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Circular economy in process industries: Upcycling large volumes of secondary resources (Processes4Planet partnership) (RIA)


Currently only 12% of the material resources used in the European process industry are recycled and recovered materials and these are mostly down cycled to less valuable products. To move towards a truly circular and sustainable process industry that uses its resources consciously, and without landfilling, breakthrough innovations aiming at upcycling large amounts of secondary resources are needed. The focus of this topic is the upcycling of secondary resources that must lead to the same quality and diversity of products as those obtained when using primary resources. The innovation needed will depend on the addressed waste category. However, even if the upcycling technologies may be sector specific, the cross-sectorial elements are important and should deserve due attention.

Proposals are expected to address the following aspects:

  • Considering the upgrading of secondary resources, when relevant, which may include the development of better separation and sorting technologies and digitalisation;
  • Ensure consistent quality and safety of recyclates and their suitability for the upcycling process itself;
  • If relevant, detection and removal additives in the secondary resources stream;
  • Take due account of logistic aspects such as production planning, risk assessment and management or zero defect at supply chain level;
  • The innovative upcycling of the secondary raw materials should be demonstrated through at least two realistic use cases that must lead to the same quality and diversity of products as those obtained when using primary resources, with demonstrable economic return, developed in closed cooperation between recyclers, process industry, users and technology providers;
  • Successful upcycling relies on advanced monitoring and sensing in the process industries and value chains, and on an improved data completeness, accuracy and interoperability between the process and the recycling companies. Upcycling may create new business opportunities and models. These are aspects that should be duly considered.

Proposals should include energy efficiency techno-economic and life-cycle assessment considerations of the overall process.

Proposals should actively pursue the involvement of all the actors in the value chain from the process industry to formulators, recyclers, public authorities, and standardisation actors.

Research must build on existing standards or contribute to standardisation. Where relevant interoperability for data sharing should be addressed.

Proposals submitted under this topic should include a business case and exploitation strategy, as outlined in the introduction to this Destination.

Additionally, a strategy for skills development should be presented, associating social partners where relevant. Particular attention should be given to the cooperation with existing initiatives that have developed education and skills activities and outcomes in this area.

All proposals should build on or seek collaboration with existing projects and develop synergies with other relevant European, national, or regional initiatives, funding programmes and are encouraged to consider the use of their expected outcomes in a wider approach that might benefit the establishment of Hubs for Circularity.

International cooperation can be considered specially with countries advanced in the field that could bring mutual benefit from different perspectives.

The proposals under this topic may cover any of the process industries sectors and related end of life wastes sectors (plastic wastes and composites,[[ The following are not composites and therefore are within the scope of this topic: Main materials in recyclates that are contaminated by minor components as heritage from former uses in composites (e.g. other polymers, resins, …), plastics (e.g. additives), construction materials (e.g. minerals with organics or metals), etc. whereas the contamination hinders the full qualitative recycling of the main material. ]] which were the subject of the WP 2021-22,[[ HORIZON-CL4-2021-TWIN-TRANSITION-01-17: Plastic waste as a circular carbon feedstock for industry (Processes4Planet Partnership) (IA); HORIZON-CL4-2021-RESILIENCE-01-01: Ensuring circularity of composite materials (Processes4Planet Partnership) (RIA)]] and steel scrap implemented as part of the Clean Steel partnership are excluded).

This topic implements the co-programmed European partnership Processes4Planet.