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Valorise the organic fraction of municipal solid waste through an integrated biorefinery at commercial level


Produce large-scale added-value end products from the OFMSW for identified market applications from a successfully operating, first-of-its-kind biorefinery. This topic excludes proposals having compost, digestate, biogas, methane or biofuels as the main products. When dealing with unsorted MSW, proposals could address the efficient separation of the organic fraction.

The activities of this biorefinery must be included in a strategy for the valorisation of the OFMSW resources of the area where the biorefinery is operating. In particular, projects should realise a biorefinery that is integrated in the existing territorial waste management scheme and policies, involving all relevant stakeholders from the public and private sectors, and seek to improve and optimise current waste management schemes and practices in the subject territory.

Proposals should be fit for replicability in other territories. The envisaged biorefinery should fully integrate feedstock supply and processing technologies to deliver products with targeted functionalities to meet identified market demand at competitive prices. It should demonstrate effective and cost-efficient operation at a commercial level, applying where relevant the cascading use of the biomass feedstock to maximise resource efficiency. Proposals may include any processing technology (excluding those leading primarily to compost, digestate, biogas, methane or biofuels) that has been demonstrated in an optimised value chain at TRL 6-7 and should encompass all processing stages leading to intermediate and end products. Proposals should address all requirements for IA - flagship actions as shown in Table 3 of the Annual Work Plan 2019. The technology readiness level (TRL) at the end of the project should be 8. Proposals should clearly state the starting and end TRLs of the key technology or technologies targeted in the project.

INDICATIVE FUNDING: It is considered that proposals requesting a maximum contribution of EUR 15 million would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) produced annually in the European Union is estimated at 88 million tonnes, rising to 96 million tonnes annually by 20201. On a global basis, cities produced about 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste in 2012, of which a significant percentage was organic. This figure is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 20252 . Containing mainly carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, OFMSW presents an important feedstock for biorefining to convert it into valuable compounds for applications in a variety of market segments. However, this precious feedstock is often perceived as a challenge for urban agendas due to its potential pressure on the environment and human health. Together with other waste streams, OFMSW is often used for energy recovery or sent to landfill. These disposal steps of OFMSW pre-empt exploiting its potential for valuable products achievable in cascading operations. Aerobic (composting) and anaerobic digestion processes on the OFMSW have been able to reduce this fraction going to landfill. However, these processes mainly result in low-value products such as compost, biogas and digestate. Building on earlier projects on OFMSW, industry is ready to scale up the total value chain to first-of-akind biorefinery at commercial level. Successful operation at this level will start to realise a better exploitation of the potential of the OFMSW in Europe. The specific challenge is to sustainably scale up the conversion of OFMSW into added-value products to commercial levels.

1 See:

2 See: (World Economic Forum in cooperation with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation)


▪ contribute to KPI 1 – create at least one new cross-sector interconnection in the bio-based economy;

▪ contribute to KPI 2 – create at least two new bio-based value chains;

▪ contribute to KPI 4 – produce at least one new building block based on OFMSW;

▪ contribute to KPI 5 – produce at least two new bio-based material based on OFMSW;

▪ contribute to KPI 6 – Demonstrate at least two new ‘consumer’ products based on bio-based chemicals and materials that meet market requirements.


▪ increase the overall resource efficiency;

▪ reduce quantities of OFMSW routed to landfill and incineration as compared with relevant business cases identified as benchmarks;

▪ reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


▪ increased added-value to bio-based products resulting from underutilised feedstocks;

▪ increase income and business opportunities for stakeholders and actors in the bio-based sectors, in particular in the collecting, management and treatment of OFMSW.


▪ create new job opportunities in the bio-based sector, particularly the rural and/or urban areas;

▪ retain and/or develop new skills.

Type of action: Innovation action – flagship action.