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Chris Patermann: This is the Way Brexit Penalizes the Bioeconomy • Waste invisible to Radar • Straw, Stone, Earth: So Old and yet so Modern • Inerts: Sons of a Lesser God

Dossier Finland/Bioeconomy: The Future starts from Wood • Rwanda’s War to Plastic • When Lending Goes Social • Europe at Full GPP

Mario Cucinella: Buildings, Everything but the Oink

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• The New Building Sector: Social, Digital, Circular • Concrete Paving • Biomasses Can Make All the Difference

The Demise of Screws and Nails • A Window into Tomorrow

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Fairtrade Carrier Bags by Antonio Cianciullo

#UnSaccoGiusto, watch?v=Y37vj28p53A

Cooperativa Ventuno,

Pushed by the increase in social inequalities, xenophobia moves forward. Fear of otherness – of the threatening unknown – is on the rise despite statistical data indicating that most acts of violence, starting from sexual abuse, come from those historically near to us. And the temptation to build up walls is looming ahead, as shown by the referendum of 23rd June in Great Britain, in – up until now – unsuspected places. The articles we publish in this issue of Renewable Matter on the problem of carrier bags help look at the link between environmental and social issues with a fresh pair of eyes. The association between carrier bags and racial prejudices may seem far-fetched. But the technological frontiers of compostable plastic are very advanced and could lead us to think that the tools of environmental protection are a prerogative of the richer countries: ecology as a barrier between the North and South shores of the Mediterranean. But the efforts made by many African countries to get rid of the damage produced by an incorrect use of plastic show that the sustainability path is shared in very different contexts. Not necessarily is there a before and after, an industrial growth causing damage which is dealt with at a later stage. Human evolution, like the natural one, moves forward in leaps. Difficult contexts stimulate new ideas which, for example, can lead from backwardness to off-grid, bypassing traditional infrastructure. In the case of plastic, the Rwanda lesson, as well as that of other African and Asian countries, told in this issue, offers food for thought. “In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban plastic carrier bags, which had clogged the sewage system and contributed to the formation of disastrous floodings. Other nations, including many African ones, did the same. According to the Earth Policy Institute in Washington D.C. (2013 data), 19 countries of the continent have partially or totally banned carrier bags, targeting thinner ones, more easily blown away by the wind,” Jonathan W. Rosen writes, explaining that motivations are real: in Mauritania, 70% of the sheep and cows’ deaths is due

to ingestion of carrier bags. And Roberto Giovannini, in his report, talks about a reduction in the use of plastic in Kenya, Southafrica, Senegal, Botswana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Gabon, Ethiopia, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Uganda and Cameroon. In Southern Italy too, the fight for the environment and legality is harsh. It is the subject of Fortunato Ferrino’s spot, the actor interpreting the role of the mafia boss Pietro Savastano in the TV series Gomorra. He is the testimonial of the #UnSaccoGiusto campaign, promoted by Legambiente to fight the new ecomafia business: fake biodegradable carrier bags. Almost half of the carrier bags around is illegal. That means 40,000 tonnes of fake plastic, a loss for the legal supply chain of compostable carrier bags of €160 million, with 30 million in tax evasion. On top of that, there is the environmental damage: an increase of waste management cost amounting to €50 million. We are talking about an illegal supply chain stealing a turnover from the healthy economy, it also takes away resources from the inland revenue and damages the environment. Again, an alternative is possible, as shown by the creation of Coop Ventuno in Castel Volturno in Terra dei Fuochi (“Land of Fire”). It is a cooperative committed to the production of biodegradable carrier bags and objects made with materials from separate waste collection. Massimo Noviello and Gennaro Del Prete are the co-founders, the sons of two protagonists of the fight against gangs: Federico del Prete was a trade unionists of peddlers killed because he had reported the racket of illegal carrier bags. Domenico Noviello was an entrespreneur killed for turning in some emissaries of the Casalesi clan. “Freeing the market from illegal carrier bags means opening it to producers of compostable bioplastics, with an increase of investments in the field that would guarantee new clean employment,” explain the founders of the cooperative. The two million views of the spot in three weeks, that reached an audience of over 6 million people, show that when there is collaboration across the board success is bound to be achieved.



11|July-August 2016 Contents


Antonio Cianciullo


Fairtrade Carrier Bags

Christian Patermann


How Brexit Will Penalize the Bioeconomy


Connett: Creative Communities

Editorial Director Marco Moro Contributors Alessandra Astolfi, Emanuele Bompan, Mario Bonaccorso, Ilaria N. Brambilla, Enrico Cancila, David Cheshire, Maurizio Cocchi, Paul Connett, Mario Cucinella, Simona Faccioli, Sergio Ferraris, Dominique Gauzin-Müller, Roberto Giovannini, Lauri Hetemäki, Luciano Manzo, Thomas Miorin, Cyril Ndegeya, Michele Novelli, Jeff Passmore, Christian Patermann, Federico Pedrocchi, Antonio Pergolizzi, Roberto Rizzo, Jonathan W. Rosen, Luciano Trentini, Silvia Zamboni

Think Tank

Editor-in-chief Antonio Cianciullo

edited by

to Win the Waste Challenge

Sergio Ferraris

Interview with Paul Connett

Antonio Cianciullo


In Italy, 90% of Waste is Still off the Radar

Focus on Circular Building

Acknowledgments DPeter Bilak, Sara Guerrini, Stefania Maggi, Federica Mastroianni, Ornella Mollica, Laura Negri, Michela Pola, Stefano Rossin, Giuseppe Schlitzer



The Revival of Eco-Local Materials

Gauzin-Müller Focus on Circular Building

Managing Editor Maria Pia Terrosi

Antonio Pergolizzi


Children of a Lesser God

Editorial Coordinator Paola Cristina Fraschini Editing Paola Cristina Fraschini, Diego Tavazzi

Focus on Circular Building Emanuele Bompan


Houses in Hot Pursuit of Cars

Jonathan W. Rosen


Roberto Giovannini


Flowers from Africa

Silvia Zamboni


When Loans Go Social

edited by


Biomass is the Engine

Layout Michela Lazzaroni Translations Jalise Ahmed, Erminio Cella, Valentina Gianoli, Franco Lombini, Mario Tadiello

We would like to report a mistake in the article by Silvia Zamboni “Quo vadis sharing economy?” published in issue 9/2016 of Renewable Matter. Gnammo’s CEO is Gian Luca Ranno.


Design & Art Direction Mauro Panzeri

Focus Plastic Bags Rwanda’s War on Plastic

Focus Plastic Bags

Mario Bonaccorso

of the Canadian Bioeconomy Interview with Jeff Passmore


Executive Coordinator Anna Re


Dossier: Finland Mario Bonaccorso


The Future Starts from Wood

Luciano Trentini


The Bio Plant is Growing Fast

Simona Faccioli


A Europe At Full GPP

External Relations Manager (International) Federico Manca External Relations Managers (Italy) Federico Manca, Anna Re, Matteo Reale Press and Media Relations Contact Edizioni Ambiente Via Natale Battaglia 10 20127 Milano, Italia t. +39 02 45487277 f. +39 02 45487333 Advertising

Enrico Cancila


Public Procurements Get even Greener

Annual subscription, 6 paper issues Subscribe on-line at This magazine is composed in Dejavu Pro by Ko Sliggers

Case Studies

Roberto Rizzo


The Concrete Way

Published and printed in Italy at GECA S.r.l., San Giuliano Milanese (Mi) Copyright ŠEdizioni Ambiente 2016 All rights reserved

Maurizio Cocchi


Bioenergy Integrated in the Bio-based Economy is Needed to Meet Climate Targets

edited by


Ecomondo Regenerates Itself with the Circular Economy

Ilaria Brambilla

Interview with Alessandra Astolfi


The Media Circle Roberto Giovannini


Federico Pedrocchi


A Window into Tomorrow

Innovation Pills The Demise of Screws and Nails

Cover Photo by ŠAntagain / iStock

How Brexit Will Penalize the Bioeconomy The UK’s exit from the EU will strongly affect the British EU economy. It will also have repercussions on the relation with the EU with regard to access to markets, movement of researchers or participation in Horizon 2020’s funded projects. by Christian Patermann

Media is full of news and analyses on Brexit. All European households are talking about it, whereas politicians, investors, entrepreneurs and foreign citizens living in the United Kingdom (and vice versa) are spending sleepless nights dealing with it. Why should therefore one focus – even only for a moment – on Brexit’s future impact on bioeconomy? The answer is quite simple: it is hard to find another area in technological research and development, innovation and future European transnational cooperation which could be more eloquent – and appropriate – to reflect the dire consequences of the decision made on 23rd June. As a matter of fact, the United Kingdom, its politicians, researchers and entrepreneurs

have never appeared among the supporters of bioeconomy: they did not appear among pioneers or confident promoters of the – simultaneously new and old – idea to increase use of biological resources. The main supporters have appeared in the Benelux, Scandinavia, parts of in Germany and, later, in Italy and France, regarding applied bioeconomy. Concerning the prospect of a European bio-based economy, UK representatives have had a “wait-and-see” attitude. They must have taken all the time they needed to manage and define the best solution for their country, its companies and its society. As the United Kingdom is not a farming-based country, does not have many biomass resources, but must manage high amounts of waste, the British

Think Tank government has adopted a step-by-step approach. Although no national strategy existed and they were working to find one, globally renowned companies appeared, including NNFCC, Celtic Renewables and Biome Bioplastics, whereas BioVale (technological cluster in Yorkshire and Humber) has partnered in interesting cooperation projects with the Benelux, France and Germany. Scotland – being one of the first European regions to do it – has developed a strategy for independently biorefining and for the first time, in 2012, the potential of bioeconomy was dealt with during a hearing in Parliament. Green Investment Bank, www.greeninvestment

In spite of their “uphill route” – as Mario Bonaccorso defined it in his recent UK Dossier written for Renewable Matter – UK colleagues were and are aware they have strong and actual benefits, real strengths, compared to the rest of Europe: excellences in research, technology and innovation operate and “set trends” in the country. In addition, Great Britain has quite unique technical skills and competencies in network creation and the ability to integrate and implement a pragmatic approach in knowledge transfer to products, throughout the value chain. And of course, it also has a strong sense of economy. All the aforementioned are undoubtedly essential for bioeconomy to thrive. It is not a coincidence, for example, that the first Green Investment Bank was instituted in the United Kingdom and that our colleagues on the other side of the Channel have been the first to support the need and to start operating – to back the development of European bioeconomy – in a new service sector, also including legal services, specific project

Christian Patermann since January 2004 is Programme Director for “Biotechnology, Agriculture & Food” Research at the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission. He is advisor of the State of North-Rhine-Westphalia on the implementation of the knowledge-based BioEconomy.

management to handle circular value chains, appropriate marketing and thorough financial requirements. And to be effective, said services will need a compact Europe and perhaps – in the future – even global structures and agreements. This is the very area where the absence of our friends leaving the Union will be felt sooner. It is obviously still impossible to know exactly what the impact of the “Brexit Bioeconomy” will be in the United Kingdom or on its relationship with the European Union, regarding market access or researchers exchange within the Marie Curie Programme, or participation in projects funded in the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme. If we look around us, several possible scenarios exist, involving non-EU members, having, notwithstanding, intense relationships with the European Union: a “Norway scenario”, an “Iceland scenario”, a “Switzerland scenario” and so on and so forth. One thing is certain, based on experiences made in the last few years and that I would like to stress: everything will become more complex and will take even longer. I doubt that somebody could end up being a “winner”, suffice it to say that over 120 treaties currently regulate the relationships of Switzerland and the EU. I was very surprised by UNFCCC’s declaration, published the day after the vote on Brexit, claiming that the British government would have been pushed to recognize the pivotal role played by European bioeconomy in innovation, development and future common challenges, last but not least, European transnational cooperation. The famous song It is a long way to Tipperary reads: “Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square,” but in European bioeconomy and technological research and development, you, dear colleagues of the United Kingdom, will always be welcome. In the meantime, while the media is already speculating on the transfer of large companies headquarters – including Vodafone – from Great Britain to the continent, it is worth reflecting on this issue and how it can be exemplary. The question is: would it have been possible to create Vodafone Group, set up after the acquisition of the German company Mannesman authorized by the European Union over ten years ago, if a common European standard on GSM – later adopted globally – had not been issued within a European single market? And if the United Kingdom had not been a fully-fledged EU member? I cannot imagine a more appropriate example to have an overview of the potential impact of Brexit on the future of a bio-based world and life that us, Europeans, were the first to relaunch, 11 years ago. Today we are all still facing an uphill route!


Think Tank

Connett: Creative Communities to Win the Waste Challenge Interview with Paul Connett Here are the ingredients of the Zero Waste recipe: sharing and communicating good practices and achieved results to the community because examples are key. Avoid delegating research of solutions to sustainability experts, artists must contribute as well. edited by Sergio Ferraris

Paul Connett, Professor Emeritus at St. Laurence University, is one of the scientists who set up the Zero Waste strategy, presenting it in over 2,000 meetings. In Italy, he collaborated with the municipality of Capannori for its implementation.

Paul Connett is considered the “father” of the Zero Waste Strategy, which regrettably often has become a slogan with no real meaning. We asked him to tell us what the state of the art of such strategy is, what its possible developments are and what the next steps may be. First – he says – we need to target the community, raising people’s awareness on the environmental and economic advantages envisaged by this strategy. The Zero Waste Strategy is widely accepted by environmentalists but struggles to catch on. Why? “The key problem is the loss, or rather the absence, of political leadership. The Italian politicians that I meet, for example, always tell me that in Italy there is a cultural problem with the Zero Waste Strategy, because Italians are not positive about it. Well, this is false: when two similar communities, three kilometers apart, have a markedly different separate waste collection rate, one of 17% and the other of 80%, the cultural aspect has certainly nothing to do with it, because culture does not change withing such small distance. What can change is the political guidance.”

So, what needs to be done? “We need to start from the communities, working with some ‘ingredients.’ First, we obviously need to implement separate waste collection, then we need to organize our community. But we also need creativity and the contribution of creative people able to find solutions. Not only that: we need to involve children who are creative par excellence and guarantee the future of the Zero Waste supply chain. Lastly, we need excellent communication. These are the ‘little pieces’ of the Zero Waste Strategy that can become collective knowledge and be shared through the Internet as well amongst various communities to solve problems.” So, is a technological as well as sociological approach necessary? “Above all a sociological one. Nowadays the waste issue is more sociological than technological: solutions lie in a better organization, a better education and only at the end in a better industrial planning. Then the waste issue must be seen in a wider context. This is just one of the pieces of what we need to tackle a whole series of problems linked to sustainability. There is a risk of catastrophic events, we need contributions by all disciplines – both science



renewablematter 11. 2016 and humanities – to solve problems. We need agriculture, architecture, energy, community, industries. Oviously they must all be sustainable.” In other words, maximum interdisciplinarity is needed, isn’t it? “Yes. More importantly, we should not confine our reasoning and delegate research of solutions to sustainability experts. We need the contribution of all disciplines, even if they are remotely linked to sustainability: not only economy, physics and chemistry but also painting, music and poetry. And there is a need for engligtened minds working in their fields on themes linked to sustainability. This is the biggest challenge we have to face since WWII.” Is that all? “Absolutely not. Besides that, there is also a very important psychological aspect: if we want to succeed with the Zero Waste Strategy it is necessary to involve from the start a large number of people. Indeed, as human beings, we need to see successful examples working as a psychological driver so as to activate new processes in other communities and promote grassroots development of the Zero Waste Movement. When communities reach a good result – even with regard to separate waste collection – become themselves, with their pride, psychological drivers for other communities which may be near or far. Moreover, the success of the waste strategy can be useful to develop other pieces of local sustainability, within renewables and organic farming and so on. For example, we can use compost produced by a community in the fight against pesticides, GMOs and climate change. All this within the same community and sharing it with others. Leading by example is key in spreading the Zero Waste Strategy.” Sergio Ferraris, an environmental and scientific journalist, is director of

In order to eliminate waste, we need to reuse materials from separate waste collection, but often it is local committees that oppose new plants. How can we solve this contradiction? “I think there is a need for grassroots initiatives. We need to know what the needs of a specific community are. Over the years, I have personally done almost 2,500 presentations of the Zero Waste Strategy to communities. Both to understand what communities want, and what they can do. I think that in the future there will be lots of friction. We must tell communities that on the one hand there are multinationals, whose target is to exploit the resources of the planet until they can, while on the other we have those who want to protect themselves, by defending such resources. Against this framework, we have to teach communities that they should not give others their resources, starting from waste which is a value that can create work and small businesses within the community itself. The same should be done with food. Italy is trying with

the Slow Food movement, which is experimenting with short supply chains that are a perfect match for the Zero Waste philosophy and the emission reduction. Energy should also be included in short supply chains which must be decentralized and produced near the area where it is used. If all this is combined with this approach, possible resistance by local communities towards pieces of the Zero Waste Strategy can be defeated.” Could you please give us a few examples, perhaps in different nations? “Yes, but I want to underline the fact that it is not nations who recycle waste and set up Zero Waste Strategy: it is the community that we must observe, otherwise we start with the wrong approach. A solution found in a community may not be good in another, for instance for population aspects. In America, for example, we have to look at what San Francisco does and not at California or the United States. In Italy, we need to look at Treviso or Capannori, in order to find possible solutions. Let’s take the organic waste fraction as an example, in which three communties around the world must be carefully studied. I am talking about San Francisco, Milan and New York which are tackling this problem with a different approach, since these cities are very different from one another.” When will the Zero Waste target be reached? “Each community has its own timing. We can, though, look at what happened in the past. The Zero Waste Strategy started in Australia in 1996 when the government passed a law on waste envisaging their drastic reduction. Objective: zero waste by 2010. This was an important signal that reached California where a similar law was passed through which each community had to manage 50% of waste in ways other than disposing of it in landfills or incinerate it. After that, California reached 300 communities that achieved such objective, saving money. So, many people saw these results were possible and started to ask: ‘Why not increase the objective to 60, 70 or 80%? Or aim at the Australian one?’ Other communities such as that in San Francisco went from the ‘No Waste’ objective to the ‘Zero Waste’ one. It may seem a small change, but it is not. The second slogan communicates citizens the distance to the objective, thus making it more effective.” Good. But where the Zero Waste Strategy is applied, how far are we from target? “Nowadays, there are two places in the world where this strategy is in full swing. The first is San Francisco where we have over 80% of separate waste collection, there is no inceneration and we are moving towards 100% – that is Zero Waste – by 2020. The other – surprise, surprise – is Italy where there are the worst examples of waste management in the world, but also the best. Today, in Italy, there are over 1,000 communities where separate waste collection exceeds 60%.

Think Tank 300 are over 80% and some of these over 90%. And everything is achieved in very short periods of time.” Italy at the helm of sustainability. Are you sure? “Yes. Today communities need clean water, good food, high quality agriculture and life. Italy has all this and in abundance. From this perspectives, you are millionaires compared to the average US citizens; I believe in this, so much so that when they ask me where I would

Ten steps towards Zero Waste





















like to live I reply Italy. And all this without even considering the landscape, art and cultural heritage. Not everywhere, to tell you the truth, but this is applies to at least one thousand Italian communities. And this is no small thing.” Good, but one the problems in Italy is work. Can the Zero Waste Strategy contribute to job creation? “Yes, the Zero Waste Strategy can certainly offer many opportunities, many more than incineration that compared to that is a ‘black box.’ Let’s take, for instance, the sector of reuse ond repairing. Today, in this sector, we already have work linked to maintenance, reuse and repairing and that can be increased. But we do not have people working on training people whom we could teach how to repair and reuse objects. Here is fresh work. Besides that, new jobs can be created reusing building materials, adapting it to new constructions. These are activities that in traditional supply chains do not exist, but which can produce new jobs. It is a network of supply chains with a flow which does not produce temporary work and thus job insecurity. A person with no training, for example, can start working in waste separation and then move onto repairing, thus improving their working position.” Today there is a lot more scientific research on recycling and more generally on waste management compared to the past. Do you think we are getting there? “I think so. Today, many researchers, scientists and students deal with this, stimulated by the ten points of the Zero Waste Strategy. We need research, particularly in composting, reusing and repairing and in increasing waste separation in big cities. Not only that: we need to develop new systems to separate the residual fraction in a better way, achieving more recyclable material, and to eliminate as many toxic substances as possible, thus obtaining more organic matter, useful for compost.” So, can research be carried out in systems only? “There is a very important sector where a lot of research is needed: that of design. Products must be designed to be reused and recycled and the best minds available must be included here as well because it is a strategic sector to reach the Zero Waste objective. Here, Italy can play a crucial role because it has some of the best architects and designers in the world. I believe that if Italians cannot improve the design of an objet, no-one else can.”



renewablematter 11. 2016

In Italy, 90% of Waste is Still off the Radar What happens to goods when they stop being commodities and become waste? We can only know for a small fraction of waste. And yet, a smart use of matter not only boasts an environmental value, but also entails economic advantages, quantified by the EU with a saving of €600 billion a year in the production sector and 580,000 new jobs. by Antonio Cianciullo

1. Report edited by Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, “Growth within: a Circular Economy Vision for a Competitive Europe,” June 2015; gs2xlez

Short Report “Materia Rinnovata. Quanto è circolare l’economia: l’Italia alla sfida dei dati,” June 2016; www.materiarinnovabile. it/pubblicazioni

This is the snapshot of the “dark half” of the circular economy. The flows coming into the urban, agricultural and industrial circuits are under the spotlight and they are carefully measured and weighed out. The outgoing flows raise less interest. How much renewable matter is truly renewed? And how much is wasted? We know the Italian energy balance down to the last Kilowatt hour, we are aware of the exact number of mobile phones and kilos of sugar put on the market are no mystery to us, but we don’t know where all the rubble of the building they are demolishing in our neighbourhood and the orange peels we are eating will end up. Up until now, this strategy of knowledge has been triggered by obvious reasons: on the one hand (the incoming flow) there were goods worth money and jobs, on the other (outgoing flow) a shapeless mass that mostly constituted a problem. For decades, we thought the value of a certain good vanished when, for various reasons (broken, no longer fashionable, not to our taste), it lost its functions. But are the economic judgements leading to weighing differently the input and output of our production system still valid? It’s very difficult to give a definitive answer because the change is still ongoing: in some sectors, the circular economy is more mature and cheaper, in others, less so. But the very fact the the process started – supported by European certification – has changed the overall picture, triggering an adjustment of the measurement system so that we may have the means to be able to judge. Finding information is a costly business, but it pays off if it helps increase the efficiency of the production circuit. Today, alongside the old (and still valid) need to check the damage caused by bad waste management, there is the opportunity to capitalize on part of the advantages the European Union envisaged in the Circular Economy Package: annual savings

of €600 billion for the production sector, 580,000 new jobs and between 2-4% greenhouse gas emission reduction. Moreover, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment1 estimate the weight of the new lifestyles linked to the circular economy. For instance, nowadays, European cars spend 92% of their time stationary while the development of car sharing and of vehicles with a higher environmental performance can reduce costs by 75% per kilometer travelled. And the advanced building models halve building costs. Overall, by 2030, such innovations are expected to make the European GDP grow by 7%. This is why it has become increasingly important to ask ourselves the right questions, in order to understand what is lacking in the monitoring of substances that for some are waste and for others can become resources. How circular is the Italian economy? How competitive are we as a sector? How many billions of euro will we be able to save and how many new jobs envisaged by the Commission will we be able to achieve? Starting from next year, Materia Rinnovata (“Renewed Matter”) will measure the growth of the Italian economy based on rebirth of matter, aims at highlighting the potential of sustainability’s “second leg”: the smart use of matter, i.e. the fight against wasting everything that flows under our eyes, taking up the form of a good only for a very short time. So far, precious information on the destiny of waste materials are still lacking. As for Italy, part of the country is ranking high in Europe: in sectors such as packaging, tyres, used oils, matter circularity is high, figures are reliable

