europe, 1.9 billion items such as plastic crates and pallets are used by transport companies and there are more than 20 billion plastic bins used on our city streets. When any of these break, they’re thrown away – billions of wasted items every year. What if they could be repaired cheaply and effectively, and be reused? Our three guests are working on finding the answers. Tim Gent is the managing director of Recresco, the British glass recycling company behind the OMR project. The company is using X-ray fluorescence, shape recognition and machine learning to make recycling more efficient. Tim’s interest is in how to make the circular economy more of a reality. The commercial managing director of the Spanish company, Plastic Repair Systems, Alfredo Neila worked on the PRS project, which repairs industrial plastic objects, such as crates and pallets, making repair more financially viable than throwing them away. Pablo Martínez is one of the brains behind Smartmushroom which has come up with a new way of treating the waste produced by the mushroom growing sector, transforming it from environmentally challenging by-product to valuable resource.

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Keywords

CORDIScovery, CORDIS, waste, recycling, repair, repurposing, glass, mushrooms, plastic crates, industrial plastic