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Underpinning the vital role of the forest-based sector in the Circular Bio-Economy

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - WoodCircus (Underpinning the vital role of the forest-based sector in the Circular Bio-Economy)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-12-31

Started on the 1st of November 2018, WoodCircus is a Horizon 2020 funded project under grant agreement no. 820892. Realised by 17 European partners including seven research organisations, five industrial partners and three representative organisations, WoodCircus increases knowledge, raises awareness and improves conditions for an uptake of resource efficient processing and recycling in wood-based value chains, and fosters increased competitiveness of the European woodworking sector.
WoodCircus is addressing the challenges and opportunities related to the process efficiency and wider uptake of circular economy in the woodworking value chains in Europe with the aim to enhance the wood construction sector and improve environmental, economic and societal sustainability. With its enormous economic and social significance for the European Union (18 million direct jobs, approx. 9% of the Union’s GDP), the construction sector is nonetheless one of the biggest sources of waste in volume terms and only one third of waste wood is currently being recycled. Moreover, there are great differences between the member states in wood recycling performance, technology readiness and in legal, policy and socioeconomic framework. Clear and in-depth profiles have been developed for four macro-regions in Europe.
Industrial innovations on circular economy are supported by identifying, evaluating and disseminating the identified transferable good practices in process efficiency, wood waste collection, management and recycling in the woodworking value chains in Europe. Achieving a thorough evaluation of the overall system’s performance and a validation of the most relevant transferable solutions, the project produces sound, critical evidence and tangible decision support information for market actors, stakeholders and policymakers. Enhancing conscious management of forest resources fosters increased competitiveness of the European woodworking sector as well as sustainable growth and well-being in the EU. To sustain the European exchange and market uptake solutions, the project establishes a well-integrated network of the key existing stakeholders, notably between wood processing industries, the waste management sector and the RDTI community.
The identification of good practice solutions, on which the entire project builds, has been carried out through literature reviews, analysis of existing regulations, data collection from workshops and stakeholder interviews, and a pan-European Open Call for innovative practices in SMEs. These fact-finding activities have resulted in an extensive compilation of the current state of the art of recovery and recycling processes, organisation of value chains in different European regions, accompanied with a comprehensive SWOT analysis by region, and a preliminary identification of best practices.
A pool of more than 70 identified case studies (i.e. value chains) have been assessed using a trialled and validated set of criteria and indicators for efficient processing and recycling operations. In a two-step selection process, the most promising candidates (24 cases) were identified for a good practice analysis and for further environmental and social analysis using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The general framework for the upcoming LCA has been outlined including definitions, settings, impact categories and system boundaries for the best practice candidates and their value chains.
The validation of findings and recommendations to policy and industry will result in a comprehensive policy paper and a distilled policy brief. Building on the previous WoodCircus activities and results, other projects and literature reviews, as well as on an extensive policy review of existing regional, national, European and international strategic planning and policies, the drafting of a first version of the policy paper has started.
Communication and stakeholder engagement is crucial throughout the project. WoodCircus consortium is proactively communicating and disseminating the project background, goals and outcomes to wide group of stakeholders in order to call attention of expert and non-specialist audience. The project has organised, participated or communicated in 91 national, European and international events and publications. In addition to elaborated and widely utilised communication material and presswork package, WoodCircus website provides updated information on the project, its background, activities and results, which are further communicated through different social media platforms.
WoodCircus refers to the recommendations of several advisory groups of the EU, and will contribute to achieving the objectives and the implementation of the EU Green Deal, EU Biodiversity Strategy, EU Forest Strategy, Circular Economy Action Plan and the two EIPs, Raw Materials and Agriculture on resource-efficient use of resources.
Based on the fact-finding, evaluation and validation of best transferable practices, a European good practices catalogue will be one of the major outcomes of the project. This database is a thorough documentation of the state of the art, including an active interface to the European Commission’s Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) and the Bioeconomy Knowledge Centre (BKC). Information provided by the catalogue, combined with the elaborated best performing supply chains typology and the RTDI plan for wood industries towards the circular economy, contributes to achieving a higher resource efficiency and wood waste recycling rates in public and private sectors, and an improved knowledge of EU stakeholders about identified challenges, opportunities and proposed solutions.
In the medium and long term, the project results and concluded strategies should create added value and new jobs and increase the overall competitiveness of the EU woodworking industries and related value chains through an uptake of resource-, water and energy-efficient solutions. A second round of the Open Call for innovative solutions will highlight individual good practice showcases and foster industry innovation.
Building on positions and statements of various stakeholders, WoodCircus activities will result in a detailed policy paper and distilled policy brief (the “Wood Circus White Paper”), which will lead to better informed decision-making on wood recycling and resource efficiency at the EU, national and local levels in the private and public sectors.
An important aspect is to strengthen acceptance of secondary wood sources as raw materials among businesses and consumers. Communication activities will continue to promote the use of wood-based products in different markets, especially the construction area, and point to effective options for a higher resource efficiency based on the project results. This action will culminate to the High Level Conference, a major international event of 250+ participants promoting the wood sector in the circular economy. Established collaboration and solid commitments from technical institutes, industries and policy makers in the form of a well-integrated network will ensure the European exchange beyond the project lifetime.