Think Tank

Those who bought a commodity take responsibility for the act of disposing of the object they no longer intend to use.

and the environmental and economic advantages are certified. Although we are talking about quantities of little over one tenth of the total waste flow. What about the remaining nine tenths? Figures about large sectors of industrial and agricultural waste do not tell us with enough accuracy the destiny of waste. There is collective disattention, a deep-rooted neglect of the problem. If we imagine to ask ten people chosen at random what percentage of waste is recycled and recovered in Italy, some would not have the faintest idea, others would probably answer with a double-digit figure, perhaps around 40%, because the only data popularised by the media are those of urban separate waste collection, where such percentage is over 40%. But we are only talking about packaging and not much else within the urban domain. Collective perception of problems (very clear) and the potential (very fuzzy) of waste is limited to that: concentrated on one part of the approximately 30 million tonnes that overall come from cities, while the waste total accounts for about 161 million tonnes. Besides, waste is not collected separately just to give it a pleasurable tour around (a longer and more costly one from an environmental and energy points of view, by the way). The pay-off of this added effort is represented by the advantages of reusing, recycling, energy recovery which, for some sectors, today must reach 50% and rising thanks to the implementation of the Circualr Economy Package: such target can no longer be postponed, not least for the targets set for the climate change and the economic crisis. Thinking of honouring such commitments just by looking at the energy efficiency and renewable energy means running on just one leg. The potential for economic, energy and environemntal savings the circular economy can provide is extraordinary. According to the European Commission, if 95% of mobile phones were collected, over €1 billion in savings of manufacturing materials would be achieved. If light commercial vehicles were reused, €6.4 billion in materials and €140 million in energy costs per year would be saved, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.3 million tonnes. If the policies envisaged by the Circular Economy Package were implemented, a good share of food waste would be reduced. In Europe, such waste amount to 180 kg per head per year: a third of the total food production. What is needed to achieve such potential? The analysis of the available figures and of those lacking offers an indication: there are two sector blocks governed in two different ways. The first includes industrial sectors whose book-keeping is based on the principle of EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) and already provide good recycling and reusing performances, which are also improving. While with the second,

there is little interest in innovative practices for matter recovery and the information on the destiny of waste is scanty. Up until now, little attention has been paid to the difference between these two blocks, because the theme of renewability has only recently become topical and because the definitions used are mostly incomprehensible to most (e.g. EPR and Compliance Scheme): it would be appropriate to start talking about “collective systems” or “responsible systems.” But the underpinning idea is a powerful one: to stop considering what is no longer used as waste something that all of a sudden becomes a nuisance and must be quickly disposed of. Every year we use a huge amount of matter that is extracted from nature using large amounts of energy, water, land, which then enters a complex transformation cycle; in the form of goods, it offers us services, for examples the opportunity to read this article. Can we ignore the consequences of our purchases, the impact of the matter that we bought will have on our own lives or that of our neighbours’? And can those who profited from that good disregard them? The European Union replied with a resounding “no”: there is a diversified and common responsibility. Those who bring commodities onto the market take responsibility for their entire lifecycle, including the moment when the paper or the screen you are reading these words on will cease to be useful and you will feel the urge to throw away. Those who bought a commodity take responsibility for the act of disposing of the object they no longer intend to use. Is this new ethics more expensive for businesses? In the scenario adopted by Brussels, where the potential of the new urban “mines” and industries created through looking with a fresh pair of eyes waste are redesigned, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages because companies gain competitivity and image, and ultimately profits as well. A modern enterprise has everything to gain from taking responsibility for the matter they utilize both because they optimize resources and because otherwise there would be a rift between their point of view and that of the buyer. People may choose not to buy goods or services provided by those who make a profit from their sales while the community pays the costs ensuing from the disposal of such goods. Actually, this is what happens in the energy field, since fossil fuels guarantee oil companies huge profits and, according to the United Nations, they impose $5,000 billion in costs on the community. But this very delay in the energy field offers matter the opportunity to take the lead in the eco(logical) and eco(nomic) challenge for sustainability and therefore for the new market. The benefits for the environment are obvious. Now let’s try and measure the economic advantages and imagine ways to achieve more fruitful objectives for everyone.


Focus on Circular Building

The REVIVAL of Eco-Local Materials

Stone, Earth, Wood, Straw, Stubble & Co.


by Dominique Gauzin-Müller

Ecological, healthy, bio-based, natural: these are the adjectives used to define materials as old as time, rediscovered after they had sunk into oblivion (and contempt) for decades. Renewable, recyclable, often recovered from agricultural and forestry waste, in France they are thriving thanks to the creativity of projects able to combine tradition with more innovative technologies. Over the years, Dominique GauzinMüller, an architect, journalist and architectural critic, has focused on the use of wood, sustainability in architecture and urbanism. A teacher at the School of Architecture in Nancy, she collaborates with a number of European publishing houses.

1. expositions/matieres-enlumiere/ 2.

The innovative use of poor materials (wood, straw and other vegetable materials, earth and stone) is becoming more and more popular in residential buildings, both in public works and in large building complexes. In France, the government and local administrations started promoting the use of such materials deriving from short supply chains, able to promote the resources of each region. By 2012, the annual chart of wood buildings and the national Prize for Architecture in Earthen Architecture (CRAterre) in 2013 were proof of the architects’ creativity and the worforce’s competence, thus confirming France’s pioneering role in the field. Professionals in this sectors have shown an interest in the promotion of such natural resources by devoting the French pavillion to eco-local materials at the UIA (International Union of Architects) held in Durban in 2014. Then, the exhibition “Matières en lumière”1 that has presented over 70 models made out of wood, earth, straw and stone, rased considerable interest amongst visitors and awe at the ability of such projects to adapt in urban as well as rural areas. Reuse is another fondamental strategy: 50% of waste produced in industrialised countries come from the building sector: it is all the more urgent to stop such flow and start imagining a new life for it. Happy Sobriety An indispensable perspective in such a period of ecological and social crisis, the circular economy aims at producing goods and services

limiting the use of raw materials and energy. In the building sector, such approach pushes toward local and decentralized production: materials have to draw on abundant natural resources while energy must tap renewable resources (sun, wind, geothermal etc.). In France, the circular economy has officially been introduced in the national policies in October 2014, with the Code of the environment included in the law on energy transition and green growth. A true revolution for a country historically centred around its Capital! Starting from now, ministries and local communities are trying to devolve the circular economy according to local needs. So, local actors (for example single municipalities, inter-municipal consortia, technical services, companies, associations, citizens) are gathering around a development strategy, creating new job opportunities, in particular in the more disadvantaged rural areas. This approach, already tested in Voralberg, a small but thriving federal state in Austria owing its prosperity to a green economy was able to promote its resources, timber and other locally-produced materials. This is also the spirit of the territorial economy theorized by Alberto Magnaghi2 strongly linked to the bio-regional culture that in France started a widespread network of experiences. So, in Europe a series of strategies able to bring benefits on multiple levels are starting to emerge, thus showing how the ecological transition is far from an image of ascetic renunciation! It is a change of paradigm towards a society that once was more frugal and happier, giving back a meaning to everyday and professional lives. Pierre Rabhi, the French philosopher



renewablematter 11. 2016

of agro-ecology, defines it as “happy sobriety”.3 To do more with less, while finding the pleasure of freed creativity. Wood, a General Interest Supply Chain France is the third European country for the size of forest coverage. Therefore, wood is ranking first amongst eco-local building materials. Its use is a national tradition: from Alsace to Normandy in lattice homes and farms to churches in the Champagne region. In the South-West, oak carpentry for large-size premises still shelters some covered markets after six centuries. Broadleaf and coniferous trees are a perfect match for eco-responsible architecture if coming from forests managed according to sustainable criteria near building site areas, if they are not treated with chemicals. Anyhow, wood is the only structural material which is renewable and its processing require a low energy input. People are increasingly using wood and they are more and more aware of its numerous advantages. Over the last five years, its use in the building sector went from 5 to 12% in single-family homes where it is particularly appreciated for the smoothness it confers to surfaces and for its warmth. But besides these emotional characteristics there are also a number of technical and economic advantages. The gross surface being equal, a house built with wood and reinforced isolation in the vertical elements allows to have a larger useful surface by 5-10% compared to that of a brick house. It also boasts better thermal performance able to reduce energy consumption for the heating. Moreover, no big machinery is needed to build a woodden structure, thus reducing noise and unwanted dust. Installation in a dry supply chain and prefabbrication in a workshop shorten the life of a building site, with clear advantages on costs and the logistic organization of the urban area. In addition, the lightness of the material helps self build, preserve the integrity of the natural environment in the most fragile sites and helps build on soils with little load bearing capacity and on steep slopes. Short-Cycle Biomaterials Besides wood, other building materials from bio-based resources are becoming increasingly popular and their use is encouraged by joint programmes between Ministry for the Ecology, Housing and Culture. Hemp, flax and stubble are particularly interesting because their growing cycle is a lot shorter

compared to a tree. As for straw, nothing more than agricultural waste, rather than burning it in the fields and thus producing CO2 emissions, it is a lot cheaper to use it as economical insulating material with low grey energy content. Currently, in France, there are over 2,000 buildings equipped with straw insulation: the small houses built in the 70s and the 2000s, public buildings such as the St. Louis School in Crest, the multifunctional room in Mazan, near Mont Ventoux, the school complex of Issy-lesMoulineaux, on the outskirst of Paris, where 6,000 straw bales were used. But also the Making Hof complex of terraced houses in Strasbourg acted as a training building site and, during a work of social building carried out in 2013 in Saint Dié-des-Vosges two buildings with a wooden structure and filled with straw were built, of which one 8-storey building for a total of 26 houses. Geological Materials The innovation of geological materials (earth and stone) follows that of the bio-based ones, complementing them. With the limestone of Vers used by the Romans to build Pont du Gard in the first century BCE, architect Gilles Perraudin and his students build today, in the South of France, comfortable schools and social buildings – without air coditioning – even in the hotter months. In France, raw earth has been used in the building sector for a long time, with technologies

3. Rabhi P., Vers la sobriété heureuse, Actes Sud, Paris 2010.


developped to adapt to specific characteristics of any kind of soil: pisé (rammed earth) in Alvernia and Rhône-Alpes, bauge (earth with straw and other fibres) in Britanny and Normandy, adobe blocks (a mix of clay, sand and straw) in the Toulouse area, torchis (wood structure filled with earth) in Landes, Alsace and in numerous medieval historical centres. The almost eternal duration of buildings constructed in this way is proven in various climatic areas, once they are adequately protected as it happens for the woodden buildings “avec de bonnes bottes et un bon chapeau” (“with a good pair of boots and a good hat”). Moreover, an earth house guarantees a healthy indoor microclimate: humidity control, reduction of toxic substances in the air, ability to absord noises and smells, thermal inertia. Raw materials are generally availabe near building sites, thus making transport almost unnecessary. And this is a suitable material for self-build, a particularly important characteristic for emerging countries. Besides, all over the world there are more and more projects revealing the aesthetic properties and the modernity of a raw earth building. The Terra Award,4 first world prize devoted to earthen contemporary architecture is proof of this with its 357 applications from 67 countries from the five continents. The 40 shortlisted projects are presented at the “Architecture en terre d’aujourd’hui”5 itinerant exhibition which in 2017 will stop in Italy as well (Milan, Turin etc.). Combining Materials Because of population growth and the increasing scarcity of resources, it is fundamental to promote the use of eco-local materials. In France, a number of social investors are convinced about that. By adopting a participatory process involving the future users and neighbours, Aquitanis in Bordeaux and Actis in Grenoble are working on projects combining wood and raw earth. Because what is truly ecological is using the right quantity of a good material in the right place. A smart combination of building materials helps optimize the performance of each and every one of them, meeting every building, ecological and economic need. Stone, earth, bricks and concrete give wood the necessary thermal inertia to guarantee summer comfort, while acting as sound screen and fire barrier. Steel plates, screws and tie beams reduce the carpentry wood section, creating performing as well as elegant combinations. Aesthetic quality and imagination are fundamental factors to convince and motivate clients.

Reused Materials France boasts three of the world’s three leading operators in the field of construction and public works. This obviously has consequences: the lobbies of the cement, steel, aluminium, glass and PVC are very strong, which slows down the development of eco-local materials. Today, though, even production sectors linked to bio-based or geological materials are getting organized. While behind reused materials, there are no lobbies and there is no supply chain as such. Their use refers back to some of the 8 Rs suggested by Serge Latouche,6 the degrowth economist: reduce (the use of raw materials), reuse (materials and buildings), recycle (buildings’ components), relocate (favouring short supplies). The pioneering companies in the sector have mainly focussed on eco-social recycling of paper and textile materials to make insulating materials. But a few militant architects not only experimented the structural performance of reused materials, but also their poetic force. The Art Museum in Ningbo, China – designed by architect Wang Shu – where whole walls have been built with reused stones and bricks is an excellent case in point. The variety of possible ways to reusing in architecture (matter and building products) has been skilfully showed in the itinerant exhibition “Matière grise”7 – opened in 2014 at Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris – which raised considerable awareness amongst architects. Wood, earth, stone, straw or with a combination of materials, including some recycled ones, tomorrow’s buildings will have to be healthy and with minimum impact on the environment. Aware of their own responsibilities, citizens, users, architects and the construction companies must combine their effort to find together economically viable and accessible solutions, which can be original and creative at the same time.

4. terra-award. org/?lang=en 5. Gauzin-Müller D., Architecture en terre d’aujourd’hui, Museo éditions, Paris 2016 (exhibition website: terralyon2016. com/2016/02/09/ architecture-en-terredaujourdhui/) 6. Latouche S., Le Pari de la décroissance, Fayard, Paris 2006. 7. Choppin J., N. Delon, Matière grise: matériaux, réemploi, architecture, Éditions du Pavillon de l’Arsenal, Paris 2014.



renewablematter 11. 2016

Focus on Circular Building

Children of a Lesser God by Antonio Pergolizzi Antonio Pergolizzi, PhD, is a journalist and expert on environmental issues. Since 2006 he has coordinated the writing of the report Ecomafia Legambiente.

1. EU Project APPRICOD (Assessing the Potential of Plastics Recycling in Construction and Demolition Activities), funded by the Life Programme of the European Commission environment, which brought together the C&D sector, local and regional authorities and the European plastics industry and recyclers.

On average, each EU country produces 173 million tons of construction and demolition waste per year. Despite the fact that this waste has an enormous potential for recycling and reuse, it typically finishes up in landfill. In Italy alone just the relatively small-scale waste related to the refurbishment of domestic property and commercial buildings amounts to 40 million tons. According to the calculations of the European Commission each of the 28 member countries produces, on average, a mountain of about 173 million tons of waste from C&D (Construction and Demolition) every year. The vast and sometimes mysterious maze of data analysed by the Commission includes figures ranging from the clearly overestimated (e.g from Malta and Finland) to the significantly understated (e.g Slovenia, Sweden and Ireland). This is further exacerbated by the varying and sometimes inexplicable calculation criteria chosen by individual nations. The data shows that five member States (Germany, UK, France, Italy

and Spain) between them account for about 80% of the total C&D waste output produced per year.1 Specifically, France with more than 231 million tons/year is the main producer of aggregates, closely followed by Germany with 201 million tons/year and the UK with about 100 million tons/year (2012 data). However, these three countries also use recycling regimes, which effectively re-use respectively 63%, 90%, 87% of their C&D waste output. Their recycling example is also followed by Ireland (96%), the Netherlands (95%) and Denmark (86%). The official estimates of C&D waste output published by Eurostat fail to be compelling

Policy National production of special waste, from 2011 to 2013, annual quantity (t)

Non-dangerous special waste, excluding estimated waste (Environmental Declaration Form)

Non-dangerous special waste excluding estimated waste by C&D* (estimates)

Non-dangerous special waste by C&D* (estimates)

Non-dangerous special waste with Istat activity** (Environmental Declaration Form)


Dangerous special waste (Environmental Declaration Form)

Out-of-life vehicles (Environmental Declaration Form) Dangerous special waste with Istat activity** (Environmental Declaration Form) TOTAL DANGEROUS SPECIAL WASTE Special waste with E.W.C. (Environmental Declaration Form) TOTAL SPECIAL WASTE




60,965,255 ab

64,444,497 ab

66,722,728 b














7,710,658 a

















* Waste from building and demolition ** Non-descript Istat activity a Updated with Special Waste Report, Ed. 2013


Including non-dangerous special waste from mechanical-biological treatment of urban waste

Source: ISPRA.



renewablematter 11. 2016

Second Report of the Osservatorio Recycle di Legambiente, “Recycle. The challenge in the construction industry,” sites/default/files/docs/ dossier_recycle_2016.pdf National Association of recycled aggregates producers, European Construction Industry Federation,

and many industry observers and experts are highly critical of the data gathering system which forms the basis of these estimates particularly in connection with reuse and recycling claims. The experts believe that the reality is a far cry from the virtuous picture painted by official estimations sent by individual states to the EU. This applies equally to Italy notwithstanding the 70% recycling rates claimed by ISPRA (2015), a figure which is actually closer to a paltry 10% according to external independent and accredited bodies such as the Osservatorio Recycle di Legambiente and the National recycled aggregates producers (ANPAR). There is no doubt that the EU’s C&D waste output represents approximately 50% of the total annual waste output across all categories. Italy’s C&D waste, for example, represents 40% (Ispra, 2015) of the total national annual waste output and is currently regarded as hazardous (requiring specialist treatment) whilst the greater part of it is actually non-hazardous. In Italy, in 2013 the C&D waste output (including the waste from reclaimed land) was about 2% lower than for the previous year (possibly thanks to the economic crisis) and amounted to approximately 49 million tons. A geographical analysis for that year shows that the North produced nearly 32 million tons, the Centre more than 8.5 million and the South about 8.2 million tons. It sometimes seems that the EU views the C&D waste and recycling industries in general as the children of a lesser god. Amounting to little more than a single line entry in the wider economic scheme, they are often perceived simply as a landfill dead end. This misses the far-reaching and wider implications of the proper reuse of the waste output as an ideal replacement for more valuable virgin materials as it can serve as a filler for roadbeds, building foundations and as the bedrock of other basic infrastructures as well as an ideal way of reclaiming degraded areas by morphological remodelling. Further, recycling C&D output requires a much lower calorific value than for example the recycling of plastic, paper or other kinds of waste that are actively encouraged by governments and legislation. When seen from a chemical and physical viewpoint, C&D waste output is quite variable and diverse as it depends largely on the socioeconomic development level at the point of its production and upon the native virgin material on site. Briefly, it can include concrete, cement and various mortars, asphalt, masonry blocks and bricks, stone, earth, wood, metal, plastic, gypsum and other mixed materials. However, at the outset of the recovery procedure it is simplest to divide the waste output into two broad categories, concrete and rubble.

Since waste concrete consists of cement mortar and aggregates obtained originally from quarries it has a much greater value as an aggregate and is much more palatable to the building industry. The rubble, however, tends to be discarded or discounted as it is regarded as too heterogeneous and therefore too complex and costly for treatment and recovery. This inherent difficulty tends to cause rubble to be discounted in favour of concrete waste, as the latter is far easier and more economic to recover and reuse. As one might imagine, demolition accounts for the greatest proportion, by far, of the waste output from C&D activities. Demolition produces, on average, 1,000-2,000 kg/m², amounting to 93% of total C&D waste production of which 50-100 kg/m² is typically produced by building maintenance activities (i.e. 4.6% of total waste output) and 25-50 kg/m² produced by building construction endeavours (i.e. 2.3% of total waste output). According to figures published by the FIEC (European Construction Industry Federation), about 53% by weight of demolition waste comes from residential or small demolitions, 39% from non-residential sources and 8% from the demolition of entire buildings. It should be possible to ensure an inexhaustible source of recyclable material through the application of simple procedures and precise techniques to the waste output from residential and small-scale sources; in Italy alone these sources generate over 40 million tons/year. Selective demolition is a recently launched practice in Europe and focuses on the renovation and redevelopment of existing buildings. As such it represents a significant step in the fight against climate change and one that has been officially adopted by Italy complete with a Roadmap that requires an emissions reduction of 80% by 2050 as defined by a recent EU initiative (COP21 Paris). Today, the Italian residential sector accounts for more than a quarter of this targeted reduction unlike areas such as industry or transportation that have, thus far, seen little or no change. In Italy, an estimated 18 million instances per year of deep renovation and radical redevelopments of entire buildings should permanently reduce energy consumption (and therefore reduce emissions) by over 50%. Some EU Member States, such as Germany, have already commenced new initiatives in terms of both energy saving through green building practices and urban regeneration. Germany has developed a comprehensive renewal plan for the refurbishment of 20 million homes to be completed in 20 years through a series of initiatives to achieve energy neutrality by 2050, which includes doubling the rate of deep retrofit of existing buildings to meet a target of 2-4% per annum. The EU has accelerated the rate of recycling and towards that end established the target of a 70% recovery rate (Directive 2008/98) of inert

Policy Waste from construction and demolition: recovery and infill material, 2011 100%

Source: European Commission.

90% 80%



Backfilling 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste,

materials to be achieved by 2020. According to the Commission’s calculations nine countries have already reached the target (Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands), while another nine, including Italy, still have some work to do. The remaining 10 Member States are a very long way off this target and are unlikely to reach it in the foreseeable future. The process is beset by many delays and difficulties for those countries that have yet to achieve the target. In Italy, for example, much of the difficulty is self-inflicted through the adoption of clumsy efforts to encourage recycling in line with the dictates of “end-of-waste” initiatives as in the case of “earth and rock excavation,” which is subject to continuous and contradictory regulatory modifications that have only served to add confusion and uncertainty and often paradoxical implications. Among the obstacles in general that have hindered the effective uptake of recycling in this area, in addition to the cumbersome legislation, it is worth mentioning the lack of economic and political planning, the absence of entrepreneurial initiative and the complete lack of systemic controls. Further, the fact that the construction sector has enjoyed (and still enjoys) very low prices for access to raw, virgin materials (with quite negligible royalties paid to the regions) makes the recycling of C&D waste economically unattractive. Furthermore, inert waste is exported from other countries to Italy for environmental restructuring of open cast mines and quarries. A particularly striking case of this approach is the agreed protocol between the Lombardy Region and Switzerland where building sand from the











Czech Republic







United Kingdom











former is sent in exchange for demolition aggregate waste from the latter, again to fill quarries and other eyesores. This rather odd situation arises from the lower costs for landfill contributions at EU level. Only seven EU countries apply a tax on inert waste and in these countries the cost of disposal is lower than that for municipal waste in all states with the exception of Denmark. In Italy the cost of disposal of inert waste is fixed at 10 euros per ton, while the European average is about 15 euros per ton. The fact is that two of the Member States with the highest taxes for landfilling of inert waste, Denmark and Netherlands, are also those with the highest recycling rates (Fondazione per lo sviluppo sostenibile, 2015). An increasing number of industry professionals are taking a much greater interest in the issue of C&D waste output across Europe. During the Senate hearing held on 23 February 2016, the National Association of Construction Contractors (ANCE) proposed a number of tax incentives and simplifications for the purchase of recycled building materials and for rewarding the development of innovative techniques aimed at selective demolition and facilities based on the use of BIM (Building Information Modelling), which monitors the entire life cycle of buildings. ANCE has also admitted that the low use of recycled building and demolition waste in Italy is directly connected to the low cost of raw materials, the lack of availability and the persistent mistrust of the industry regarding possible uses of recycled materials. A near perfect synergy.



renewablematter 11. 2016

Focus on Circular Building


in Hot Pursuit of Cars It is high time circularity made its entrance into the building sector. The first step is to consider buildings as a product that must be efficient and well performing throughout their life cycle. by Emanuele Bompan

Emanuele Bompan, journalist and urban geographer, has dealt with environmental journalism since 2008.

If 30 years ago a mid-range car would run at ten litres of petrol per 100 kilometres, today, a hybrid model only needs a little over three. That’s an incredible evolution for the transport sector which nowadays boasts super efficient, electric and hybrid cars, built with reusable components (such as Renault’s transmissions and engines manufactured in the Choisy-le-Roi plant). Unfortunately, in the building sector, in the residential constructions where we live or work, things have taken a completely different turn. Even the most recent buildings mostly employ the same technologies and plants they were using 30 years ago: oil or gas boilers, mediocre insulation and no smart energy management system. Basically we are still building in the same way as we used to in the 60s. The building supply chain is still composed of many figures (designers, architects, plant engineers, builders, floor layers) who rarely communicate with each other and much less follow an integrated plan of a building’s components. The latter are built without really taking into consideration the building’s life: as long as everything is in place when it is sold. No-one is interested in how technologies, funcions and uses will change over the years. The building thus enters in a perennial

state of assistance, characterized mainly by extraordinary maintenance. So, more expensive compared to the planned one and with a higher ecological and energy footprint. At REbuild – one of the most interesting conventions on innovation in the building and real estate sectors held every year in Riva del Garda and Milan in June and October – the product “building” and its transformation have been discussed for a long time. How should we build in the next 50 years if objectives such as a significant reduction of emissions (today the building sector is responsible for over 30% of the total emissions) will have to be achieved? And how should we do it in order to improve matter recovery, since in Europe 54% of the material from demolition is landfilled? According to REbuild creators, “the circular building sector” is the way forward, namely considering buildings as products – maximizing their value in use – in which their life expectancy is extended since planning (rather than after a series of extraordinary works), efficiency and performance are garanteed over time. Where matter is “lent” for the contruction of buildings, always ready to be disassembled, processed and reused for other purposes or buildings; where processes are regenerative (in the management of all resources fuelling a building’s life cycle) and the quality of life and healt are optimal. Circular architecture has a market opportunity that could generate an income of €1,010 billion by 2030, according to the estimates of ìa study Growth within a circular economy vision for a Competitive Europe developed in 2015 by McKinsey, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Sun (Stiftungsfonds für Umweltökonomie


McKinsey, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Sun, Growth within a circular economy vision for a Competitive Europe, 2015; growth_within_report_ circular_economy_in_ europe.pdf

und Nachhaltigkeit). 90 billion could be used in the Italian real estate sector, starting from redevelopment works: indeed, in Italy, there are over 13 million “sieve” buildings that need regenerating sustainably. How should we activate circular architecture? We need to transform the “building” product. We have to use ICT for the digital management of buildings during construction and throughout its useful life, through technologies currently known as BIM (Building Information Modeling). Not only that: building regeneration must enter an industrialization phase, where costs are minimized, as well as the use of materials and timing is faster. There is a need for a social building sector, where the use of spaces

is optimized (co-housing, sharing practices, tailor-made real estate products). If in the previous article Dominique Gauzin Müller introduced the potential represented by eco-local supply chains of materials, in the next pages this theme will be developped throught David Cheshire – Aecom’s sustainability director – testimony, who will talk about the meaning of circular architecture, while Thomas Miorin will deal with market potential and the difficulties in industrializing the sector. This first “round of opinions” on the circularity of the building sector will be concluded by one of the most accurate interpeters of contemporary architecture, Mario Cucinella, introducing a human vision of the circular architecture’s spaces.


edited by E. B.

Building, Dismantling and Rebuilding David Cheshire, Sustainability Director at Aecom

When talking about the circular economy in the building sector in Great Britain, we refer to David Cheshire, the man that more than anybody else – in this field – has analyzed projects, ideas, components and solutions. Cheshire has recently published Building Revolutions: Applying the Circular Economy to the Built Environment and presented it at REbuild 2016, since circular was one of this year’s themes of the conference on redevelopment and real estate management.

in order to use their components, thus avoiding transforming everything in waste (downcycling). In order to achieve this, planning is key, both in new buildings and redevelopments, buildings that can be dissassembled and riassembled in a variety of ways. But to do this, everything must be conceived in a fresh way, starting from the supply of materials.”

The book Building Revolutions besides analysing a very high number of cases, formulates a general theory on the circular building sector. How did you come up with the idea of this book? “In the past, I read various texts on the circular economy and this concept impressed me a lot. In order to understand how it had been applied to the building sector, I started to seek in the world those elements that were somehow resonating with the elementary particles of the circular economy. So, I collected them in my book.”

In the world, are there projects reflecting the characteristics of circularity? “I came across a few buildings with a few elements of circularity, but today it is difficult to spot a project including all the elementary particles making up the circular economy. One of the most exhaustive is Park 20/20, a business park located near Schiphol in Amsterdam. It is a project that took into consideration the building’s whole life cycle, thinking how it will be able to evolve every time – disassembled and reassembled – a new type of building. It is a product in which every material used has been accurately checked, choosing those easier to reuse, recycle or compost.”

What are the strategies to achieve the circular economy in the building sector? “Fist, we need to think about a building’s next life, i.e. what it can become after its demise. If we don’t think long term we will carry on applying a linear economy. For this reason, in the book I talk about both redeveloping buildings but also how to ‘dismantle’ them at the end of their useful life

The industrial sector is starting to provide us with components manufactured according to the circular economy’s principles: I am thinking of the super efficient lights or modular carpets. Can you imagine a real growth for these products? “Regrettably not, at the moment. First of all, it must be said that only few elements of the building can


renewablematter 11. 2016 David Cheshire, Building Revolutions, RIBA Publishing, 2016


be produced with such principle. For instance, using leasing for systems is complex, since it is not possible to lease out a ventilation or heating system. The circular model can instead work on the parts of the building that are used – and replaced – more frequently: it is possible to lease out printers and computers in an office, furniture, carpets, home automation technologies. In such cases I think

the product-as-a-service model can work, so that such equipment can go back to the producers, regenerated and resold.” Today there is a lot of talk about BIM (Building information modeling), a very good software for the management of buildings to enhance their performance. What role can they play in the circular building sector? “There is great potential. If for all buildings we had an inventory of every element, every material, with an indication of their quality and durability, end-of-life regeneration or maintenance would be a lot simpler, which would extend the very building’s life.” What role can the EU play in promoting the circular building sector? “Without a doubt, a first step has been taken with the Circular Economy Package. Europe must look at a circular economy on a continental scale. We cannot consider the issue separately. The more policies are activated, the easier it will work. But we can make a start without waiting for politics: there are instant benefits in adopting the circular building sector through the market. In this way, buildings with a higher value are created. So, why wait?”

Policy Interview

edited by E. B.

Social, digital, circular Thomas Miorin, co-inventor of REbuild

REbuild Italia,

Progetto Manifattura, www.progetto

Thomas Miorin has a mission: transforming the whole building and real estate sector. He has been promoting a reflection on these themes for years: sustainable requalification, regeneration and circular economy for our huge, current and future, real estate assets. “The market needs reconfiguring in full, thanks to digitalization of buildings and construction processes and through circular architecture” explains Miorin, talking to Renewable Matter in their office in Rovereto, participating in Progetto Manifattura, a large incubator of companies and green start-ups. In order to renovate the sector, Miorin, together with Gianluca Salvatori – Progetto Manifattura’s inventor – organized REbuild, a convention on building and real estate innovation. An alternative to the already exhausted formats of niche real estate and building, every year since 2013, REbuild welcomes the leading figures of entrepreneurs and players in the sectors in the setting of Riva del Garda. Suffice it to see the pay-off to understand that here there is a feeling of innovation and internationalism in the air: two billions of square metres to redevelop, a house every minute, real innovation. These are just a few of the slogans launched throughout the years at REbuild. For the 2016 edition, we looked even further, recommending a triad of new pillars for the building sectors: social-digital-circular. Miorin, can the circular economy be applied to the building sector? “Most certainly: re-launching the building sector depends on its reconfiguration according to a circular perspective. Such revival, though, must take place within a whole transformation of the supply chain, with I define an industry. There are already some pioneering aspects: sustainability and integrated planning for the construction and use of a building. Building takes place in layers, with interchangeable modules, with advanced energy efficiency and using reusable prefabricated elements. The building use includes food production, space sharing, connectivity and teleworking, remote-controlled automated maintenance. Within circular architecture, the idea of waste disappears, whether it be energy or people’s time. Everything has a value and – through a convergence amongst new available technologies and a new organizational process – it is possible to achieve a building sector able to regenerate public as well as private assets, to give new energy to Italian economy, to reduce dramatically pollution in cities and redifine national energy balance.” Talking about circularity, though, is still premature: in Italy there are no examples. “This because all the various phases of the building’s life as a product are not covered, in that the real estate supply chain is still highly fragmented.

First of all, the planning phase is still detached from the use one. Then, there is another rift in the life of a building, namely its financial management: usually, real estate funds have a seven-year deadline, which is far too short. It is the current dissociation of such cycles that creates the impossibility not only to think of the whole life cycle of buildings, but also to carry out home improvements and energy efficiency operations.” So, how can we act to reunite the cycles? “The actual shift to a circular economy entails starting to see a real estate product as a product-service. Going from the current building sector to the circular one involves two stages: an industrial-technical phase and an economic-financial one, linked to the definition of parametres agreed within the supply chain. This entails for example, measurement systems, supply chain organization, third-party companies measuring and guaranteeing performance and value, new financial tools such as green lease, due diligence, new business models (building as a product). “But the most important part of the conversion is the technical aspect. Today, we are not faced with a regenerative process. At best, we are talking about an aesthetic/functional redevelopment with minimum impacts of energy efficiency. “I reckon that the circular economy in the real estate sector means an industrialization of the building sector: the only technical-economic organization able to supervize a product’s life cycle in the capitalistic economy is indeed the industrial sector. It is no coincidence that the most advanced sectors in the application of the circular economy are the industrial ones, as many case studies reported by the MacArthur Foundation. Because industrial players are the only ones able to transform a product in a service, they are the ones with the technical-financial resources to control many different sectors, with structures and resources to govern a vast temporary sector that includes even the end of life or the passage to the next.” In Italy, what’s the current situation like in this sector? “Today, in Europe, 98% of the building sector is made of small and medium enterprises; 90% are microenterprises with fewer than ten employees, living for 72% in a building sector of planned and extraordinary maintenance. Then there are a few European large leaders in the field, able to supervize the whole building’s cycle, which do not come to Italy because they have not got market interests. “Besides, this sectors made of artisans has a huge productivity gap of hours/employees. “In the manufactuting sector, there is an estimated hour/employee productiviy or around 88%,










in the building sector such percentage drops to 43%. Basically, 57% of the time in the building sector is waste, it does not produce value in the end product. Then, there is the issue of matter recovery: in Europe, in demolitions, 54% of materials is landfilled. But we can do a lot better: in some nations, such percentage drops to 6%. At Progetto Manifattura, in Rovereto, we managed to recycle 98% of a decommissioned industrial area of about 5 hectares. We have already buildings conceived as ‘material banks’ and others completely dismantled and rebuilt with new functions and uses, without losing any materials.” Where must the new building and real estate business be headed? “In this phase I should thing towards prefabrication, digital survey, building digitalization, digital manufacturing, producing on an industrial scale what is then customized by artisans. This already eliminates most waste while minimizing the building site. Not only that: in this way, the management phase is also optimized because products are transformed in products-services, which is super efficient from an energy point of view and where the value of energy saving is internalized rather than passing the buck. Moreover, spaces must be planned to be modular and their use must be optimized. There are buildings that after four/five years of life as offices become nursery schools: they are planned in layers, with the planning principles of the circular economy.”

In this way the function of a product as service is maximized. “Today, it is possible to rent a room for a few nights, parts of buildings are used as locations for events, schools that in the evening become places for social gatherings. This can also be a revolution for the public sector as well. The government does not need a school, as a building. It needs a healthy and clean room with 20 °C, from 8 to 13, with two functions, chairs and blackboard. From there many other functions can crop up. The value of the building grows according to its use while the land value falls. Actually REbuild gave prominence to the circular economy because the building sector, if up until now has remained practically unchanged, it must now redefine its product-service and enter the industrialization era. So, we must decide whether to guide or not a process that otherwise could be organized by third parties. It will obviously entail an extensive redefinition of the work load, roles and competences. The building sector, more than any other, will bring along changes: there will be more engineers working on digital models covering the energy-planning of simulation and organization of an artisan’s systems. From an employment point of view, an increase in productivity will entail a fall in the number of employees. But the circular economy will also bring other jobs, with new unimagined professions.”

Policy Interview

edited by E. B.

Buildings: Everything but the Oink

Photo by Luca Maria Castelli

Mario Cucinella, architect

Mario Cucinella is an icon of Italian sustainable architecture, of both social and environmental sustainability. Simplicity, sharing, environment studies, flexible and healthy spaces. Style arises naturally, the project is dictated neither by design nor by functionalism. People inhabiting buildings always come before those designing them. We asked him to talk about the relationship between architects and the circular building sector. In Italy, the building sector debate currently seems to focus on sustainable requalification. “In Italy there is always the same problem: there is a great debate, many meeting and conferences on requalification and regeneration but in reality the mechanism has not started yet.” We start talking about the circular economy and building. Is there a new thought spreading amongst architects? “For years, the industry has been working on the issue of material, secondary-raw material recycling and life extension of the product. In architecture things are more complicated: it is easier to create a recycled tile than starting a planning, building, demolition and reuse process in construction. This is a much more complex process requiring a knowhow still unavailable on the market. But, it is clear that even the building market is moving towards this issue, for example in the reuse of materials: in buildings everything is used ‘but the oink.’ They are dismantled, even for economic reasons, recycled and reintroduced into the production cycle. But for this to happen, we need a sector ready for action. Because if circularity of matter if possible, if building and planning processes have already moved forward, behind we need a sector able to deal with dismantled products and capable of reintroducing them into the market and managing them in new ways.” Could you give us some examples of your projects that try to integrate the circular approach to building? “In Guastalla we built a nursery school which is 100% disassemblable and recyclable because it is basically made of two materials: glass and wood. The wood used comes from a circular production chain linked to forest conservation; even for glass there is flourishing recycling sector. Besides, in this building we installed a rainwater collection system. This water is used for flushing toilets thus avoiding having to use drinking water. Thus architecture has also

an educational function: the nursery explains to its children that the water used to flush toilets is recycled rainwater. From a structural point of view, the building has being mechanically located on the site thus making disassembling easy, so much so that it could disappear without a trace. But we must also think about the life expectancy of a building: had we only thought like this in the past, with building that could be disassembled and reassembled, today we wouldn’t have any old town centres. When it comes to buildings, reusing is easier than recycling. For instance, the building where I have my studio, in the 1970s it was a warehouse, tomorrow it could become a loft, the day after tomorrow who knows. So use and life are as important as the possibility of the reuse of materials.” The circular economy issue is crucial. As for objects used only a few times and then thrown away, buildings are often used only for a few hours a day, for instance schools, community halls, auditoria and offices. How should we rethink the architecture of these places in order to maximize their use? “The paradox is carrying thinking of building new spaces when we already have them. Maximising the use of buildings makes sense but we must find managing solutions. The public administration must see this as an economic opportunity: if a school space is used for eighteen hours instead of the normal six/eight hours, we rediscover a value that we already had but that we could not see. So, instead of constructing new buildings for meetings or community gathering centres, we can increase the use of an underused public building. This is already happening in the private sector: Airbnb for example, a website that makes private rooms available to travellers. This is an important phenomenon demonstrating that the circular economy moves around significant cash flows.” Have you ever designed a building with multiple functions in mind? A building that embraces this philosophy and includes this multi-use predisposition in its very design? “In Pacentro, in the Aquila hinterland, we designed a school embodying this very principle with vertical classrooms (used by nursery children and primary and secondary school pupils, editor’s note) since it has very few students. Classrooms are located around a central area. It is a flexible space available to community: it is a library,


renewablematter 11. 2016

Right: Pacentro School (Aquila). Circularity stems from shared participation

Bottom: Rendering of the project “A sustainable school in Ghaza.” In 2014, another nursery shool of his, also in Gaza, was destroyed during an the “Protection Margin” Israeli operation

All images ©Mario Cucinella Architects


Policy but it can also be used as a small theatre, as a socializing space, used by the cooking school or as a hall for parties and birthdays. So from the very planning, buildings are designed to meet a real need for multivalence.”

or writing. Multitasking buildings, to use a more contemporary term, are an attraction for many people, because everyone in that space finds a solution to his/her problem. And this is the function of a building.”

Top-down design or participatory process? How do you tackle a circular project? “Architecture must capture people and communities’ desire. I think capturing this desire is the most interesting aspect of our job. Pacentro’s school is a good example. It is not a big building, but it gives you an idea of what can be done: use, recycle, time sharing in a building created by listening to citizens.”

Your house in Bologna is a total open-plan area. Can walls limit use even in private homes? “Today we use industrial spaces more and more. One wonders ‘Why?’ Besides the reutilization of a building, an open-plan area can be interpreted in many different ways and can chance according to people’s desire and life styles. The building sector is still trapped in the 1950s: it builds rooms and technologies. We need flexible architecture with planning looking to the future. Maybe building spaces that do not already have a defined function but which is defined by the way they are used. An architect must not impose functions. Architecture must become an essentially poststructuralist operation.”

Does the future hold fluid buildings, blank slates to fill with new functions? “For example Sala Borsa in Bologna is a library, a piazza, a place for internet or to read newspapers, to study, a place where you can get a book from and spend tow hours reading your things

Left and bottom: Details of the School Project in Pacentro. A multifuntional central space and modular classes to maximize the use of public space


Translation from Kinyarwanda: â&#x20AC;&#x153;The use of non-biodegradable plastic bags is forbiddenâ&#x20AC;?


Focus Plastic Bags

Rwanda’s War on Plastic by Johnatan W. Rosen

Plastic bags are such an ubiquitous part of the modern world that it is difficult to imagine life without them. Convenient though they may be, they pose a severe environmental threat, and Rwanda has made a commitment to eliminating them.

This article was published on Works That Work, No. 7,

Kimironko Market, a bustling open-air plaza at the edge of the Rwandan capital, is in many ways a typical African bazaar. Seven days a week, throngs of Kigali’s 1.3 million residents file through its narrow paths flanked by mangoes, bananas and avocados. Finely milled flour is piled in mounds, and slabs of goat and cow carcasses hang from metal hooks. The smells, satisfyingly pungent, reflect the freshness of the produce. At the front entrance, the air is heavy with the aroma of fish sourced from the waters of Africa’s Great Lakes region, but farther into the market the scent gradually gives way to the smell of spices, sweat, and slowly ripening fruit, complementing the scent of rain-soaked earth that drifts in from surrounding hillsides. At Kimironko, though – and all across this tightly packed country of 12 million people – one item is conspicuously absent. Most other markets in sub-Saharan Africa are overrun with plastic, the thin translucent bags used for packing meat and spices, the heavier black bags used for produce, and a whole lot of both drifting through the air, clogging up the drains, and matted with mud on the ground. In Rwanda, however, the manufacture, sale, and use of polyethylene bags have been illegal since 2008, with violators facing hefty fines or even jail time. And although a lucrative black market for plastic bags persists, a majority of Rwandans have transitioned to reusable or biodegradable alternatives. At Kimironko, this means business for locals like Theoneste Vuguziga, who sells an assortment of shopping bags from a stand inside the market.

Johnatan W. Rosen is a journalist based in Kigali, Rwanda and a 2016 Alicia Patterson Foundation reporting fellow. Cyril Ndegeya is an independent Rwandan photojournalist working for the Associated Press. He also helped Rosen find contacts for this story.

Hanging on hooks are his flashier, more expensive items: brightly coloured cloth bags and oversized waxed-paper bags imported from India, adorned with pictures of elephants, big cats, and somewhat out-of-place snow-capped mountains. The biggest seller, though, is Vuguziga’s most affordable product: a simple brown paper bag that sells for 100 Rwandan francs, the rough equivalent of US$0.13 or €0.12. Although Vuguziga’s profit is modest, the bags help to feed his family and contribute to what most vendors and customers agree is a more environmentally friendly, not to mention pleasant, market experience. “Before the ban, plastic bags were everywhere,” says Rebecca Niyongabo, a customer shopping for beans at an adjacent stall. ‘The wind would blow them into the air; babies would eat them; people would burn them in their rubbish and the entire neighbourhood would smell. It was a mess.” Although Rwanda’s ban on plastic bags has long made international headlines, the law itself is hardly unique. Since the late 1990s, various municipal, provincial and national governments have enacted similar legislation, but generally with mixed success. In 2002, Bangladesh became the world’s first country to institute a full ban on plastic bags, which were found to have clogged the country’s drainage system and contributed to a bout of catastrophic flooding. Other nations, including many in Africa, eventually followed suit. As of 2013, according to the Earth Policy


Top: Rwanda almost destroyed itself but has now become one of the top African countries for enterprise and development. KN 3 Road is the main boulevard leading to the Central Business District of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. Kigali has been named by various surveys as the cleanest and greenest city on the continent

Institute in Washington, DC, 19 countries on the continent had enacted either full or partial bans, often targeting thinner bags that are more easily carried away by the wind. This crackdown on polyethylene has been motivated by several factors, including the bags’ contribution to flooding and soil degradation, and their often-fatal consumption by animals. In Mauritania, which banned plastic bags in 2013, 70% of sheep and cattle deaths in the country’s capital have historically been caused by plastic bag ingestion. Rwanda’s ban, however, is exceptional in one important aspect: it’s stringently enforced. Unlike in many countries with similar laws on the books, Rwanda’s law enforcement agencies and environmental stakeholders have made the campaign against plastic bags a top priority. Following the law’s enactment, the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), an agency within the Ministry of Natural Resources, launched a nationwide campaign to create awareness of the ban and educate children and adults on its importance. Today, signs at Kigali International Airport and many border crossings warn visitors that plastic bags will be confiscated. In markets across the country, it is still possible to find hawkers selling fruits or cakes that are wrapped in plastic, or underground polyethylene traders dealing in illicit bags from street corners or back

alleyways. For the most part, though, Rwandans obey the law. In interviews, vendors at Kimironko Market spoke of visits by undercover inspectors. Those caught using non-biodegradable plastic, they said, are typically fined 50,000 francs (US$61, €67), enough to keep most traders in compliance. The ban’s success is also partly due to traditional Rwandan culture, which places an emphasis on obedience to authority and on cleanliness. Kigali, which is widely regarded as one of Africa’s cleanest cities, won a UN Habitat Scroll of Honour award in 2008 for its emergence as a “model modern city,” including its improved collection of rubbish and “zero tolerance for plastics.” Unlike Rwanda’s neighbours, where travellers regularly toss refuse from vehicle windows, littering in the country is almost non-existent. “Rwandans are a proud people,” says Rose Mukankomeje, REMA’s director general and the plastic bag ban’s self-described “enforcer.” “We don’t like things dirty. Our countryside is not a dustbin.” As Mukankomeje explains, the bag ban is only part of a wider national conservation strategy that aims to boost resilience to climate change, combat deforestation and prevent the continued erosion of the country’s famed mist-covered hillsides. Although there is yet to be a quantifiable study that assesses the law’s specific impact, Mukankomeje

All images ŠCyril Ndegeya


Top: Different biodegradable plastic bags hanging in the Kimironko market as a solution to containing commodities after the ban of non bio-degredable plastic bags Right: Marionne Muteteri, a Kimironko beansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; seller, serving her product in one kilogram paper sachet made from betting sheets that she buys on the cheap from local gambling houses



renewablematter 11. 2016

Bottom: Production activities underway within Eco Plastic Ltd, Rwanda’s largest manufacturing factory. The plant, 15 km away from the city centre of Kigali, manufactures products from recycled plastic

says the ban has contributed to reductions in animal deaths, soil erosion, flooding and even malaria, the last by reducing the prevalence of potential mosquito breeding grounds. In addition, she argues, Rwanda’s commitment to preserving its environment has helped spawn a growing market for ecotourism, which is buttressed by the presence of some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Slowly, Rwanda’s reputation for order, cleanliness, and natural beauty is beginning to overtake the country’s more infamous place in popular imagination as the country only 22 years removed from its 1994 genocide, in which as many as a million ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu were slaughtered in just 100 days. Whatever role the bag ban has played in boosting Rwanda’s image, however, it has also come with some unwanted consequences. For traders and customers alike, the most pertinent issue is cost. Michael Rozanski,

Left: A paper bag containing one kilogram of beens sold from the kimironko market. Some bean vendors manage to buy on a cheap price these betting sheets from gambling houses as a solution to the ban of plastic bags in the country

a German baker in Kigali, says the waxed-paper bags he uses to package bread cost four to five times more than similar bags made of plastic. In Kimironko, most meat and fish, due to a lack of locally made alternatives, are packaged in biodegradable plastic bags imported from Britain, the associated costs being passed on to customers. In an effort to gain a competitive edge, some vendors devise creative alternatives. Rather than hike her prices, Marionne Muteteri, a Kimironko bean seller, serves her product in one-kilogram sacks made from betting sheets she buys on the cheap from local gambling houses. Customers, therefore, arrive home with an added bonus: odds on already-played football matches from the Belarus Premiere League, South Korean K-League, and German Bundesliga. The increased costs associated with the ban, however, have been hardest on local manufacturers. Because the law also applies

Top: A seller counts his biodegradable bags. Most market customers use them to carry their purchases

to most forms of plastic packaging, companies producing packaged foods, beverages, and household goods have been forced to change the way they ship their products. Due to obligations under various international trade agreements, however, the Rwandan government is unable to ban the use of plastic packaging for competing imports. This puts domestic firms at a distinct disadvantage. According to Alex Ruzibukira, an official in the Rwandan Ministry of Trade and Industry, authorities are working to address this problem. Already, he says, one investor is in the process of establishing a local facility to produce biodegradable plastic. In addition, a government study will soon be underway to assess the feasibility of an integrated packaging plant; both initiatives could potentially reduce producers’ costs. Nonetheless, many Rwandan companies affected say it would have caused far fewer headaches to simply offer them exceptions to the law. “We’ve been lobbying the government on this for many years,” said one local manufacturing executive who asked to remain anonymous. “Nothing has changed, and we don’t believe it will. So we’ve just been forced to adapt.” There are some local entrepreneurs, however, who’ve managed to exploit the country’s war on plastic to their advantage. Wenceslas Habamungu, the general director of Eco Plastic Ltd, is one of them. Back in 1999, when many of Kigali’s now-pristine boulevards were still overwhelmed with rubbish, he and his brother Paulin Buregea established COPET, Rwanda’s first private waste collection company. Nine years later, after the ban came into effect, they ran into a conundrum. Although authorities had granted their

company an exception to the law, which allowed them to continue to use plastic bags for waste collection, all domestic plastic producers had relocated to neighbouring countries or gone out of business entirely. After meeting with the authorities, they were given the choice of importing bags under strict conditions, or establishing a recycling plant to make their own. Ultimately, the brothers chose the latter. After all, while the law was tough with requirements for plastic packaging, it did allow for the use of plastic bags by hospitals, as well as certain forms of plastic sheeting for agriculture and construction. Meanwhile, the plastic used to package imported goods, which was typically confiscated at customs, meant there’d be a ready supply of material to recycle. Today, six years after its establishment, Eco Plastic Ltd collects more than 80 tonnes of polyethylene every year, churning out bright yellow bags for hospital waste, tubing for use in tree nurseries, sacks for post-harvest storage, and the rubbish bags used by Buregeya’s COPET. The factory, like the items it produces, is largely hidden from the public eye, set inconspicuously on a hillside next to a dirt road outside the capital. Here, just inside the gate, rows of discarded mattress sheets, mosquito net coverings and reams of bubble wrap hang drying in the afternoon sun after being washed by some of Habamungu’s 50-plus employees. Soon, the plastics will be taken inside the factory, mixed with additives and colours, and pumped through a series of machines that heat them to 180 °C (356 °F) and reshape them into various recycled products. This is plastic Rwandan style: orderly, law-abiding, and mostly out of sight.

Top: A general atmosphere inside the Kimironko market viewed from the fruits section. This is one of the biggest markets in Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali


renewablematter 11. 2016

Focus Plastic Bags

Flowers FROM AFRICA Today, in over 20 African countries, using plastic bags is totally or partially forbidden. But the law is often dodged and the illegal carrier bags are still used. The risk is high: heavy fines or jail senttences. by Roberto Giovannini

Roberto Giovannini, journalist, writes about economy, society, energy, environment, green economy and technology.

We Europeans often think we are at the forefront with regard to environmental protection. We can show the world how to look after nature and how to reduce waste. More importantly, we can teach the backward populations of less advanced countries what we can do. Well, if you are one of those thinking along these lines, perhaps you should give up such prejudices and convictions, because they are unfounded. The issue of plastic carrier bags, where Europeans have a lot to learn from what has been done in Africa, including their mistakes, is a good case in point. Shopping bags are very popular and practical items, but they are so widespread that they have become a threat for the environment and for us human beings: they can last for centuries, they represent a danger for animals and nature, they generate large flows of greenhouse gases and they are difficult to dispose of. In Italy, we realized this, so much so that since 2011 we are one of the very few European countries that has banned non biodegradable plastic carrier bags (although, unfortunately, the illegal trade of plastic bags is still continuing). Other European countries, instead, went down the path of economic sanctions, introducing tax or additional charges. As a result, plastic bags are still legally used and therefore create problems. However, Africans have proved a lot braver:

here, as many as twentyseven countries have enacted partial or total bans of plastic carrier bags, as well as tax and penalties. The government with the strictest and better enacted laws is Rwanda. Viceversa, in other countries bans are dodged or not obeyed, such as Mauritania or South Africa. But there is no shortage of virtuous examples: new small and medium enterprises start to crop up, committed to the production of biodegradable plastic bags or derived from non polluting materials and the use of the illegal ones start to diminuish. The level of damage plastic carrier bags can represent cannot be emphasized enough. Practical, light, hygienic, cheap, hefty and reusable, but at the same time, very difficult to destroy. Because traditional plastic carrier bags are made of high density polyethylene (HDPE), a non biodegradable substance which, if kept in an anaerobic environment (for example at the bottom of a landfill) can last for thousands of years. So, it ends up in our seas, in the horrible “garbage patches” mainly made of plastic floating in our oceans. Going through the branches of the food chain, carrier bags and other plastic materials not only poison marine animals and birds, but also humans. All toxic additives contained in a shopping bag – antiflame and antimicrobial substaces and many more – are released into the environment. According to the WWF,


every year, at least one hundred thousand whales, seals and turtles die because they bumped into some sort of plastic along their way. On land, carrier bags take their toll on sheep because they mistake them for flowers, when they get stuck amongst trees or bushes; in Mauritania, for instance, they are responsible for 70% of deaths of grazing animals. Not only that: plastic bags create big problems to infrastructure, starting from canals, water treatment and sewage systems, often completely clogged by these almost indestructable objects. An even more serious problem in developing countries, where sewers are less modern and efficient and where stagnant waters can create serious health problems because of the presence of insects and parasites. It goes without saying that when talking about Africa we should not expect neither civic sense by citizens nor administrative efficiency by the various institutions, as opposed to, for example, Scandinavian countries. In these countries, citizens have such low incomes that they cannot afford neither to pay discouraging fines, nor the purchase of alternative and non polluting bags which have a much higher cost. The fact that in these countries retailers often sell their goods in small quantities and unpackaged is certainly no help, because they invariably use plastic carrier bags. How can we forget that the so called “informal sector” – i.e. illegal or black market trade,

which by definition is a large consumer of plastic and goes unchecked by authorities – has represented over 80% of the economy. Again, it is understandable that in many cases, monitoring authorities have not got many means and perhaps bigger fish to fry. Lastly, we should remember that, in many African countries, this “war” is further complicated by the fact that in theory potable water is sold in plastic bags, because of the lack of aqueducts and fountains able to distribute water in a correct way. A very serious problem for public health, since quite apart from possible water contamination – in many cases it is not drinkable and source of various diseases – the thin polyethylene of carrier bags deteriorates when exposed to the sun, releasing particles of the material into the liquid. Taking Stock This was a preliminary and necessary observation, in order to judge the effectiveness – occasionally very good and sometimes very modest – of the policies against plastic carrier bags. As mentioned before, the first African country to take action against plastic was Rwanda, which already in 2004 introduced the first dissuasive measure in order to reach its total ban in 2008 (introducing tax incentives to encourage companies to recycle). Eritrea



renewablematter 11. 2016 followed suit, banning carrier bags in 2005, followed by Kenya, which after failing to ban them in 2007, in 2011 started a less ambitious and more limited plan. A national ban was declared in Tanzania in 2006: the sale or the import of thin carrier bags can cost the equivalent of $2,000 in fines and a six month jail sentence. In 2007, in Botswana, a tax payable by consumers has been introduced which discouraged the use of plastic. In South Africa, a similar policy to Uganda has been put in place: thinner plastic bags – which were locally called “national flowers” because they were so widespread in the fields – have been banned, while the heftier ones have been taxed. After so many years, though, the balance is still negative. Very few abide by the ban to use thin plastic bags; the six cent of a rand tax has never been – as previously agreed – allocated to recycling and recovery of plastic and on the whole the law only managed to reduce only by one third (from 12 to 8 billion every year) the number of plastic bags used in countries. In April 2015, Senegal too approved unanimously a law banning production, import, possession and use of plastic carrier bags; Gambia did exactly the same in West Africa. Guinea-Bissau, Mali (since 2013), Gabon (since 2010), Ethiopia (since November 2011) and Malawi passed similar laws to contain the use of shopping bags. In Mali, MPs voted unanimously in favour of a law that since April 2013 has banned production and commercialization of all non biodegradable plastics. Last but not least, Morocco, since July 2016 banned production, import, sale and use of plastic bags (called mika), apart from those used in agriculture, industry and waste collection. All this did not happen without protests. In the Ivory Coast, where the use of plastic for potable water has been banned, and especially in the capital Abidjan, such ban has brought many small enterprises down to their knees. They bag and sell bad quality and of dubious origin water. Street demonstrations caused friction between the police and protesters. In Mauritania, in January 2013, production, use, import of plastic bags was banned: on paper, those producing bags in this large and depopulated Sahel country can be punished with a one year jail sentence or incur in a fine up to €2,500 (a fortune). However, here too, according to local newspapers, so far, the population, despite seemingly in favour of the new laws, in practice dodged it. It very often happens that there are no real alternatives to the use of plastic bags, commonly known as zazous. According to some estimates, every Mauritanian uses seven zazous per day, a number that seems to have gone slightly down, but the replacement with paper bags or other material has not moved forward. A stroll down the streets of Nouakchott, the city capital, is enough to confirm this: bags are scattered everywhere, both in the streets and used for waste collection.

Andrew Mupuya It sounds like a story from another era. Young Andrew Mupuya, from Uganda, in 2008 created a startup with only $14, when he was only 20 years old. The Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments, the leading factory producing paper bags in the country. The ban on plastic bags determined its success. 2012 Anzisha Prize winner as best African entrepreneur, today he serves companies, shops and supermakets all over Kampala. Andrew Mupuya is also an active communicator, present on social networks and international websites.

In 2007, Uganda passed a law banning the sale of thinner plastic bags, those under 30 micron of thickness. However, according to many observers, the ban is not actually obeyed and the decrease in the use of carrier bags – here they are called kaveera – has been very limited. The ban, in force since 2010, has substantially been a theoretical one and entrepreneurs operating in the sector have been promised to be involved in the recovery and recycling activities of the theoretically illegal carrier bags. Then, after the widespread failure of the program, measures have toughened up against kaveera producers: 20 factories had to shut down and periodically, the environmental agency, Nema, carries out raids and confiscation of illegal carrier bags that seem to come from neighbouring Kenya. According to data from the same environmental agency, every year, almost 39,000 tonnes of carrier bags are scattered in the environment ending up in fields and in manure, often used as fuel in poorer areas. The government spends 10 million Ugandan shillings (approximately €2.5 million) to free up sewers in Kampala from bags. With some effort, though, in Uganda, new entrepreneurs are emerging, seizing the opportunity of the ban on plastic carrier bags to start their own enterprise. This is the case of Andrew Mupuya, now only 24, who, by selling 70 kg of empty


plastic bottles that had collected and after having borrowed the equivalent of three dollars from his teacher, he put together US$14, necessary to start up a paper bag “factory”, which he learnt how to make by looking at a video on YouTube. Today, his company, called Yeli, employs 20 people and produces 20,000 paper bags every week for restaurants and supermarkets in the capital. In Rwanda, illegal trafficking is a serious problem. Here, illegal carrier bags come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that despite having banned trade, import and use of plastic carrier bags in 2012, it allowes their production with the authorization of the Ministry of Industry. Traffickers are women – the so called coracora – hiding between 50 to 100 bags under their garments, eluding body search and heavy fines: up to 300,000 Rwandan francs (431 dollars) for those selling them, up to 100,000 ($143) for those using them. Sometimes, those caught by border guards can be beaten up. Dodging the laws is not that difficult after all, but visually the difference is striking: on the Congo side of the border, towards the city of Goma, streets and fields are studded with ripped plastic bags, on the Rwandan side, towards the city of Gisenyi, there are almost no traces of plastic in fields or streets.

In Cameroon, a consumer asking a plastic bag must pay a tax of 100 CFA Francs, or €0.15: a very heavy tax. However, even in Cameroon it is quite easy to elude the law; for now the ban has only resulted in the price of illegal plastic bags to have soared by three or four times. In this case, they come from Nigeria and are quite expensive: $5 for a 100 pack. The government expected distributors and retailers – as it had happened long time before in Italy – to stock up bags until they were still legal and then re-sell them at a higher price once the ban would be implemented. So far, only supermarkets, bakeries and chemists’ truly respect the law offering (charging the unhappy customers) paper bags. There is some talk about the introduction of a draconian law: a fine worth the equivalent of $30 (as an alternative to a few weeks in jail) for anyone caught with a plastic bag.

With some effort, though, in Uganda, new entrepreneurs are emerging, seizing the opportunity of the ban on plastic carrier bags to start their own enterprise.



renewablematter 11. 2016

When Loans Go SOCIAL

Italian families’ demand for credit is on the rise: +20% in the first quarter of 2016. But in order to meet such need – in Italy and beyond – there are those who prefer not to use banks but rather social lending. by Silvia Zamboni

Hands up those who are surprised to know that Italians’ confidence in the banking system has reached a historical low, which collapsed from 30% in 2005 to 10% at the end of 2015. A negative record which, according to last year’s survey conducted in December by Demopolis, banks only share with political parties, appreciated by only 4% of Italians.

1. Data published in the article are from the study Peer-to-peer lending: mito o realtà? (Peer-topeer lending, myth or reality? Conducted by SDA Bocconi on 2015 data on behalf of CRIF; from the speech given by Tommaso Gamaleri, Younited’s CEO for Italy at the conference “Osservatorio credito al dettaglio” (Observatory Retail Credit) held in Milan on 15th June 2016; from interviews by the author at Smartika and Prestiamoci.

It is slightly more unexpected, though, that, at a time when economic recovery is happening at a very low rate, retail credit is growing exponentially. These are the results shown by “The Observatory on retail credit”, by Assofin (the association of the main bank and finance operators of consumer and real estate credit), CRIF and Prometeia: in the first quarter of 2016, the family credit market (including house mortgages and credit by car dealers for the purchase of cars and motorbykes) soared by 20.3%. In particular, personal loans increased by 18.4%, representing the highest fraction of the credit market. In the gap between the collapse of banks’ reputation on the one hand and the growing demand for consumer credit on the other, Italy could benefit from opportunities for social lending, i.e. loans amongst people, also known as peer-to-peer or P2P lending, lend-to-save crowd-lending and credit crowdfunding. Who knows if the post-Brexit turbolence will contribute to lower even more investments’ attractiveness in traditional bank circuits.


Completely computerized and managed by platforms on the Web, social lending is a promising sector of the sharing economy born in Anglosaxon countries with the intent of creating an online meeting point for those who need a personal loan and those private lenders looking for transparent and more luring investment yield opportunities compared to bank savings account, long-term treasury bonds and ordinary bonds. The relation

Smartika, index.html

between borrower and lender is regulated online only, thus eliminating the mediation of banks, with all the costs involved. These two are distinctive features of social lending. And while Italy is still wet behind the ears with its Prestiamoci platforms (started in 2009) and Smartika (active since 2011), in the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, France and Spain, save-to-lend is already a well-established practice. Just think of the first four active platforms in the USA and the United Kingdom – Lending Club, Prosper, Zopa and Rateseller – started between 2005 and 2010 – in 2015 they had already supplied over twelve billion and a half euro in loans (to be precise €12,665,089,822, see box).1 So much so that in 2014, Lending Club was listed on the Stock Market, exceeding by over 60% the placement price, which allowed the company to collect $870 million with a capitalized value of $9 billion. While with the financial resource collection, the US platform joined the traditional Stock Market, with regard to loans it is still sticking to the classic profile of credit crowfunding. Indeed, Lending Club targets those needing moderate loans, of less than $20,000, generally required for refinancing or consolidating debts, for home renovation, university and medical fees and purchases of important goods. Let’s now turn back to Italy and see what lenders and borrowers of Smartika (the company with its €23 million of loans provided from its inauguration year to May 2016 covers 80% of the Italian peer-to-peer lending market) and Prestiamoci (that has reached €3 million). With a few preliminary remarks: even to access loans of such platforms it is necessary to pass a preliminary investigation of reliability for repayment. Prestiamoci’s TAN (Nominal Annual Rate) fluctuates between 3.90 and 14.01% and the maximum amount of loans must not exceed €25,000, rattles off CEO Daniele Loro. “Mid-sized


loans/investments are around €4,000, ranging from 2,000-2,500 to 40-50,000 (rarer). The gross yield, according to the risk category chosen by the investor, goes from 6.5 to 8%, with very little credit allocated with interest rates of 14.1%. Failure to pay it back, with a penalty of the yield of 1.5%, from average 6.80% goes down to 5.30.”

Silvia Zamboni is a professional journalist specialized in energy and environmental issues. She has authored books on good practices of the green economy, mobility and development.

The maximum threshold established by Smartika is lower: €15,000. The TAN, according to the length of the repayment plan, varies between 2.85% for a conservative plan over 12 months, to 6.06% for a dynamic loan over 48 months. The yield-risk category is still chosen by the investor. Moreover, it must be said that both platforms distribute the investments to more than one lender to spread out the risk of failure to repay the loan. Just because it represents an alternative to conventional financial markets does not necessarily mean that social lending is concessive: the percentage of rejected loan applications is 97-98% for Prestiamoci and 92% for Smartika, as a guarantee of investors’ savings. As for insolvencies, now that we are no longer penalized as new entrants, “today we are better placed on the market,” replies Loro on behalf of Prestiamoci. “The 90+ indicator, i.e. the percentage of loans with over 90 days in arrears amounted to 1.3% in May, a lot less compared to competitors. So, those investing will have lower default rates compared to the market,” which is the result of a learning curve for them. In case of insolvencies, Prestiamoci entrusts a debt collection agency to reinstate the correct repayment plan. Failure to repay is then communicated to the Credit Bureaus used in the platform, with the possible risk of losing access to the Italian financial system. Smartika uses a scoring model with a parametre of bad rate, i.e. a percentage of applicants who may be insolvent for three or four instalments after twelve months from the beginning of the loan. It then establishes an insolvency percentage on the total loans granted of 9.74%, “such rate identifies the estimated percentage of the amount of money wich will be collected through in-house staff or specialized outsourcers. In 2015, such activities led to a residual default rate of 2.5% of the total credits granted, compared to the average default in the banking sector on consumer loans of 6-7%.” Borrowers not honouring their repeyments are subject to the scrutiny of debt collection agencies, after which legal action is taken. During the credit recovery phase, lenders are always given the possibility to renegotiate debt in order to meet the needs of those experiencing unforeseen temporary difficulties, such as job loss or illness.

The average profile of the Italian investor is that “of a mature subject aware of the concept of diversification, volatility, with special consideration for innovation,” sums up Daniele Loro. “He found out about these innovative forms of investments by browsing the Web and intends to test them because he considers them more attractive than the traditional ones.” What are the most popular reasons fro the loans? “Home improvement, purchase of solar panel systems, furniture, car or even social motivation” Loro explains. Similarly, Smartika lenders are experienced internauts, mostly men (93%), aged between 25 to 55. The prevalent motivation is fair-trade opportunities followed by yields offered. Applicants are mainly men (70%), one fourth of applications are for houses – furniture and renovation – (27%), followed by the purchase of cars, motorbykes, second-hand campervans, wedding expenses, university fees, repayment of loans granted by families. Medical treatment loans are on the rise (5% of loans granted) which in some regions reach 8%. Enrica, a freelancer in the IT sector, has as many as four loans going. “I am very grateful to Smartika” she claims “because, despite not having a permanent work contract, they did not reject my applications like other lending institutions I had approached. They examined the documents, my term contract and my personal reliability and after only 10 days they paid into my account the €1500 I had applied for to pay off a debt I had with my condo fees.” With two more loans Enrica renovated her home, while the latest one will allow her to realize her dream to follow a master in web marketing. Federico, a university researcher with a degree in political sciences and international relations, when asked what pushed him to become lender-investor of Smartika he replied with no hesitation: “The ethical nature of the investment: it is about borrowing and lending money between people, the direct relationship elimitates obscure the intermediate role of banks, the unpleasant surprises of commission fees, complex and financial products which are not transparent. Volatility is low and the yield more advantageous than those offered by banks: my €10,000 investment, at an interest rate of 6.80%, excluding a commission of 1% to Smartika, before tax, gave me back €800,” continues. “Every month they pay back a share of the lent capital and one of matured interests. It is possible to choose the destination of the loan-investment and yield class between conservative, balanced and dynamic: the higher the risk, the higher the yield. But from 2015, Smartika



renewablematter 11. 2016 introduced a guarantee fund protecting lenders, even though the yield is slightly lower.” Roberto, with a school-leaving qualification, contacted Prestiamoci. “I need liquidity and on the Web I came across peer-to-peer lending. I became interested and got in touch with Prestiamoci to have a loan of €6,000. After a standard preliminary investigation, after nearly ten days I got the money with more favourable conditions compared to conventional credit: the number of instalments being equal, my repayments are lower, which is a clear sign that interests are lower.” Matteo works in a management consultancy company. When he found out about social lending through word of mouth, he wanted to find out more about ethical aspects and other issues online. “I chose Prestiamoci, an all Italian company, and I invested-lent €1,000, as automatic investment: as the shares matured, they were reinvested.” The interests – 5% before tax – collected were used to repay previous loans. “The good thing about a conventional investment,” says he, “is that you can keep track of your money and actively decide where to invest, feeling part of that project.” So, alluring interest rates, transparency, speed, flexibility. But for Daniele Loro, the advantages of social lending do not end here. “For example, we don’t sell other products linked to loans as insurances passed off as protection for consumers, while in reality it is a hidden and wrong surcharge of the intrest rate, required as a conditio sine qua non for granting the loan.” To build a bridge between social lending and the green economy, in May, Prestiamoci launched a new product born out of the joint-venture with Evolvere Spa, a leading operator in the sector of distributed energy with over 8,000 PV systems: “Prestailsole” is a sort of “Solar Presti-Bond”, exclusive to those lenders who will invest, with a fixed yield, their savings in fund Evolvere’s clients signing the “Tuo” contract to buy PV systems to be installed on the rooftop. But how is the credit industry reacting to the challenge of social lending? By taking part in the round table that followed the presentation of the results of the above mentioned “Osservatorio Credito al Dettaglio” (Milan, 15th June 2016), Vincent Mouveroux, general co-director for Agos Ducato replied, “We are working to reinvent our business, to develop the ‘one-click’ efficiency, to improve the client’s knowledge and to take advantage of ‘a multi-channel system everywhere,’ i.e. permanent connection via smartphones, owned by two thirds of Italians, the highest percentage in Europe.” However, Giorgio Orioli, Consel’s CEO (an institution linked to Banca Sella) thinks that peer-to-peer lending is no match: pensioners (obviously with little or no computer literacy) are 20 million in Italy, he said, while the millennials

(digital natives) have no money to invest. “Consel too operates on line” commented Orioli. “Lenders make all the difference. And for those in need of a loan, the origin of the credit, whether lending institutions or individual lenders, makes no difference. The disruptive effect of the digital medium is about, if anything, the elimination of jobs: out of 300,000 employed in the Italian banking industry 100,000 jobs are reduntant”, concluded. Tommaso Gamaleri, Younited Credit’s CEO, the French platform of peer-to-peer lending which is about to “land” in Italy, acknowledges that €340 million of loans granted in four years in France represent only 0.5-0.7% of the whole French market. He does not see competition but rather complementarity between the two universes and despite confirming its devotion to the Web, he does not rule out “the possibility of an interaction amongst online activities and offline presence.” Meanwhile, Europe has already launched a new challenge: credit crowdfunding to companies, the so called P2P business lending. According to a report by Moody’s in February 2015, in 2014, SMEs received over two thirds of the over two billion pounds of peer-to-peer loans granted in the United Kingdom, with more than €95 million in the rest of Europe (35 in Holland, 28 in Scandinavian countries, 14 in Spain, 11 in France and 7 in Germany). If this will cause disruption, permanent marginality or online-offline complementarity, only time will tell.

The Hit Parade of Social Lending Ranking first in a virtual world hit parade of social lending is Lendin Club, created in the USA in 2007. From the beginning it has already granted over €8 billion (8,338,250,590 to be precise). In second position there is Prosper, launched the previous year, with over €2 billion worth of loans under its belt (2,108,529,374), then Zopa, the British social lending veteran, who in the space of ten years, from 2005 to 2015, exceeded €1 billion of loans (1,274,647,887). Little under one billion (€943,661,971) there is another British company, Rasetter, started in 2010, while in France, Younited Credit/Pret d’Union, the only active platform, has granted €340 million. In Germany Auxmoney is top of the list (€260,712,850); in Sweden Trustbuddy (236,067,740). In Italy, Smartika (started as Zopa) in May 2016 reached 23 million, while Prestiamoci grants loans worth in the region of €3 million.

Policy Interview

edited by S. Z.

It all starts with a click Luciano Manzo, Smartika CEO

“One of the strenghts of Italian social lending? Growing scepticism of Italians towards traditional financial markets,” replies Luciano Manzo, Smartika CEO, which with a staff of twenty full-time employees dominates 80% of the Italian market. “People are looking for alternative forms of investments such as peer-to-peer lending, which is not to be considered as a replacement as such, but on the one hand it offers quick and transparent solutions during the preliminary investigation, previous to the loan, and on the other, a great investment opportunity with yields around 6.5%.” Weaknesses? “The usual ones typical of any innovation: little knowledge of the phenomenon. But the Italian market is like a diesel engine: it starts slowly, but then after a while, it picks up speed. The other aspect is the unfavourable tax situation because the interests are taxed with a marginal rate. But, hopefully,

a bill being discussed is about to change all this.” Are there specific aspects characterizing Smartika’s profile on the Italian panorama? “Our competitive advantage lies in the operational aspect: it is Smartika that has to decide where to allocate funds entrusted to us, even though investors can choose the level of risk, and thus of the yield, amongst the three recommended.” Your next objectives? “Accomplish the process of enormeous technological innovation, with huge investments to improve, amongst other things, other analytics.”


edited by S. Z.

Unique and Transparent Michele Novelli, President of Prestiamoci

According to Michele Novelli, President of Prestiamoci, the second Italian platform of social lending operating with a staff of ten people “P2P lending’s strenghts in Italy are: from a lender’s point of view, the fact that it represents a unique product; from a borrower’s perspective, the fact that everyone has his personal assessment of risk; for both there is a 100% transparent online approach. The strenghts of Prestiamoci: attention to clients, borrowers and lenders which are all part of the same family and therefore share the project.” Weaknesses? “In general, social lending in Italy suffers a delay in the process of digital maturity with regard to personal loans. But this problem will be solved, as testified by the success of online insurances and Amazon in e-commerce. The generational digital divide will have less and less importance. While a weakness for lenders is unfavourable taxation.”

How imporant is the social aspect in peer-to-peer lending? “For us in Prestiamoci it is extremely important that people give and take money amongst them. In particular, lenders are motivated not only by yield but by the fact they are lending to other people; for borrowers, in all honesty, this aspect is less important.” Do you intend to involve institutional investors or will you just operate with individual lenders? “Institutional lenders are important for our growth. The discriminating point is that the platform is thought for individual lenders, so even institutional lenders must abide by the same modality of capital entrustment followed by private investors.”



renewablematter 11. 2016

BIOMASS is the

Engine of the Canadian Bioeconomy Interview with Jeff Passmore edited by Mario Bonaccorso

Abundance of biomass, excellent logistic network and policies supporting both businesses and research. But there is no federal strategy yet and citizens’ awareness is still low.

Jeff Passmore has been active in the bioeconomy and renewables sectors for 30 years. He has been a member of Canada’s National Energy Science and Technology Advisory Board and of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Departments Clean Tech Advisory Board.

If biomass is the essential element for the development of the bioeconomy, Justin Trudeau-led country can rightly claim a leadership role in the field. And there is more: in addition to abundant renewable raw materials, the North-American country boasts an excellent logistic network, low energy costs and strong public support to businesses and research. This is how Michael Hartmann, BioAmber’s Executive Vice President sees it. It is one of the world’s main producers of bio-succinic acid who decided to establish its commercial plant in Ontario (succinic acid today is mainly produced from oil or natural gas and is used in pharmaceutical, food and manufacturing of plastics, author’s note): “The main reason for building our commercial plant in Canada has to do with the lower cost of sugar and energy, which constitute most of our costs.” Canada is the third country in the world for oil reserves, behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and is also the world’s third producer of natural gas behind Usa and Russia (ENI, 2013). To understand where the country stands in the process of the bioeconomy’s development in the world, what its strengths and weaknesses are, Renewable Matter interviewed Jeff Passmore, one of Canada’s leading experts in the field, already a member of Cleantech Advisory Board of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and President of the Canadian Association of renewable fuels.


What are the strengths of the bioeconomy in Canada? “Canada has 348 million hectares of forest land (that’s 10% of the world’s) and 67 million hectares of agricultural land. So one can see that Canada is well endowed with biomass. And to date, Canadians have put that biomass to good use. For example: about 6% of Canada’s electricity, and 8% of Canada’s transportation fuels are currently supplied using renewable biomass. This use is rejuvenating rural communities across the country by creating local jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the pulp and paper sector has reduced its absolute GHG emissions by 66% since 1990 by switching from fossil energy such as coal and oil to biomass. “Canada also has a number of federal and provincial government grant and loan programs aimed at assisting the commercialization of new technology, especially technologies that clean the air, water and soil, and/or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Canada is also very close to the US market which offers a large export opportunity. Communications, transport, and trade links between the two countries are well integrated making export markets readily accessible. Also, export to Europe has always been a part of Canada’s history so technologies in the bioeconomy space will be able to take advantage of the European market.


Justin Trudeau ©youtube Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada

Jeff Passmore

Export Development Canada can assist in this regard both with projects abroad, and with domestic Canadian projects where the majority of the output is intended for export markets. Canada also has a well-educated professional work force.” And what are the weaknesses, from your point of view? “While individual companies have moved to biomass as a form of either on site, or utility power generation, and while there are a number of startup companies working in the advanced biofuels and cellulosic sugars space, there is little knowledge of the bioeconomy per se among Canadian governments or the general public. As such, the country lacks a national bioeconomy strategy. Neither are there any provincial bioeconomy strategies. However, some provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta have carbon taxes which can often assist in enabling clean technology commercialization.” Which are the policies you have in Canada to support the bioeconomy? “One of the lead agencies that could support bioeconomy related projects is Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). If it can be demonstrated that your project

will clean the air, water or soil, and/or reduce GHG emissions, your project could be eligible for SDTC funding. “If you can demonstrate that your project has benefits for the agriculture sector, you could be eligible for Agriculture Canada funding. Or if you locate your project in Alberta, you could be eligible for Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation funding. As mentioned, if your project is going to export at least 50% of its output, you could also apply for an Export Development Canada loan. Some of these programs are grants and some are low interest loans, and each needs to be applied for separately. “But it is best to start with SDTC because if you are able to get your project approved for funding here, it will leverage other funds to come on board. In some cases, it is possible to ‘stack’ these government programs up to a maximum of 60% of the capital cost of your project. “If we are talking about renewable fuels, since 2010 there has been a requirement for all gasoline to contain at least 5% ethanol on average across an obligated party’s gasoline sales. Many provinces also have ethanol mandates. This has led to the construction of several grain based


toward projects that support and/or rejuvenate the agriculture sector. “In my view, a good business strategy would be to build in Canada (take advantage of the capital support and favourable tax regime), and export to the rest of the world.”

ethanol plants. There is also a requirement to blend at least 2% biodiesel.”

Mario Bonaccorso is a journalist and creator of the Bioeconomista blog. He works for Assobiotec, the Italian association for the development of biotechnologies.

Enerkem, Renmatix, BioAmber. These are just some of the bioeconomy companies based in Canada. Why is Canada so attractive to businesses? “For several reasons, which can be summarized thus: Federal and provincial government capital assistance; Proximity to US markets; Progressive policies at the municipal government level intended to attract industry; Generous tax structures; A commitment to cleantech; Proximity to excellent universities and community colleges; A large R&D community offering the opportunity for ongoing technology development and evolution; Both greenfield and brownfield site location opportunities with possibility for co-development with a strategic investor/partner; A strong desire on the part of federal and provincial agencies, and research institutions to collaborate with industry to see projects succeed.” In the European Union bioeconomy stakeholders explicitly called for the adoption of a system of Green Public Procurement to support the demand for bio-products (like in US Biopreferred Programme). Is there a GPP system in Canada? “There is nothing similar to the US Department of Agriculture’s Biopreferred Program in Canada. However, because of the close trading relationship between Canada and the USA, companies making bio-based products and materials in Canada are eligible to apply for USDA bio certification. “Also, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada have a loan program called ‘Growing Forward’ where it is possible to receive capital assistance

Bioeconomy and circular economy are two increasingly prevalent economic paradigms, but that public opinion still does not understand. How can stakeholders and authorities better communicate the benefits of bio-based products compared to those of fossil origin? “Of course one can use advertising. But for bioproducts to be available, there needs to be a market. So the best thing governments can do is to lead by example. Take, for instance, the USDA’s Bio-preferred program, the goal of which is to increase the purchase and use of biobased products and materials. The unique thing is that under federal law, all federal agencies and their contractors must purchase certified biobased products in categories identified by the USDA. This has led to increased demand for biomaterials (created a market) which has, in turn, led to reduced costs. “Canada has been a strong supporter of R&D and demonstration of emerging clean technologies. With a new, progressive federal government at the helm, there is a renewed commitment to innovation and clean technology. Many stakeholders have been speaking to the government about the positive role the bioeconomy can play in achieving Canada’s commitment to reducing GHGs.” What is currently the perception of the bioeconomy by the Canadian public opinion? “As yet, few Canadians are aware of the term ‘bioeconomy.’ They are more apt to use the term ‘cleantech.’ But an industry working group of bioenergy (power and fuels) stakeholders has called on the federal government to introduce a national bioeconomy strategy. Such a strategy helps meet this government’s policy objectives. The momentum is building. The government wants examples of companies that could commercialize technologies in this space in Canada. Combined with the existing capital support programs that are already in place, it is a good time to establish yourself in the Canadian market.”

Vicenza, 22-23 September CUOA Business School Via Marconi, 103

Altavilla Vicentina


FINLAND A true bioeconomy pioneer thanks to the exploitation of its forest biomass â&#x20AC;&#x201C; woodlands cover 80% of the national territory and 1 Finn out of 10 owns one â&#x20AC;&#x201C; this Scandinavian country looks to the future and raises the stakes. This sector is seen as the solution to guarantee wealth and competitiveness and to tackle environmental challenges.


The Future Starts


For the Finnish Government, the bioeconomy is at the heart of the country’s growth strategy. Its aim is to push it – from now till 2025 – to €100 billion in terms of output value while creating 100,000 new jobs. All this by starting from the use of forest biomass that is already crucial in the energy, chemical and plastic sectors but also playing an important role in the textile, medical and food industries. by Mario Bonaccorso


VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland,

“By 2030, we will need 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water. The solution is the bioeconomy.” Reading the opening lines of the portal devoted to the bioeconomy (yes, a whole portal managed by the Ministry of Environment), we understand how the new bioeconomy based on biological resources is at the heart of Finland’s (sustainable) growth strategy. But it does not stop here obviously, because the Scandinavian country is a real pioneer in this field. But then again, it could not be any different since industries based on forests are historically those that have contributed the most to Finland’s wealth. Both at regional and national level. Forests cover 80% of the national territory and about 50,000 people work in the forestry sector in Finland alone, with a total turnover of €50 billion, 14% of the national GDP. Every year, Helsinki allocates €140 million to support R&D projects in this field and there are several legislative measures to promote innovation, mainly in the second-generation biofuels field (those not competing with food). Finland is unrivalled in the bioenergy sector. Renewable energy currently represents about 35% of the final consumption of energy. The aim is to reach 38% by 2020. 80% of this renewable energy is produced with wood. If the energy produced by forest processes is also taken into account, besides its direct use as raw material, at the moment in Finland wood is the main energy source, overtaking oil, coal and natural gas as well. In the chemical sector, about one third of businesses currently uses biological raw

materials, spurred by a collaboration system and by cutting-edge biotechnology where VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland plays a crucial role with its 2,192 employees, 1,200 patents and patent applications and 296 notifications of invention by the end of 2015. Thanks to new technologies and expertise, forest biomass is currently used not only in the chemical, plastic and cosmetic sectors, but also in the textile, medical and food fields, both for new functional food and in bio-based packaging (functional food is food that besides its adequate nutritional effects is proven to have beneficial influences on one or more bodily functions so much so to be crucial for being healthy or reduce the risk of illnesses, author’s note). In 2015, Finnish Valio was the first dairy company in the world to sell its milk in entirely biobased cartons, thanks to its partnership with Swedish Tetra Pak. The Finnish Strategy The road towards the bioeconomy is paved by a strategy, introduced by the Finnish government in May 2014, based on a simple and clear vision: in the future, Finland’s wealth and competitiveness will be based on sustainable bioeconomy solutions. By 2025, the Finnish government aims to bring its bioeconomy production to €100 billion creating 100,000 new jobs. A very ambitious goal, if we think that today the value of its output amounts to €60 billion, 16% of the entire Finnish economy (an extremely high percentage) with 300,000 employees. “The Finnish strategy on the bioeconomy envisages,” says Jukka Kantola, NC Partnering, a Finnish consultancy company specialised in the bioeconomy, “four instruments to reach



renewablematter 11. 2016 Finnair Flies with Used Cooking Oil The Finnish commitment to the bioeconomy also takes to the skies. Finnair is one of the most active national carriers in trialling biofuels to run its aircrafts. From this point of view, one of the most emblematic flight was that of 23rd September 2014 – from Helsinki to the Big Apple on the occasion of the UN Climate Summit in New York – for which a mix biofuel derived from used cooking oil, mainly collected from restaurants, was utilized. “The UN Climate Summit is an important meeting to tackle climate change: we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the benefits of biofuels in the aviation industry,” stated Kati Ihamäki, Finnair’s Sustainable Development Deputy Chairman. After the 9-hour flight,

Finnair’s Airbus 330 demonstrated that flying using a mix of traditional fuel and used oil, provided by SkyNRG Nordic (a joint venture between SkyNRG and Statoil Aviation) is possible but it also cuts considerably the polluting impact of flying. The technology, already tested by other airlines, is safe and can offer tangible benefits for the environment. Its spreading though is hindered by high costs, double compared to normal kerosene. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 Report provided some data on the contribution of the aviation industry to global warming: 2% of global man-made CO2 and 13% of fuels used by the entire transportation industry.

its targets: 1. A competitive operational environment to increase growth; 2. Support to new businesses through investments on risk capital, interdepartmental trials and cooperation; 3. A strong expertise base thanks to the development of education, training and research; 4. The availability of sustainable biomass, thanks to a raw material market in working order.” All this in an environment strongly relying on dialogue and debate. The bioeconomy strategy is the result of an interdepartmental cooperation led by the Ministry of Employment and Economy in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture, the Ministry of Culture and Education, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. In this dialogue, national stakeholders were also included: from research centres such as VTT to businesses that, as the very government points out, were consulted in five seminars, three regional forums and several sector enquiries. Pulp and Paper Colossuses Lead the Bioeconomy UPM, Pages/default.aspx Stora Enso,

Since forests are the undisputed protagonists of the national economy, pulp and paper colossuses, which own 10% of the Finnish forests – such as UPM, Stora Enso and Metsa Group – are leading the transition from the traditional economy to a more sustainable bio-based economy, thanks to the abundance of lignocellulosic biomass. So much so, that in Finland, the bio-based economy blends the wood-based economy. At European level, the flagship is the Metsa Fibre bio-product plant in Äänekoski (Central Finland). A €1.2 billion investment to reconvert a paper

mill of the Finnish company into a modern plant able to produce not only pulp (1.3 million tonnes per year) but also bio-products and bioenergy, increasing by 2% the country’s use of energy from renewable sources. The project has also benefitted from a €275 million loan from the European Investment Bank, 75 million of which were given by the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI). According to an analysis recently published by ETLA – The Finnish Institute for Economic Research – this investment, the biggest ever in Finland in the forestry sector, will generate about €2.4 billion in income for companies operating in the country just in its construction phase (2015-2018), with a total added value of €12 billion. When the plant will be up and running, that is form the third quarter of 2017, it is expected to create 2,500 new jobs in the entire value chain. Another Finnish giant in the paper sector (a yearly turnover exceeding €10 billion) fast becoming a leader in the world bioeconomy panorama is UPM. In the past few years, it has emerged as one of the main actors in the field of biofuels derived from wood. They represent a crucial element of UPM’s Biofore strategy aiming at making wood an alternative raw material to fossil sources in a logic of total circularity. The Finnish company’s flagship of this sustainable vision is the Biofore concept car, presented for the first time at the International Geneva Motor Show in 2014, where all the parts traditionally made of plastic have been replaced by high-quality biomaterials derived from wood and the engine runs on a new biodiesel also derived from wood (UPM BioVerno). In its biorefinery in Lappeenranta, UPM produces 100,000 tonnes, about 120 million litres,



of renewable diesel every year. This amounts to the average annual consumption of 100,000 cars. According to Marko Janhunen, UPM Biorefining vice-president, one of the six branches of UPM, “In Europe, there are huge untapped cellulosic waste resources sustainably available. This could replace up to 16% of fuels used for road transport by 2030, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60%.” “The biorefinery in Lappeenranta,” Janhunen explains, “is a springboard to use pulp waste (mainly crude tall oil) as well as other raw materials, not only for the production of advanced biofuels but also biochemicals.” Half Finnish and half Swedish Stora Enso, with its headquarters in Helsinki, has a yearly turnover of about €10 billion at global level. The company led by Karl-Henrik Sundström is gradually turning into a biomaterial business to find new applications maximising the value obtainable from lignocellulosic biomass. This perspective is also reflected in the opening last December of the new Innovation Centre for Biomaterials in Stockholm, Stora Enso’s R&D and strategic marketing centre employing 40 people, that according to the company’s plan should reach 100 by the end of 2017. “The centre,” Arno van de Ven points out, in charge of the biomaterial innovation department, “will promote innovation, identifying business opportunities in the biobased renewable material and chemical market, linking our expertise with research centres, universities and commercial partners.”

But this is only part of the story, because Stora Enso’s increasing interest in the field of biochemistry is also proven by an agreement signed last May with Rennovia for the development of new biobased chemicals, thanks to the use of the technology of the Californian company managed by Robert Wedinger. From Oil to Biochemistry The Finnish strategy towards a bio-based economy also relies on a new phase of Neste Oil, a national oil company. First of all, the company name has dropped the word oil thus becoming just Neste in order to try to leave behind bitter criticism voiced in the past by Greenpeace for its use of non-certified palm oil in its biodiesel production. “Products based on renewable raw materials have become an important component of Neste Oil, and the word oil, referring to crude fossil oil is no longer an accurate description of the company,” stated CEO Matti Lievonen in June 2015 when presenting the decision of changing the name of the Finnish company. “To our clients we offer,” Lievonen stressed, “solutions that make it possible to replace the use of fossil oils and reduce emissions. For instance, we are the world leader in the production of renewable fuels from waste and residues and we are trying to grow in the field of renewable products such as bio-based products for the chemical sector.”

A Start-Up Producing Fabrics from Trees To produce yarn from wood fibre without using chemistry. This is what the Finnish start-up, a spin off of VTT Technical Research Centre, does thanks to an innovative technology (F2Y) enabling it to win the first prize of the International Biorefinery Competition launched by the Ministry of Economy and Employment in 2015. Now Spinnova, this is the name of the start-up, is working to use on an industrial scale this process based on a wet-spinning technique. According to the Finnish jury that awarded the prize, Spinnova could revolutionize the textile industrial world and the forestry sector. Current yarn production methods used by the textile industry are, to different degrees, harmful for the environment. For example, cotton farming requires intensive water usage and only 30% of cotton is produced in areas where water is naturally available in sufficient quantities. The rest of the plantations are irrigated, this significantly increases soil erosion

and depletes aquifers. Consequently, soil suitable for food production is lost, and underground water resources are depleted at increasing rates. The textile and yarn industry relies mainly on oil-based products, such as nylon and polyester. These products are not biodegradable and their production processes generate great quantities of nitrogen oxide, which is 300 times worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The third important use in the man-made cellulose fibre (MMC), such as viscose and modal fibres, that is wood-based materials. The production of these fibres normally requires chemicals dangerous for the environment. Besides, the high production costs of man-made fibres limit their application range. If 20/30 cubic metres of wood would be refined with Spinnova’s new technology, we could meet about 20% of the global demand for cotton.



renewablematter 11. 2016 The biofuel produced by Neste is called Neste Renewable Diesel which, according to data provided by the company itself, in 2015 would have enabled to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6.4 million tonnes, the annual equivalent of the emissions generated by 1.3 million cars. Some airlines, including German Lufthansa, are trialling its efficiency even for commercial planes. “Our strategic target,” states Kaisa Hietala, Neste’s Renewable Products Executive Vice Chairman, “is to grow in the market based on renewable raw materials.” The Espoo-based company’s product portfolio already includes renewable isoalkanes (Neste renewable Isoalkane) used by the plastic, adhesive and paint sectors. And by the end of 2016, it will also start producing propane (a compound that can be used as fuel, coolant and at industrial level as solvent as well) from renewable raw materials in a new plant being built in its refinery in Rotterdam (The Netherlands).

For its distribution, Neste has already signed an agreement for the supply of 160,000 tonnes in four years with energy company Shy Energy. The Bioeconomy: A Long Term Effort The strategic importance of the bioeconomy for Finland fully emerges from one of the targets stated in its strategy: “To include the bioeconomy in the very image of the country.” All this also to attract new investments in the country. The Finnish government reckons that in the next ten years it will need €2.1 billion in public funds for the development of its national bioeconomy. €1 billion to invest on risk capital for companies, €500 million for research and innovation, €600 million for new demonstration and pilot plants. The strategy clearly spells out that “the growth of bioeconomy market is just starting. And Finland is committed to a long term effort.”


edited by M. B.

In Finland Forests are the Backbone of the Bioeconomy Lauri Hetemäki, European Forest Institute (EFI) Assistant Director

“One of the Government of Finland key strategic programmes is bioeconomy and clean solutions. Accordingly, policies and funds are designed and channeled to strengthen particularly forest biomass based bioeconomy. The government is investing 300 million euro on this programme.” Renewable Matter interviews Lauri Hetemäki, Assistant Director at the European Forest Institute (EFI) and professor of Forest Sector Foresight at the Faculty of Science and Forestry, University of Eastern Finland.

European Forest Institute,

Collaboration between the strong forest sector and other sectors makes Finland a true pioneer in the bioeconomy. As far as you’re concerned, what is the role of wood in the bioeconomy? “In Finland forests are the backbone of the bioeconomy. In 2015, a quarter of Finland’s total energy consumption was produced using forest biomass. In addition, the pulp industry for paper, textiles, second generation biodiesel or chemicals are important. One of the interesting growth area is also wood construction. In Finland wood construction is at a very high level compared to European average, and especially prefabricated multistore wood buildings are in a stage of breakthrough in the markets. The keyword of forest biomass based bioeconomy is diversification, forest bioeconomy means hundreds of different things. Also, the often forgotten services of forests,

such as nature tourism and recreation and ecosystem services of the forests.” And in this sense, what are the main strenghts of Finnish bioeconomy? “The strength of forest based bioeconomy in Finland sits on three pillars: resource, culture, and know-how. Of the land area, 78% is forests. More than every tenth of the Finns is a forest owner. The interest, ownership and wealth created by bioeconomy is therefore spread to different regions and a large number of people. It also means that there is a strong culture and history to manage forests for different purposes, including bioeconomy. The good education and research infrastructure has also been necessary for innovations in new bioeconomy. But, the very strong traditions and competences in forest sector may also occasionally turn out to be a hindrance to the agility to accept and launch new innovations. There is maybe too much complacency that we already know how to do bioeconomy, and therefore, are not always alert and humble enough to see the changes and new opportunities.” How is the bioeconomy supported by the Finnish government? “One of the Government of Finland key strategic programmes is bioeconomy and clean solutions. Accordingly, policies and funds are designed

Policy and channeled to strengthen particularly forest biomass based bioeconomy. To this programme government is investing over 300 million euros. Yet, the more important factor for the long-run development of bioeconomy will be government’s more indirect measures that help to boost the education, R&D and general innovation environment and stability of the society. An absolute necessity is also that government policies enhances solutions, processes and products that are environmentally sustainable.” What is the perception of the bioeconomy by the Finnish public opinion? “In 2015, Finland had Parliament elections and voted to power a government that has a strong bioeconomy programme. In that sense, you could say that there is strong support for the bioeconomy. Naturally, the fact that so many Finns own forests, or their employment and wealth of the nation is related to bioeconomy, gives large support for the bioeconomy. The biggest industrial investment in Finland in recent years has been the Metsä Group Äänekoski next-generation bioproduct-mill, with a value of 1.2 billion euro investment. In some sense, it can be viewed as a game-changer in the atmosphere towards bioeconomy. Yet, there are concerns, especially in the environmental NGOs that bioeconomy development may potentially cause also trade-offs (the functional relation between two variables is such that the growth of one is incompatible with that of the other, thus resulting in a contraction, editor’s note) e.g. for biodiversity. Therefore, the large support for bioeconomy will also depend on how the society is able to solve such trade-offs, and can enhance synergies with other values and interests.” Finland appears to be the ideal place for the bioeconomy. But really there are no weaknesses? “Finland has only 5,5 million people and 60-90 % of the forest biomass based products are exported to world markets, except bioenergy which is mainly used in domestic markets. The country is located relatively far away from the main markets, and therefore an additional burden is caused by higher logistical and transportation costs. Clearly, the geographical location also means that the biomass growth rate is very much lower than e.g. in South America, or even Central and Southern Europe. This means higher production costs, which need to be compensated by being better with the other factors, or focusing on products in which low growth coniferous boreal forest have a quality advantage. In the long-run, the key will be to keep up an education, R&D, innovation and sustainability operating environment that is at least as good as in competing countries.” It is said that the cascading use of biomass, prioritizing material use before energy use is preferable as a climate change mitigation measure as the carbon stays stored in the material for a longer term and it substitutes non-renewable materials and fossil energy twice.

In principle the cascading use is also more resource efficient and economically beneficent. From your point of view, is cascading use of biomass a superior concept in the context of a sustainable bioeconomy? “Cascading principle is a good general principle, but it should not be a straightjacket. It often makes economic and environmental sense, and as a general rule, the more we can circulate material and the more efficiently we can use it, the better. However, it will not, for example, make environmental sense for Finland to replace domestic virgin pulp based paper production with recycled paper based production, which would have to be imported. It makes also environmental sense to use local forest biomass (forest thinnings and residues) in regional combined heat and power plant, rather than import recycled paper or post-consumer wood to the plant. From the economic perspective, I would also caution of sticking to value pyramids, which give the order which raw material should be used. Value added is a dynamic concept: if ten years ago the value added of product A was 5 times higher than that of product B, today the relationship could be exactly the opposite. For example, we have seen a clear change in the value added of some paper products versus some high-tech energy products. The value added is very much dependent on how the end products prices will develop in the markets over time.” Greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential and other environmental and socioeconomic impacts of biomass uses depend on a large range of allocation decisions for heterogeneous material and energetic pathways. From your point of view, what kind of governance framework is required to ensure that the transition to a bioeconomy is a sustainable one? “If I was a global dictator, I would impose a global and high enough CO2 price which would help to solve the greatest market failure we have today, climate change. Markets do not solve negative externalities, such as climate change or loss of biodiversity. You need regulations. But the regulation should provide level playing field, and utilise price system, to the extent it is possible. CO2 price, in one form another (tax, emission trading system, etc.), can do this. However, we live in the second best world (expression referring to a theorem of the economics of well-being elaborated by economists R.G. Lispey and K. Lancasteer, editor’s note), and we will also need other polices and mechanisms to regulate the negative externalities. Still, we should try to work towards a global and high enough CO2 price that it has a real impact to economic decisions.”


THE BIO PLANT is Growing Fast

Ensuring crop productivity using natural methods and resources, reducing environmental impact and risks for human health: this is how the approach to agricultural production is changing. And today, globally, land used for organic farming is approximately 43 million hectares.


by Luciano Trentini

“Into the future. Consolidated annual report of IFOAM – organics international”, 2015; sites/default/files/annual_ report_2015_0.pdf

High production volumes achieved through growing investments in advanced technologies and technical means aimed at increasing productivity (fertilizers) and reducing risks (phytochemicals) caused by increasingly resistant and aggressive pathogens. For modern, “industrialized” agriculture, this is probably a partial, but undoubtedly accurate portrait. Today, however, agriculture is evolving, thanks to changes occurring in different fields and converging towards some new development paths, other than the ones that have caught on since the second half of last century. The first pivotal driver should be contextualized and is linked to the forecast of a drop in inputs (that is water and arable land), as by 2050, the global population will be of 9 billion. Increasing food availability in such a context highlights the issue of waste. Waste reduction is a goal for the entire supply chain: from farms to distribution companies, up to retail and consumer habits. And the second powerful driver of change precisely involves consumers and their different relationship with food. The degree of information and awareness expressed nowadays when purchasing food, at least in the most advanced societies, values several factors, including product origin, organoleptic properties and health. The impact on consumption decision has been immediate: certified production chains are growing and they involve limited inputs (integrated and organic production). For the very same reasons, consumers are now leaving supply chains that are perceived as less safe and less controlled (and this is one of the possible reasons for the increasing number of consumers going vegetarians or vegans). The “Culture Factor”

Luciano Trentini, Areflh Vice-President, works in the field of techniques for horticultural crops production and environmental impact reduction. He is an expert in Common Agricultural Policy, in particular the Fruit and Vegetables Common Market Organisation.

Globally, in 2014 (according to IFOAM and FIBL figures), land used for organic farming was 43.7 million hectares out of the currently total farmed surface of 1.6 billion hectares (FAO data), whereas farms were over 2 million, having a turnover of 72 billion Euros. EU countries’ interest has quickly grown: in the last decade, land used for organic farming has increased by 500,000 hectares per year and there are now nearly 190,000 organic farms. Only in the fruit and vegetables sector, in 2014,

land farmed for organic agriculture was 1,814,000 hectares globally and 500,000 in Europe. Also the number of vegetarians and vegans has increased: in Italy, for example, in 2013, they were 6% of the population, reaching 8% in 2015 (Eurispes data). This market is currently worth over 320 million Euros in Italy: such relevant figures have sparkled the creation of franchising stores and have led big companies to introduce some product lines for this very market. A causal link therefore exists between changing habits and development of environmentally-friendly production processes (as organic farming or integrated production), which we could define as “culture factor”, acting on both supply and demand. In the EU, organic farming is regulated by EU Reg. 834/2007 (as amended), based on decreased external inputs in the system: no pesticides, herbicides or synthesys chemical fertilizers are used. On the contrary, natural methods are used to ensure productivity and lower environmental impact and renewable resources are used – stemming from both plant and animal waste recycling – to improve soil fertility. Integrated pest management is regulated by directive 128/2009/EU, “Sustainable Use of Pesticides”, aimed at reducing risks and impact of chemical products on both human health and the environment, fostering alternative approaches to the use of said chemical compounds and using forecast models for targeted phytosanitary actions. In fruit and vegetables production, Areflh has fostered extension of integrated pest management to all inputs, including cultivars (in agronomy, this terms designates a plant strain achieved through genetic improvement, editor’s note) that are genetically resistant to disease, but also fertilization, irrigation, conditioning and packaging of produce, using a supply chain approach. The abovementioned integrated production uses production techniques involving limited and informed use of pesticides, fertilizers and water, while fostering the use of biologic defense methods and sexual confusion to control parasites, mulching to reduce the use of water and herbicides. It is regulated by procedural guidelines that may lead to the creation of voluntary brands to give more visibility to products. Such “virtuous” farming approaches consistently complement the general plan



renewablematter 11. 2016 Today’s financial tools. The new CAP FIRST PILLAR


Market Measures Direct Payments

Rural Development Policies




Assembly of the European Regions producing fruit and vegetables, php?lang=en


of bioeconomy. In particular, they do so when envisaging the use of techniques and means provided by green chemistry, including mulching cloths, compostable pheromones clips and dispensers. Biodegradable and compostable plastic and a herbicide molecule like pelargonic acid (having lower environmental impact in terms of residues and being quickly biodegraded in the environment) are significant examples of the contribution given by green chemistry to sustainable farming practice. Optimization in the use of organic fertilizers and natural phytosanitary products, as well as the fight against resource waste, complement the innovation strategy, implementing the concept of circular economy in agriculture. Funding Innovation: The Example of Biodegradable and Compostable Plastic A pivotal tool available to farmers for innovation in their crops is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), supported and funded by two

Source: Cestaro M., Emilia-Romagna Region (Italy).

Rural Development

types of funds: EAGF (European Agricultural Guarantee Fund) and EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development), which are part of the two “pillars” of this policy, the former including Common Market Organisations (CMOs) or market actions, the latter dealing with rural development. The Rural Development Policy has specific and strategic economic, environmental and health goals, meeting priorities established by the EU for the agricultural policy: competitiveness development, sustainable management of rural resources, reduction of risks linked to climate change, through balanced development of rural areas. To achieve said goals, the following approaches are implemented: •• foster knowledge transfer and innovation in agriculture; •• enhance agriculture competitiveness and farm profitability; •• promote the organization of agricultural and food chains and reduce the risk of market crisis;

Policy •• maintain, restore and enhance ecosystems farming activities depend on; •• develop efficient use of resources fostering low carbon economy; •• foster economic development of rural areas and reduce poverty. Market measures included in the first pillar are an example of funding of innovation linked to new economic models. In particular, it is linked to the fruit and vegetables CMO funding innovation and environmental protection, along with market measures. Biodegradable and compostable mulching cloths have now been officially included among innovative items funded and are a clear example of low-environmental impact inputs, in line with the circular economy, implemented at a European level. For such innovation, each country of the fruit and vegetables CMO (see box) has decided to follow different approaches to achieve the very same environmental goal: reduce plastic waste that is hard to manage, while reducing chemical inputs (herbicides). In France, the higher cost is covered to purchase reusable or biodegradable plant mulching, rather than products that do not have said characteristics. In case standard techniques do not envisage traditional mulching, biodegradable mulching cloths are completely funded, in compliance with amounts established based on a study taking into consideration differences between this new practice and the one considered as standard. In Italy, Decree no. 9084 of 2014 envisages the use of biodegradable and compostable mulching, threads and clips among low-environmental impact inputs (that is in compliance with mandatory environmental regulations). In particular, “for mulching with biodegradable cloth, both on annual and multiannual crops, in open field and protected crops, expenses incurred for the purchase of film are eligible. Furthermore, the higher cost incurred by farms for mulching installation, compared to standard techniques, is eligible. Expenses incurred on the same land for repeated crops are also eligible.” In Spain, the use of biodegradable plastic is eligible and funded among agricultural and environmental actions aimed at reducing impact. Also in this case, funding for farmers, since 2014, has been allocated following a study conducted by an independent body to check the cost difference from traditional materials. In particular, in fruit and vegetables production, the use of biodegradable and compostable thread and clips for plant support (tomatoes, aubergines, etc.) is funded. They also receive 66% of the cost per kilo of materials purchased. For biodegradable mulching,

said value is 60% of the total expense incurred. Similarly, in Portugal and in Belgium, some measures exist that fund the cost difference between biodegradable and conventional materials. In short, in fruit and vegetables producing countries, the national environmental strategy envisages support for innovative inputs reducing plastic waste in farming. The fruit and vegetables CMO has been one of the few European regulations aiming at fostering virtuous practice in environmental protection. The Third Driver of Change: Research In 2014, the EU approved the Horizon 2020 research funding programme, envisaging investment of 3% of the GDP of each member State, worth approximately 80 billion Euros, aimed at: enhancing the role of the EU in farming, fostering industrial innovation to set up new investments in technology, dealing with several issues, including climate change, sustainable transport and renewable energies. Agriculture, innovation and environmental issues appear among the priorities of the European legislator’s agenda. Though complex in terms of application, all financial measures established in favour of European farmers make it possible for the agricultural system to use resources that allow implementing innovations required to meet the needs of both farmers and consumers. Stagnation experienced by agriculture in Europe must be overcome by reacting to consumers’ requests and to the need of “feeding the planet,” while reducing inputs (available water and land). A different economic model, like the one proposed by the bioeconomy, combined with lower-environmental impact products and higher use of internal farm resources may be a solution to environmental and demographic challenges of the future.

Fruit and Vegetables CMO Set up by the EC Reg. 1308/2013, the Fruit and Vegetables CMO – gathering farmers and producers – believes in innovation to manage competitiveness. The Common Market Organisation is the essential tool of the common agricultural market in the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and covers approximately 90% of EU agricultural production. The Fruit and Vegetables MCO involves leaders in charge of enforcing regulations, Producer Organisations set up on a voluntary basis.



renewablematter 11. 2016

A Europe

AT FULL GPP A snapshot of the level of Green Public Procurement implementation in the EU 28: A €1.8 trillion cake. by Simona Faccioli

Simona Faccioli has dealt with GPP for years, first at ONR (national waste observatory) at the Ministry of Environment then as director for ReMade in Italy. She is a member of the normative editorial staff of

ReMade in Italy,

1. For the record, the inclusion of environmental criteria in public procurement procedures was first made compulsory by the “Collegato ambientale” (Decree 221/2015), in force since 2nd February 2016. For a comprehensive close examination of the normative sources of GPP: Ficco P., “Il Gpp: principi e posizionamento disciplinare. Le novità del ‘Collegato ambientale’ sull’accesso al mercato degli ‘acquisti verdi’, nella logica dell’economia circolare”, Rivista Rifiuti, 237, March 2016; Ficco P., “Il ‘Nuovo Codice appalti’ (Dlgs 50/2016)

For once, we are top of the class. Italy has just made GPP (Green public procurement) compulsory after years of scarcely effective advice. Now, thanks to the new procurement code, all public administrations must include environmental criteria in their calls for tenders. Those “Environmental Minimum Requirements” (EMR) that for years the Ministry of Environment has been issuing for various categories of products and services bought by the public administration.1 Italian public administrations – municipalities as well as others – are appropriating this revolution. We imagine that citizens are satisfied with the way public funds are spent and we envisage positive impacts on the environment and the take-off of the circular economy. But what is happening in other European countries? We ask this question because first and foremost, GPP is a “European issue”: it has always been at the forefront of EU communication plans and strategic actions. It is also central in the recent package on the circular economy crediting it with a crucial role to start the virtuous circle

towards eco-innovative solutions for products and services able to speed up the change.2

e la revisione del Green public procurement (Gpp)”, Rivista Rifiuti, 240, June 2016.

stages of life cycle of a product: from production to consumption, including the management of waste and the market of secondary raw materials. The action plan also includes a certain number of interventions designed to overcome market barriers in specific sectors, such plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, building and scrapping, biomass and bioproducts. In this framework, eco-innovation, green public procurement and European financing and investment tools will play a crucial role. For further

2. “The missing link: A European Action Plan for the Circular Economy”, Communication of the EC, 2nd December 2015. It is a complex package of measures including the revision of some legislative proposals on waste as well as a general action plan with the aim of laying the foundations of the circular economy in order to improve global competitiveness, to promote sustainable economic growth and to create new jobs.

Legislative revisions relate to: Directive 2008/98/ EC (Waste Framework Directive), Directive 1999/31/EC (Landfill Directive), Directive 94/62 EC (packaging and packaging waste), Directive 2003/53/EC (end-of-life vehicles), Directive 2006/66/ EC (batteries and accumulators) and Directive 2012/19/EC (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). The first action plan on the circular economy integrated these proposal establishing measures that act as “missing link” in the circular economy and deals with all the

Staring from the European Commission reconnaissance, we mapped the level of GPP in the 28 countries of the EU.3 The level of implementation, for the purpose of this reconnaissance, is based on three indicators: presence of a national GPP plan, purchasing sectors for which environmental requirements have been established and compulsoriness of introduced regulations. The aim of this European overview on GPP is also to start further economic and structural in-depth studies, both at national and European level. For instance, what is the impact entailed by these regulations in each specific sector? Are businesses equipped to satisfy the high demand of the green market that is coming? What will the impacts on the global green economy be? And on the huge portion of 14% of the EU GDP, represented by the public procurement of products, works and services amounting to about €1.8 trillion a year?4

information: ec.europa. eu/environment/circulareconomy/index_en. 3. “National Gpp Action Plans (policies and guidelines)” offers an overview of GPP implementation in the EU28 countries (last update October 2015); 4. Report of the European Commission, “Public Procurement Indicators 2013”, 17th June 2015 ( These data do not include utilities and refer back to 2013, with a 0.67% increase compare to 2012 data.

































































renewablematter 11. 2016 GPP implementation in the European states AAA  National action plan on GPP/Environmental criteria/Expectation of full compulsoriness AA+  National action plan on GPP/Environmental criteria/Limited compulsoriness of some criteria AA  National action plan on GPP/Environmental criteria/Lack of compulsoriness A  National action plan on GPP/Lack of environmental criteria/Lack of compulsoriness B  Lack of national action plan on GPP/Lack of environmental criteria/Lack of compulsoriness













Plan adopted by Cabinet Ministers in July 2014 concerning 14 categories of products, partly based on the criteria of the EU-toolkit

Textile products and leasing, IT equipment in transports, products and services, catering, indoor lighting, electrical appliances, infrastructure (indoor and outdoor), construction, electricity, gardening products and cleaning services, office supplies, paper, event management

The Federal Agency for Procurement, on Ministry of Finance’s advice, must include GPP in its purchases of road vehicles (implementation of Directive 2009/33 EC) regarding energy consumption, carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide

Flanders: Strategic action plan on GPP (2015-2020), passed on 18th September 2015. Brussels: Ordinance on including environmental and ethical clauses for public procurements, passed on 8th May 2014 (implementation decree expected in 2016). Walloon Region: 2013 Action plan (will be renewed in 2016). Five circulars adopted even by the government: one general circular on available tools and four on various categories of products

Environmental criteria on products and services. For each category, specific criteria are being devised: •• construction materials •• catering •• paints

Criteria developed at national level are recommended. Lacking these, it is advised to adopt EU regulations on GPP. When both are lacking, neighbouring countries’ regulations can be taken as reference

2012-2014 National action plan on GPP, passed on 13th October 2011

Energy efficiency criteria for 5 categories of products: office IT equipment, air conditioning and cooling, electrical appliances and office and street lighting, motor vehicles

In the PPL Bill, energy efficiency requirements concerning road vehicles are expected to be compulsory for public procurements

2015-2017 National action plan for green public procurement, passed in August 2015

Electric vehicles

The central government is expected to buy only high energy efficiency products, services and buildings

Second national action plan on GPP, passed on 31st January 2012

EU criteria on GPP are recommended for: office equipment, paper, electricity, cleaning products and services, hygiene products, construction of buildings and roads, catering products and services, furniture and textile goods, gardening products and services


Regulation for the implementation of environmental requirements of public procurement based on the EU toolkit

Office furniture and IT equipment

Government Decision 465/2010 does not provide for a legal obligation, but for political advice

Intelligent public procurement strategy, passed in October 2013

Electrical equipment, wood and transport

State agencies must buy “sustainable” wood products and/or wood-based products and must follow guidelines for products using electricity established by the Danish Energy Agency



Food, catering, vehicles and transport, construction, energy services, textile (work garments). Forthcoming: furniture, cleaning services, professional household appliances and printing services

The government decision is compulsory for central government bodies


B -

AA+ Government Decision for the promotion of environmental and energy solutions for public procurement, passed on 13th June 2013












National action plan on GPP, passed in March 2015

ISSUING OF ENVIRONMENTAL CRITERIA AND AFFECTED CATEGORIES OF PRODUCTS Eco products and services, timber and wood products, ecological paper, high energy efficiency services for the construction sector (heating and cooling), wood as a building material, high energy efficiency public buildings, office textile products and cleaning


COMPULSORINESS Grenelle Law 1, set objecitves regarding: vehicles, dematerialized communication technology, sustainable forest management, organic and sustainable food, development of car-sharing and environmental impact of government buildings. There are several guidelines: • Prime minister guidelines (2005) for the ethical behaviour of the State on energy saving (n° 5.102 / SG); • Prime minister guidelines (2008) for the ethical behaviour of the State on sustainable development; • Prime minister guidelines (2009) on public buildings and properties

National strategy on GPP (at federal level): programme for climate protection and integrated energy (Integriertes Energie – und Klimaprogramm IEKP), Regulation 24. Procurement of high energy efficiency product and services (2008, reviewed in 2012 and 2013)

Construction, office equipment and appliances, vehicles, electrical appliances, heating systems, electronic equipment, equipment for electricity, cleaning and hygiene, furniture and furnishings, garden equipment, sustainable events

A decree on the supply of wood products (federal level) provides for wood products bought by the federal administration to derive from sustainably-managed plantations. The new version of the German regulation on public procurement provides for the obligation to obtain an LCC analysis of tenderers




A decree is being drawn up by the national Ministry for Development



A national action plan (Green Tenders) passed in January 2012

For the following categories of products EU criteria on GPP are recommended: construction, transport, energy, food and catering, textiles, cleaning products, paper and IT equipment


National action plan on GPP, passed on 11th April 2008 (updated on 10th April 2013)

Construction, incontinence aids, street furniture, paper, fabrics, street lighting, office furniture, catering, IT, doors and windows, energy services for buildings, vehicles, cleaning services, toner, urban waste management, green space management. In development: cleaning services in hospitals, street lighting services, road construction

The Procurement Code, Decree 50/2016 provides for the obligation for all public administrations to buy at least 50% of ecosustainable products (100% for high-energy consumption products and construction). Decree 24th May 2016 introduced distinct thresholds (see box)

“Green Procurement support plan for 2015-2017”, passed on 17th February 2015

Office paper, IT equipment, office furniture, cleaning products and services, food and catering, public transport, building works and services


Measures on GPP for 2016-2020 expected to be passed in October 2015 (update not available)

Paper, office supplies, printing, private vehicles (cars and light vehicles), buses, public transport services, maintenance services, waste collection vehicles, office IT equipment, toner, dry-cleaning, lamp bulbs, furniture, construction, textiles, gardening, catering, wall panels, street lighting, heat insulation, doors and windows, flooring materials, indoor lighting, bathroom taps

According to amendments of the law on public procurement introduced in 2010, all administrations calling for tenders must apply environmental criteria on public procurement of goods, services and specific works

(Oekologischer Leitfaden) for sustainable building works and the use of building materials



National action plan on GPP, August 2011 (under revision)

Photocopying and graphic paper, gardening, fabrics, office IT equipment, cleaning, construction, transport, furniture, catering, combined production of heat and electricity, street lighting, mobile phones and electricity







National plan for GPP (2007-2010)

Hotel industry, office furniture, cleaning services, construction, textiles, building planning and design, IT equipment, photocopying paper, toner, envelopes, printing services, vehicles and transport

Local and national authorities must take into account environmental aspects and life cycle cost in public procurement and must, where possible, specify the environmental requirements for groups of priority products

The national plan for sustainable development includes specific objective for GPP (2003). It estimates to get to 100% GPP by 2015

45 groups of products: cleaning services, buildings, gas and electricity, IT equipment, catering, furniture, toner, image processing equipment, printing services, office supplies, street lighting, work garments, 6 transport sets, ITC services and audio-visual equipment, traffic control systems, sludge treatment, infrastructural works (construction, excavation, site’s preparation and reclamation, maintenance and demolition) sewage systems, cables, flowers, events and accommodation facilities

The central government is bound by a parliamentary motion. Local governors are bound by signed agreements

Third national plan for GPP (2013-2016), passed on 3rd April 2013



National strategy for GPP for 2008-2010, passed in 2007. Waiting for a new strategy to be passed

Construction, transport, energy, office equipment, IT equipment, office supplies including paper, cleaning products, maintenance services for public buildings


Bill establishing a legal framework for GPP is being discussed



National action plan for GPP for 2011-2015 (being updated for 2016-2020)

Cleaning products and service, construction, photocopying and graphic paper, electricity, catering, furniture, image equipment, office IT equipment, textiles, transport


National plan for GPP, passed on 21st May 2009

Paper, electricity, office equipment, furniture, transport, food and catering, construction, cleaning


Construction and maintenance, energy, transport, office equipment, paper and publications, furniture, cleaning products and services, events

2015 Decree is being passed. It includes measures for the mandatory use of environmental criteria

National action plan, passed on 8th March 2007

Vehicles and transport, IT and telecommunications, cleaning and dry-cleaning services, office equipment, furniture and fabrics, hospital care, catering, indoor lighting, construction, school buildings (without toxic substances), toys, duvets and mattresses

Mandatory for government bodies buying/leasing ecological cars and taxis

• Greening Government Commitments: a government policy for Greening operations and procurement • Scottish Government Sustainable Procurement Action Plan • Welsh Assembly Government’s Procurement Policy • Northern Ireland’s plan

12 categories of about 60 products: construction, building materials, electrical materials, food and catering, furniture, horticulture, office ITC equipment, paper, fabrics, transport and water-based products



Not specified















AA National plan for GPP, passed on 21st January 2008


Source: Overview edited by the author of “National Gpp Action Plans (policies and guidelines)”, Report by the EC.


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This overview also helps us imagine the level of creation of a fully GPP society, that is characterized by a global market strongly based on partly “forced” public procurement of products and services with the least environmental impact. Just to give you a few examples: a society

with high performance public lighting, with public buildings with high environmental sustainability standards (from planning to building and maintenance), with office and school furniture made with recycled and noxious-substance-free materials. And with school canteens serving organic and local food. Will we get there?

Compulsoriness of GPP in Italy In Italy, GPP became compulsory with the adoption of the “procurement directive package” (2014/24/EC, 2014/24/EC and 2014/25/EC) by Dlgs 50/2016 which came into force on 20th April 2016: the new “Procurement Code”. This regulation orders all public adminstrations5 (art. 34) to include environmental minimum requirements (that is EMRs adopted by the Ministry of Environment) in planning and call for tenders documentation, according to established minimum thresholds. EMRs refer to each purchasing category of products and services and include the procedure that the public administration must follow to green its procurements: integration in the object of the call for tenders, requisites of competitors, technical specifications that the product or service must possess in order

to be classified as ecosustainable, checking criteria of requirements established by the commissioning body. Central role is given to an offer economically advantageous from a quality/price ratio point of view, assessed according to objective criteria including environmental and social ones and based on costs taking into account life cycle cost, LCC (Articles 94 and subsequent articles). Great importance is given to environmental certifications of products that can be imposed by the commissioning body or accepted as proof but only if they satisfy the high reliability requirements provided for by Article 69. The following table shows some of the environmental minimum requirements issued by the Ministry of Environment, with specific reference to a minimum compulsory application threshold.



Public lighting

Dm 23/12/2013 (under revision)

Office electronic equipment

(Dm 13/12/2013)

Energy services for buildings

Dm 7/3/2012


Dm 28/12/2015

Urban waste management services

Dm 13/2/2014

Public green space management

Dm 13/2/2013

Street furniture

Dm 5/2/2015

Paper (in reams)

Dm 12/10/2009, updated by Dm 4/4/ 2013

Cleaning services and supply of cleaning products

Dm 24/5/2012

Office furniture

Dm 22/2/2011 under revision

Cartridges for printers

Dm 13/2/2014

Textile products

Dm 22/2/2011 under revision

Incontinence aids

Dm 28/12/2015

Vehicles for road transport

Dm 8/5/2012

Social aspects of calls for tenders

Dm 6/6/2012

Collective catering services and food provision

Dm 27/5/2011

5. Public administrations, local authorities, other non-economic public bodies, public law bodies, associations, unions and consortia.



50% till 2016 62% in 2017 71% in 2018 84% in 2019 100% from 2020 (Dm 24/5/2016)


Even < 50%



renewablematter 11. 2016

Public Procurements

Get even Greener

€42 billion to Italy to achieve targets in the fields of – for instance – innovation, education, transport and the environment: the role of European structural funds to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The inclusion of EMRs in the call for tenders process to regulate green procurement. by Enrico Cancila

Enrico Cancila, an economist specialized in environmental management, is the coordinator of the GPP Working Group and European funds, the States General of the Green Economy, ERVET, and in charge of Unità di sviluppo economico e ambiente (economic and environmental development group), Agenzia di sviluppo dell’Emilia Romagna (Emilia Romagna’s development agency).

Partnership Agreement 2014-2020, www.agenziacoesione. AccordoPartenariato/ 1. Dlgs 50/2016 (art. 34).

Structural funds are an intervention tool created and managed by the European Union, sever-year programmes so that member States can embark on smart, inclusive and sustainable growth where the sustainability principle will have to inspire across the board the actions of all countries funded. They are the biggest source of funding for both national and regional projects: they take up to 35% of EU’s total budget. In Italy, the partnership agreement, adopted on 29th October 2014, represents a reference framework for the operational planning of EU resources between 2014 and 2020 through national and regional programmes (PON and POR respectively), and it is structured in 11 thematic targets. Each target attracts the allocation of financial resources relevant to one or more reference funds (see table 1). In particular they can be divided into EFRD – European Fund for Regional Development (financing mainly production activity in the industrial and service sector), ESF – European Social Fund (people and training), EAFRD – European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (agriculture), and EMFF – European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (coastal areas, fishing). Some targets pursue purely environmental aims (water and waste management, risk forecasting

and adaptation to climate change, reclamation of polluted sites, production of renewable energy and energy saving, biodiversity), while others will only fund actions partly linked to the environment. This is the case of the transport sector where a share of the funds will be assigned to sustainability (rail/sea transportation) or to research and innovation envisaging the inclusion of actions supporting process of technological transfer and cooperation in companies based on low carbon-emission economy. Or education and training where there are clear references to environmental and sustainability themes. Another opportunity that must not be undervalued for the promotion of the green economy is the sizeable investments included in the national programmes such as, for instance, “Enterprises and Competitiveness” and “Research and Innovation.” In this complex planning, fund managing bodies (each region has identified one for each fund, at national level as well, a body has been appointed for each fund) will be asked to interface with the new procurement code1 that as we know envisages compulsoriness of green public procurement (GPP) for commissioning bodies. Environmental Minimum Requirements (EMR) issued by the Ministry of Environment thus become an important fundamental and reference document for procurements that

Policy will be envisaged by structural funds, but this will give rise to both opportunities and criticalities. Surely, when structural funds finance directly projects of public bodies, the application of the new procurement code will entail the use of environmental minimum requirements for certain categories establishing thresholds that must be achieved in terms of total value of the bid. Table 2 presents EMRs that will be most used for analysing the typicality of costs allowed in structural funds.

The expectation is that all processes of public works awarding started by public bodies will be green; if EMRs are not applied, these processes might be appealed. Compared to the previous framework, this is a huge step forward since before compliance was on a voluntary basis and only percentages to be achieved at national and regional levels were established (50% for total contracts in the national action plan) and monitored through a system that never took off and that

Table 1 | Italy – Allocation of Community Resources by thematic target and fund (million of euro)







TT1 – Strengthening research, technological development and innovation






TT2 – Improving access to information and communication technologies, as well as their use and quality






TT3 – Promoting the competiveness of small and medium enterprises, of the agricultural sector and of the fishing and aquaculture sectors






TT4 – Supporting the transition towards a low carbon-emission economy in all sectors






TT5 – Promoting adaptation to climate change, prevention and risk management






TT6 – Protecting the environment and promoting efficient use of resources






TT7 – Promoting sustainable transport systems and elimination of bottlenecks in the main network systems
















TT10 – Investing in education, training and vocational training for expertise and permanent learning






TT11 – Strengthening institutional capacity and promoting efficient public administration





















TT8 – Promoting quality and sustainable employment and supporting workers’ mobility TT9 – Promoting social inclusion, fighting poverty and any form of discrimination

Total TT Technical Assistance Grand Total

Source: Partnership Agreement 2014-2020.



renewablematter 11. 2016 Table 2 | Environmental Minimum Requirements most interesting in structural funds and compulsory percentage of the value of the bid that must be achieved


Urban waste management (DM 13th February 2014)


Street lighting (DM 23rd December 2013) IT electronic products (DM 13th December 2013) Energy services (cooling/heating, driving power, building lightning) (DM 7th March 2012) Road vehicles (DM 6th May 2012, updated in November 2012) Construction (DM 24th December 2015) Source: ERVET.

2. DM 24th May 2016 has been passed. It increases the percentages of EMRs application (for product categories now at 50%) starting from 2017, to reach 100% by 2020. 3. EMRs on road transport draws on the method introduced by 2009/33/EC (Dlgs 24/2011). 4. It has been introduced with EC Communication 14.12.2007 – Com (2007) 799.

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did not provided for any sanction for non-fulfilment. This is a positive element that will guarantee a stronger application of EMRs and an increase of environmental sustainability in public procurements, but there are still some doubts. First of all, it is clear that the application of EMRs cannot represent a real incentive towards “radical” environmental innovation. On the one hand, the contents of the very environmental requirements, it is not a chance that they are called “minimum,” despite stimulating low environmental impact products they do not go beyond the threshold of innovation already largely present on the market (even in virtue of the non-discrimination principle). On the other, they stem from the need to renew some criteria issued a long time ago and on the old procurement code and on laws preceding Collegato Ambientale (environmental law promoting green economy measures while reducing the excessive use of natural resources, translator’s note). Another critical element is the lack of assessment tools of life cycle costing introduced by the new procurement code. Life cycle costing is difficult to carry out because there is not, not even at European level, a clear and realistic assessment method that can be used for different product categories as it emerged from real applications of EMRs in the transport sector.3 This lack implies a clear difficulty in defining a correct trade-off between economic and environmental costs. Secondly, it is useful not to undervalue what has already emerged at general level, in other words that drastic cuts of public spending do not stimulate public bodies, and in general

commissioning bodies, to invest in “advanced” green public procurements that could entail additional costs. As a matter of fact, although incurred expenses are not included in the Stability Pact when using European funds, it is feared that recipient bodies will use them to meet costs that they will not be able to afford with ordinary revenue. These elements lead us to say that if we want GPP application to become a driving force for innovation and for achieving substantial environmental results in Italy, we must act quickly on structural funds in order to provide commissioning bodies (and managing authorities) simpler and revised tools and information. Lastly, it is worth highlighting an element of structural funds synergically linked to GPP: that is the opportunity to finance pre-commercial procurements (PCP).4 Pre-commercial procurement is a call for tenders only for R&D services in order to buy a service or a product not present on the market, through a series of models of award of contracts. PCP envisages the sharing of risks and benefits between the commissioning body and enterprises, co-financing by participating enterprises, trial on a limited amount of new products and services. PCP takes care of procurements “dealing with R&D services differing from those whose results belong exclusively to the commissioning body so that it can use them while carrying out its activity, on condition that the service is completely paid for by such administration” and could be synergically linked to what the structural funds finance for targets 1 and 3 (research and competitiveness).

The Concrete


Concrete road paving may last up to 50 years. It is 100% recyclable, safer and, in the long run, cheaper. But Italy still prefers bitumen.

by Roberto Rizzo


It increases the safety of road tunnels in case of fire, it dramatically reduces energy consumption for lighting and has a considerably longer life expectancy compared to other materials used for road surfacing. Moreover, in a circular economy perspective, it is a locally-sourced material that, once it reaches its end of life, can be 100% recycled. There are many reasons to prefer concrete as a material for road tunnel surfacing over bitumen. This is already happening in many countries, but not in Italy. And if more evidence were needed, life cost analysis (LCA) is available, showing that the more costly asphalt paving saves considerable more money compared to bitumen in the long run. “The use of concrete can guarantee 50-year durability in road tunnel paving. Such length of time can be extended with possible extraordinary maintenance”, explains Giuseppe Marchese from Federbeton, a confederate of the Italian Industrial Federation of the associations in the field of cement and concrete.

“If the ordinary maintenance on a bitumen road is regularly carried out every year, with concrete it can be done every 10-15 years. This is because concrete is a much more compact material than bitumen from a chemical point of view, thus being more resistant to atmospheric agents and friction from tyres. Then, with extraordinary maintenance, at least 4-5 centimetres of the road surface can be eliminated for rebuilding: with bitumen this is necessary every 4-5 years, with concrete, every 50 years.” Why is Asphalt More Popular in Italy? Considering the many advantages, one wonders why in Italy road tunnel paving is still carried out with asphalt rather than concrete. What’s more, Italy boasts the longest mileage of road tunnels within the Transeuropean road network (TERN). “Firstly, it is for cultural reasons,” Marchese comments. “Historically, in Italy the building industry uses concrete. This applies to residential buildings (detached houses


renewablematter 11. 2016 and blocks of flats), but also infrastructure. This building tradition where concrete is king is accompanied by an equally well-established habit of building roads with asphalt. The concrete tradition has been lost within the building sector and as a result today there no longer are operating companies in this field. In addition, companies often think short term when it comes to roads: they prefer to build them at a low cost with asphalt, envisaging maintenance on a yearly basis, rather than investing more heavily at the start while considering future savings

Roberto Rizzo is a science journalist. He is specialized in energy and environmental issues and since 2010 has taught in a Master’s of Scientific Journalism at SISSA of Trieste.

for the community in the long term thanks to concrete building.” Italian and European Regulations Back in the early 2000s, the road accidents occurred in the Mont Blanc, the Tauerntunnel and the Gotthard Tunnels have pushed the European Union to improve the level of safety in tunnels. The European Commission introduced directive 2004/54/CE, establishing minimum safety requirements for TERN galleries, without imposing the use of one particular

Overall Discounted Cost for Paving and Lighting – 20-year useful life Source: Department of Civil, Constructional and Environmental Engineering (DICEA) of the University of Rome.

Overall Discounted Cost for Paving and Lighting (Euro/m2)

800 700 600 500 400



Bituminous Conglomerate

200 100 0 500





Tunnel Length (m)

Comparison of cumulative costs per 2,000 m long tunnel – 10 million transits/year Source: Department of Civil, Constructional and Environmental Engineering (DICEA) of the University of Rome.





Cumulative cost €


Bituminous Conglomerate











Operating year




Case Studies material over another. Such directive has been harmonized in Italy with Dlgs 264/2006, which, contrary to what happened in other European countries (Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain), has not specific road paving characteristics to adopt. The above-mentioned countries have passed regulations and guidelines including indications regarding road tunnel paving and requirements for the most suitable materials. Regulations in such countries, therefore, always mandate the use of concrete for road tunnel pavements. The German law is an exception, it does not mandate the specific use of concrete, but rather the use of non inflammable material, which, in case of fire does not release toxic fumes. Such characteristics are 100% met by concrete – an inert and non-combustible material – which does not release toxic fumes and keeps its structural performance even at high temperatures. The latter

guarantees enhanced safety thanks to the fact that the road surface is not deformed. Less Maintenance Moreover, concrete road building fits in perfectly with the circular economy’s philosophy, adds Giuseppe Marchese. “First, because such roads are locally sourced, because concrete is by nature a local material and contributes to the development of the local economy. Second, when the road reaches the end of its life, its material can be 100% recovered to make recycled inert materials to be used for road subbase, filling or to make new concrete. It is essential, though, to plan from the start an adequate solution with concrete: every tunnel and traffic situation has its own peculiarities. The same is true in the building sector: a concrete building which is meant to stay in sea water for a long

Saving with colour Concrete pavement is of a light colour, thus boasting a higher reflection coefficient compared to those in bitumen: 0.10 against 0.07. Therefore, drivers can spot more easily possible obstacles and perceive with a higher degree of precision the road size, which is crucial to enhance safety in a tunnel. Moreover, a higher reflexion coefficient entails less energy consumption for lighting. In a study conducted by Università La Sapienza in Rome, dual carriageway tunnels with different lenghts (750 m, 1,000 m, 1,250 m and 1,500 m, 2,000 m) were taken into consideration. For each length and level of traffic, both concrete and bitumen have been tested; then a technical-economical analysis of the pavements and the LED lighting system (80,000 hours in total) have been analysed with reference to their whole life cycle, estimated from 20 to 30 years. They found out that in tunnels less than 750 m long, the formation expenses of the tunnel (road building and LED lighting system) were lower for the concrete paving. As the tunnels become longer, the economic advantage of concrete paving diminishes as far as the formation expenses are concerned, but the overall cost per square metre of concrete paving is lower compared to those in bitumen, regardless of the period of the analysis. Researchers have also worked out the break-even year, where concrete paving has an overall cost (building, maintenance and lighting)

lower than the bitumen one. In galleries less than 750 m long, concrete proves cheaper already from the first year, while in those longer than 1,000 m they are cheaper only after a few years. Considering all costs for the entire life of the paving, a total saving between 23 and 27% is achieved, depending on the length of the tunnel and its useful life. Paola Di Mascio, Professor of the Department of Civil, Constructional and Environmental Engineering at Università La Sapienza in Rome, reckons that “the study conducted together with Professoressa Laura Moretti (La Sapienza University –Civil Construction and Environmental Engineering) highlighted clear economic sustainability of concrete road tunnel paving. Indeed, compared to outdoor road paving, whose advantage only emerges in the medium-long term thanks to reduced maintenance, there is an economic advantage already in the total formation expenses of the paving and lighting system (in the case of LED), especially in the tunnels shorter than 1,200 m. Such economic advantage is even higher if maintenance costs within its useful life are taken into account.”



renewablematter 11. 2016 The Road Chosen in Laives In December 2013, the Laives Tunnel, 2,858 m, the longest in the autonomous province of Bolzano, was opened to the public. It is a single carriageway two-way tunnel, with a 3.75 lane running in each direction, built according to the criteria of the “Functional and geometrical regulations for road planning and building” enacted by the province of Bolzano in 2006. Since according to such regulations it is classified as Class A, the client and architects decided to replace the bituminous conglomerate paving of the original project with a concrete one. Therefore, taking into consideration the Austrian law (since the Italin one does not cover concrete), non-reinforced 20 cm wide concrete slabs have been used, laid on a 5 cm bituminous conglomerate separating layer put over a 30 cm subbase. The cost to build such paving, including the separating bituminous layer and the making of all joints, was of €58 per square metre, with 25% estimated savings in lighting. The increase in cost to build such work was only 0,7%.

Such roads are locally sourced, because concrete is by nature a local material and contributes to the development of the local economy.

Difference in cost between bituminous conglomerate and concrete Tunnel Length


Source: Department of Civil, Constructional and Environmental Engineering (DICEA) of the University of Rome.

Saving percentage using concrete

26% 27%

20 years 30 years


26% 26%


26% 25%


25% 25%


23% 24%

time must guarantee a different performance compared to another one built high up in the mountains.” Thinking of replacing existing bitumen roads with cocrete ones is slightly more challenging, in that generally speaking, in Italy, services (for example the gas or water networks) are situated below street level rather than on the side, so concrete paving would entail very challenging work. “Apart form these situations, we could use concrete virtually everywhere,” explains Giuseppe Marchese. “If all galleries, road junctions and roads leading to toll booths were made of concrete, where the road surface udergoes particular stress due to traffic, the community would save a lot of money. Then, I believe that concrete not only would be advantageous but indispensible in road tunnels over a kilometre long for safety reasons and for the savings in street lighting.” “From a more general point of view, the use of concrete eliminates social costs, not included in the technical-economical assessments, linked to inconvenience and risks for the ever-present maintenance works

for the road surface and for the visibility conditions” states Giuseppe Mancini, full professor at the Department of Structural, Construction and Geotechnical Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Milan. “Moreover, the cultural delay Italy is experiencing with regard to the use of concrete in road tunnels stems from a more general socio-cultural backwardness in the extraordinary evolution of ‘concrete’ as a material over the last twenty years. Nowadays, in Italy and the world over, the so called tailor-made concrete is produced, able to accommodate all performing requirements an architect may have in mind, thus allowing the building of durable and high-performing road surfaces that can withstand any accidents that may occur during their lifetime.”


Integrated in the Bio-based Economy is Needed to Meet Climate Targets by Maurizio Cocchi

Maurizio Cocchi, Editor-in-Chief, BE-Sustainable Magazine and Bioenergy Consultant, ETA-Florence Renewable Energies.

In order to keep the increase of Earth’s temperature within 2 °C we should not release more than 1,000 billion tonnes of carbon. Since we have already reached 730, immediate and efficient solutions are needed. The sustainable use of biomasses is one of them. The 24th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Amsterdam has provided a unique overview of the state of play of the biomass sector and of its fundamental role in achieving the transition to a low carbon economy. After the historical Climate agreement at COP21, international institutions and scientific organizations agree that biomass and the bio-based economy are crucial to meet the 2 °C target of climate change. Scientific evidence indicates that 730 Gt (billion tonnes) out of the 1,000 Gt of carbon budget available to keep global temperatures below this threshold were already consumed, therefore the time we have to put in place effective measures is limited. We need low carbon solutions that need to be delivered now and the sustainable use of biomass is undoubtedly included. Bioenergy itself

can provide 10%-30% of all total CO2 emission reductions needed and this should be achieved by putting bioenergy in the integrated context of the bio-based economy, in order to maximize the efficiency of how we use this resource, to produce renewable energy, food and materials. The bio-based economy is an economy in which fossil-based raw materials are replaced by renewable raw materials to produce energy, fuels, chemicals, plastics and all kinds of everyday products. The Netherlands – this year the hosting country of EUBCE – represents a good example of how this sector can already contribute to generating growth and development. This sector is already worth 2.6 to €3.0 billion of added value (as of 2011) in the country, including materials, chemicals and energy sectors. The processing


renewablematter 11. 2016

1. Kwant K., “Bio-based Energy and Materials in the Netherlands”, BE-Sustainable Magazine, May 2016 (www.besustainable 2. Panoutsou C., C. Carrez, “A Vision for 1 Billion Dry Tonnes Lignocellulosic Biomass by 2030 in Europe”, BE-Sustainable Magazine, May 2016 (www.besustainable

of crops and upgrading of residues within the agricultural sector is increasingly improving. Industrial consortia are developing ways to extract protein-rich residues from plant feedstock to be used as food. Other industrial research initiatives are finding ways to extract enzymes from plants for use the chemical industry. The Dutch chemical industry has set a target of replacing 15% of fossil resources in chemicals by 2030 and initiatives are already advanced, for the production of bio-based building blocks (i.e. succinic acid), bio-based polymers and resins, bio-plastics and composites.1 Mobilizing Sustainable Biomass One of the main challenges to attract investments in the European bio-based economy is mobilising biomass feedstocks in a sustainable and resource efficient way. This also implies using lignocellulosic feedstocks, that do not compete with food crops. A careful review of the available scientific literature indicates that mobilizing one billion dry tons of lignocellulosic biomass by 2030 in Europe is possible and this can be done sustainably.2 This would mean doubling the current use of biomass and would be sufficient to meet the expected demand both for carbon neutral fuels and materials. This biomass can be derived from four major

EUBCE 2016 Combining a world-class international scientific conference and a constantly growing industrial exhibition. This is EUBCE’s key to success. A winning combination making this event one of the leading platforms of biomasses in the world. The 24th EUBCE’s edition key objective, held between 6th to 9th June 2016 in Amsterdam, was to promote interaction between research, the industry and politics. During the conference themes such as biofuel conversion, bioenergies, biorefineries, industrial applications of the results obtained through research were tackled, including policies and impacts on the environment. Last but not least, an analysis of the role of biomasses in the emerging bioeconomy. EUBCE is funded by European and international organizations such as the European Commission, UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Sector, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, The Global Bioenergy Partnership, the European Biomass Industry Association and other organizations. The technical programme is coordinated by The EC’s DG Joint Research Centre.

Info www.besustainable

sources. The first one is represented by agricultural residues such as cereal straw, corn stover etc. that are currently underutilized and which could provide considerable amounts of biomass, even considering strong restrictions on their removal in order to preserve soil fertility. A second source is represented by sustainable forestry, which is already a major provider of lignocellulosic biomass (i.e. for the pulp and paper industry). A third source is represented by lignocellulosic wastes (i.e. paper waste, wood fraction of Municipal Solid Waste, garden waste etc.). Finally, additional biomass could derive from dedicated industrial crops (i.e. perennial grasses, reeds et.c) grown on unused and marginal agricultural lands, which are also largely available in Europe. Unsustainable displacement of food and loss of forest cover can be avoided by means of higher resource efficiency in agriculture, livestock management and by restoration of degraded lands. This can also provide major synergies between sustainable bio-based economy and sustainable, resource efficient food production. Advanced Technologies are Available but a Stable Regulatory Framework is Needed After decades of continuous research and technological development, a number of industrial scale demonstration plants is proving that biomass can be effectively converted into energy, advanced biofuels and bio-based products. Some examples: •• in Germany, Verbio’s innovative anaerobic digestion plant produces biomethane for transports from 100% straw, therefore using only agricultural residues, without any use of maize silage or other dedicated crops; •• in Finland, UPM’s Lappeenranta biorefinery converts residues from the pulp industry into renewable diesel; •• in Sweden, Stora Enso’s biorefinery utilizes lignin and hemicellulose to create a range of products for industries such as food packaging, construction, automotive and personal care; •• in Italy, Novamont is implementing a concept of locally integrated bio-refineries for the production of bioplastics and bioproducts from renewable sources, through the reconversion of decommissioned industrial areas. Recognizing the value of those good examples is fundamental to build the consensus needed for finally setting a clear, stable European policy framework, which is still lacking, but is essential to enable the widespread development of the bio-based economy. The attention of policy makers and media has been focussed too much on possible negative effects of bioenergy. Attention needs to shift to the positive results that bioenergy and the bio-based economy can deliver in achieving the low carbon economy.

Case Studies


Regenerates Itself with the Circular Economy Interview with Alessandra Astolfi edited by Ilaria Brambilla

The Rimini Trade Fair celebrates its twentieth anniversary by joining the twin event Key Energy to offer a meeting point for the international economic and sustainabilities excellencies. From 8 th to 11th November 2016.

Alessandra Astolfi – Ecomondo’s Exhibition Manager since its first edition – is in charge of the organization and coordination of Fair events and the development of contents, cooperating with the leading associations in the environmental and green field.

This year, Ecomondo – the international Trade Fair of matter and energy recovery and sustainable development, celebrates its twentieth anniversary. Born in Rimini in 1977 under the name of “Ricicla”, it has grown exponentially thanks to its ability to represent a very important sector for Italy – the environment – which up until then was struggling to lure the market. So, the Trade Fair’s expansion, thanks to the support of consortia and associations, has gone hand in hand with that of the market. For this edition – which will take place from the coming 8th to 11th November – Ecomondo decided to focus on climate change and the circular economy. We talked to Alessandra Astofli, Ecomondo’s Exhibition Manager, to find out what we should expect from the four-day Rimini showcase. “It is a choice that seemed right to us, in line with our mission, which is to study the market in order to meet its needs. One of the objectives of Horizon 2020 – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation – is to place Europe as the leader in the development of a circular economy founded on the concept of sustainability. On the wake of such decision, Rimini will host an exhibition platform developed around the circular economy and the fight against climate change criteria.” Who will Ecomondo 2016’s main protagonists be? “All the stakeholders of the entire environmental and energy sector, with particular attention

to the green technologies and biobased industry. The quality leap towards a new society marked by the concepts of the circular economy will only be possible if we are able to acquire adequate knowledge on the availability of secondary raw materials and bring together all the system protagonists (raw material industry, end users, institutions, consumer society) in a single platform in order to achieve common objectives of reusing and recyling along the whole production and distribution chains. It’s no coincidence that we will develop our exhibition offer with many new things: first of all the first exhibition in Europe of the existing excellencies and case histories of the circular economy. The idea is to make visible and accessible to those involved in the sector, industry, politicians and institutions, the already many excellencies within the circular economy, so that they can act as points of reference for other similar situations. “A special focus will be devoted to energy efficiency in industrial terms and urban application solutions within the Sustainable City area, which will become a sort of hub where any progress made in the field of efficiency, energy and building will be made available to the public. “The participating companies have set up eco-initiatives able to transform traditional economies and to make European citizens’ lifestyles more sustainable. “Also, the sector devoted to integrated water



renewablematter 11. 2016 Info

Ilaria N. Brambilla is a geographer and an environmental communicator, collaborating with research institutes, communication agencies and with Italian and international newspapers on sustainability issues.

Horizon 2020, programmes/horizon2020/ Stati Generali della Green Economy, Fondazione per lo sviluppo sostenibile, www.fondazione english

cycle management will be organized according to the circular economy and process efficiency’s perspectives. Will Verstraete, professor emeritus of microbial ecology at the University of Gent (Belgium) and chairman of the cluster on recovery of resources and urban water treatment plants of the International Water Association will give a speech on the subject. Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for the environment and many other representatives of the European Commission will also be there to talk about the quality and strategicity of the themes tackled during the four-day Rimini showcase.” Ecomondo has always offered quality meeting and seminars for experts. This year, what can we expect with regard to the circular economy? “We organized many top quality meetings. Readers may be able to consult them online. The themes tackled are topical and our Fair is an essential educational and updating point of reference. The conferences offered are aimed at the cultural promotion of secondary raw materials and the circular economy. The technical-scientific committees will be led by Fabio Fava (Ecomondo) and by Gianni Silvestrini (Key Energy). Moreover, in the first two days of the Fair, the States General of the Green Economy, organized by the Green Economy’s national council made of 64 associations of green enterprises, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of the Economic Development with the technical support of the Foundation for the sustainable development chaired by Edo Ronchi has been confirmed. “Moreover, this edition will still host the section organized together with the European Commission and the Public Private Partnership Biobased Industry devoted to Biobased Industry & Bioeconomy. The most important events include ‘Sustainable food and water nexus in the Mediterranean area’ and ‘Horizon 2020 and the bio-based industries joint undertaking (BBI JU): opportunities for jobs and growth in the mediterranean region.’ Last but not least: the conference by Atia Iswa and Acr+ ‘The Circular economy and urban waste management: let’s start and... move about. What must change, how and when,’ where some light will be shed on the implications of the implementation of principles of the circular economy in the urban waste management system.” By the way, let’s talk about the exhibition area in Rimini. Will the event be managed according to the principles of the circular economy (for instance reusable materials, waste management and valorization system)? “Of course. And there is more: the whole of the exhibition area has a low environmental

Ecomondo on a World Tour Ecomondo, which during its last edition was visited by over one hundred thousand people, is the hub for the world-leading advanced Italian know-how in the field which the exhibition increasingly helps to export to many countries. This year it did so to Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Romania and Oman. Overall, 32 stops around the world, in every continent, with the aim to maximize the international component of the event. Moreover, thanks to a capillary network of contacts, Rimini will host delegations of highly qualified foreign buyers; in addition, some activities are already underway in key countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Balcans. Also in Iran, China, Russia, the US and Brazil where – as we have seen – Italy has already exported one of its most virtuous events.

impact. The energy used is produced with a last-generation PV system located on the pavillions, recirculating water fountains, the wood used for the ceilings comes from Scandinavian controlled and reforested lands. Also, condensing boilers and ‘cold accumulators’ for air conditioning are used.” This year Ecomondo and Key Energy – the parallel exhibition to Ecomondo focussed on energy efficiency – will join forces. What triggered such decision? “Ecomondo and Key Energy already represented the multifaceted world of sustainability. This is why, once integrated, they will enrich and complement each other. I would like to mention the other important events in the field: Key Wind, the Italian leading event for wind farms; H2R Mobility for Sustainability, with the great car brands and their cutting-edge models: methane, LPG, electric, hybrid or plug-in cars; Città Sostenibile (Sustainable City), the Italian way to Smart Cities and Eco Condos, the national event of the condo living. “Last but not least, ecomondo Brazil, which will take place for the second edition in San Paolo from 4th to 6th October. Combining the Italian experience of Rimini Fiera and that of Fimai, the first edition of Ecomondo Brazil in 2015 represented an excellent business platform in the sector of environmental technologies at international level. The 2016 objectives are to present the global market with increasingly innovative equipment and solutions for sustainable development, with a focus on the water, waste and renewable energy sectors and on facilitating contacts amongst investors of the green economy in Brazil and potential foreign trade partners.”


Columns The Media Circle

A Window into Tomorrow Roberto Giovannini, journalist, writes about economy, society, energy, environment, green economy and technology.

The circular economy and the philosophy of recovery and reuse are luckily spreading, both in the economic field and in everyday life. In the same way as citizens and families know about separate collection, companies are aware that wasting energy or water is folly, even media, cinema, the cultural world and that extraordinary means of “mass education” that the web has become take on board and sometimes amplify this virtuous trend. This time we talk about Demain (Tomorrow), a film by Mélanie Laurent and Cyril Dion: she is one Quentin Tarantino’s actresses, while he is an environmental activist, spokesman and co-founder of Colibris Movement. Released in France close to COP21 in Paris, this documentary has become a real success story: viewed by over 1.3 million people in France. The film, presented to the recent XIX festival CinemAmbiente in Turin (Italian premiere), will be distributed in Italy by Lucky Red in October 2016.

Mouvement Colibris,


“Demain,” Mélanie Laurent stated, “was born after reading an alarming essay on Nature; from the very beginning the intention was to go beyond the simple exposure. We know that the environment is in peril, that our climate is changing, that we are facing terrible risks and dangers; so terrible to persuade us to take a sort of depress inaction. Demain, on the other hand, is a real celebration of hope, a window into a possible different tomorrow, a spur to individual and collective resistance. It gracefully describes what is happening to our planet, showing solutions and telling inspirational tales. Laurent and Dion have visited 10 countries (Europe, USA, India and Africa) with a team of four people meeting “pioneers” that are re-inventing agriculture, economy, energy supply, democracy and education. In short, the film restores the positive image of a world full of initiatives, social and environmental challenges that are not doomed to fail but that are rather tackled with practical solutions that more and more people are adopting successfully. Demain supports an optimistic vision that offers clues of what the world of tomorrow could be like if we did our bit. “In the past,” Dion declared, “we fell in love with a tale, that from Hollywood and the USA, making us believe that we would have been happy consuming and producing ad infinitum. This narration has transformed our

world. So, when we decided to shoot Demain we thought about how to make people fall in love with a different model. This is why we produced a film full of hope, with people that I hope viewers will want to imitate.” So the documentary puts forwards solutions that after all are easy to copy, with local impact and not global maximalist alternatives that, as we already now, are difficult, if not impossible, to implement. Dion and Laurent quote some studies in the field of neurosciences: if we are told a piece of catastrophic new and we are not offered viable solutions and alternatives, we inevitably adopt flight, negation, removal, resignation and cynic mechanisms. But in order to put right the many problems of our planet we need enthusiasm, creativity, will, hope, and desire to do things. Some examples? In the first part devoted to agriculture, the film shows how in Detroit, a social urban desert following the car industry collapse, as many as 1,600 urban farms were created where citizens grow and consume their own vegetables. It is a small but extremely important revolution for a country where food on average travels 2,400 km to get from the producer to the consumer. In the chapter devoted to energy, it shows the virtuous examples of Malmö, Reykjavik, Copenhagen and Reunion Island where people are working to achieve the ambitious goal of producing 100% energy from renewable sources. The Danish capital is, as usual, the model city of future: 67% of its inhabitants uses public transports and 26% travels by bike. The third part deals with the topic of alternative currencies, illustrating successful examples such as Totnes in the UK where they print £21 banknotes (!) with the portrait of David Bowie. In the chapter on education, Demain moves to Finland where teaching is considered a national resource. The last chapter is devoted to politics. It is the last piece to put into place, and amongst the discussed cases we find that of Kuthambakkam in India where advanced mechanisms of direct democracy are used.


renewablematter 11. 2016

Innovation Pills

The Demise of Screws and Nails Federico Pedrocchi, is a science journalist. He directs and presents the weekly programme Moebius broadcast by Radio 24 – Il Sole 24 ore.

As big as a blender or a container, in between these two extremes a plethora of formats. 3D printers – a very hot topic at the moment – can build a lot of things: jewels and house walls, dental prostheses and car bodies. The peculiar thing is that this tool enables those who have manufactured the same objects before to make the objects of their dreams that traditional tools did not allow them to make. Many artisans trying 3D printers discover this potential. It is also possible to go further, and here things become odder. Thomas Demand is a German artist focusing on the underground world of caves. Stalagmites, stalactites and those multi-layer knolls characterised by layers of sediments accumulated over the millennia. For millions of years, nature has been using 3D printing techniques: he builds his objects layer upon layer. So Demand is building beautiful caves using printers, of course. At the moment, he builds only 3-by-2 m dioramas, but following Christo’s logic, he could go much further. Therefore, we could have those caves that nature could have built, but did not. What next? Let’s wait and see. These are innovations that can open up new worlds, that is, they do not limit themselves –although their potential is revolutionary – to enable us to make what has always been done with other methods. And so here we come to screws and nails. In museums of the most ancient civilizations we always find nails and even screw. Screws, at least wooden ones, are at least 2000-year old because it took a little bit of time to learn to build helicoidal shapes, while nails are obviously more intuitive but less effective in keeping things together. Well the future belongs to glues. A future managed by the materials science, which has changed the concept of glueyness. Advanced glues are based on materials that “interpret” the structure of materials to which they have to stick offering a so-called complementary surface. It is a little bit like climbing walls wearing sticky chewing gums and then you discover hard crampon boots that, adapting to the many juts in the rock face and ice walls, are much more efficient. At the University of Riken in Japan, they have manufactured a strip of sticky

fabric able to hold several hundred kilos attached to glass. New types of glueyness show a wide-spreading trend that goes beyond screws and nails. Since in car accidents pedestrians are hit and thrown onto the road or against another car, some people (those at Google working on a self-driving car) are designing super sticky surfaces to install on cars’ bonnets in order to retain pedestrians and reduce damage. They hold several hundred kilos, but then they can be taken off as if they were Sellotape. This is crucial in the case of pedestrians stuck to bonnets, otherwise they would have to be buried with the cars. In case of minor injuries, their lives could change dramatically becoming rather boring because by being stuck to the bonnet and by obstructing the driver’s view, the car would end up being permanently parked with no chance to go for a spin.


At Ecopneus, we have recovered 1 million tonnes of end-of-life tyres, the weight of 8 cruise ships, in just 4 years. And we have transformed them into something more. Thanks to ethical and transparent work, 100 million end-of-life tyres have made many athletes sweat and have fun becoming basketball courts, tennis courts and football fields. They have reduced noise in offices, transforming themselves into sound-absorbing walls. They have protected thousands of children as shock absorbent rubber on playgrounds. They have covered kilometres of roads with rubberized asphalt and mitigated the vibrations of numerous tramway lines. They have given sustainable energy to companies in Italy and abroad. But most of all, they have done something priceless: they have made our country a more liveable place for future generations.

Renewable Matter #11  

Renewable Matter is the International Magazine focused on the changing relationship between Economy, Society and the Environment. It focuses...

Renewable Matter #11  

Renewable Matter is the International Magazine focused on the changing relationship between Economy, Society and the Environment. It focuses...