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15 | March-April 2017 Bimonthly Publication Edizioni Ambiente

Stefano Boeri: Vertical Beauty •• Roberto Coizet: Enlarging the Map •• Sustainability, the Power of Art

Dossier Bioeconomy/Spain: Sustainable Ambition •• ENEL: Here is the Innovation Formula •• Biobased, Neoclassical and Ex Novo: the New Materials •• France: United We Stand

Watergrabbing: Conflict along the Mekong •• The Resilience of Water •• Packaging vs Waste

Enough with Fake News. On Climate as Well •• Discussing Science with Trump: Mission Impossible?

- S

Circular Economy: Policies and Practices 3 - 5 July 2017 | Venice

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Join keynote speaker William McDonough, co-author of Cradle to Cradle and The Upcycle, high-level government and industry leaders from the Greater Region and the Benelux Union for workshops, company visits, business “matchmaking” and more.



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Circular Cities by Antonio Cianciullo

Circularity is a characteristic of nature. As a matter of fact, the linear economy (mine-goods-landfill is becoming an ever-increasing fast cycle) does not stop circularity, it only diverts it. If we entrust millions of tonnes of dangerous waste to precarious and illegal landfilling we create a circularity of poisons: water tables become veins ready for a lethal injection. If, on the other hand, we devise goods for the recovery of the elements they contain and build a chain for the reuse of waste, we go back to a natural form of circularity, to the logic of life that condemns stupidity to extinction: instead of dangerous substances, we create legal jobs, turnover, and matter to feed a new production cycle. So, we are not faced with choosing between two industrial models, but between a self-destructive system, already unable to avoid the counterblows caused by the build-up of environmental imbalances, and a system able to maintain that balance and offer a long-term solution. Cities become a training area for this choice. Even if perhaps, we should not talk about “cities.” According to Treccani encyclopaedic dictionary, a city is “a very large urban centre with buildings arranged in a more or less regular pattern as to offer good road conditions, with public services and anything necessary to favour social life.” This is not what has happened in many Italian cities since the end of WWII. Houses have not adapted to the expansion of public services, but public services have adapted to houses, which in turn have adapted to undeclarable maps of land interests. Thus, the chaotic expansion of urban areas has deprived the countryside of its nature without conferring these sparsely populated territories cluttered with buildings the status of city. As is the case with illegal landfills, this squandering model has spread poisons. Physical poisons, measurable with the violation of air quality laws. And social poisons that have started to become more apparent when the economic downturn and immigration have disrupted the precarious balance in the outskirts. Faced with this dangerous illegal situation, the circular economy seems not only a possible but also a necessary cure. In the last 40 years, Italy’s arable land has shrunk drastically:

it has lost 5 million hectares, an area amounting to the area of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Liguria combined. And this huge area, over 1.5 million hectares, has been buried under detached houses, warehouses, roads, junctions, pylons and landfills. 7% of the Italian territory is waterproofed, a percentage definitely much higher than the European average. What can be done? In order to curb this damage we must not only reduce soil consumption but also reverse the trend, recovering the green use of paved and built-up land. In other words, we must take nature into cities regenerating critical parts of urban areas. But in order to do this, to gain soil, we must develop buildings vertically, thus gaining space for trees and for the quality of construction. This is the model promoted by Stefano Boeri in an interview by Marco Moro published in this issue of Renewable Matter. “Buildings become a habitat not just for humans, but also for plants and animals. At the same time, together with the advantages in terms of health and quality of life, they have a direct impact on the urban economy. Trees in a urban context contribute to the lowering of temperature inside buildings between 2 to 5 °C, thus allowing a 30% reduction in air conditioning and guaranteeing considerable energy savings. Moreover, plants retain water thus reducing the risk of flooding with all benefits this entails. A series of actions and factors that make projects such as Bosco Verticale (vertical forest) tools to recover and optimize water and energy resources.” Smart buildings (that is, not stupid from a biological, evolutionary point of view) become a necessary but not sufficient condition to define a city jumping from the circularity of poisons to virtuous circularity. They are the hardware of this new model. The software is represented by the virtuous energy interconnections explained by Ernesto Ciorra (ENEL manager for sustainability and innovation), by water resilience of Cap Group described by Emanuele Bompan, by the material recovery chain from demolition and building presented by Roberto Coizet. By combining all these experiences, we obtain a real and economically sound model. We must create a regulatory framework enabling these experiments to win the extremely hard battle of conquering 21st century markets. Politics should embrace this battle wholeheartedly.



15|March-April 2017 Contents


Antonio Cianciullo


Circular Cities

Marco Moro


Lest We Forget Beauty Interview with Stefano Boeri

Carola Marzullo


The Power of Art Interview with Anne-Marie Melster

Sergio Ferraris


Innovation Has its Very Own Formula Interview with Ernesto Ciorra

Roberto Coizet


A Map Enlargement is Required

Emanuele Bompan


Mekong, the Disputed River

Diego Tavazzi


Neoclassical or Ex Novo? Interview with Anna Pellizzari and Emilio Genovesi

Mario Bonaccorso

38 ISSN 2385-2240 Reg. Tribunale di Milano n. 351 del 31/10/2014

Editorial Director Marco Moro Contributors Stefano Boeri, Emanuele Bompan, Mario Bonaccorso, Ernesto Ciorra, Roberto Coizet, Thomas Cristofoletti, Isabel Garcia Carneros, Adrian Deboutiére, Emilio Genovesi, Laurent Georgeault, Roberto Giovannini, Marco Gisotti, Jose Manuel Gonzalez, Sergio Ferraris, Anne-Marie Melster, Carola Marzullo, Letizia Palmisano, Anna Pellizzari, Federico Pedrocchi, Riccardo Pravettoni, Diego Tavazzi, Javier Velasco Alvarez

Think Tank

Editor-in-chief Antonio Cianciullo

Acknowledgments Camilla Pusateri (Stefano Boeri Architetti) Managing Editor Maria Pia Terrosi Editorial Coordinator Paola Cristina Fraschini Editing Paola Cristina Fraschini, Diego Tavazzi Design & Art Direction Mauro Panzeri

Translations Erminio Cella, Laura Coppo, Franco Lombini, Meg Anna Mullan, Mario Tadiello

Errata We would like to report a mistake in Irene Ivoi’s article “When Design Meets Existing Things” published in Renewable Matter, issue 14 of 2017: the laboratory is RISE – Resource upcycling in ENEA’s territorial and production systems. We would like to report a mistake in the English version of the article by Mario Bonaccorso “The Liquid Continent” published in issue 13 of 2016 of Renewable Matter: the correct name of Braudel is Fernand.


Layout Michela Lazzaroni

Dossier Spain Sustainable Ambition


Executive Coordinator Anna Re

Adrian Deboutière and Laurent Georgeault


United We Stand

edited by Institut de l’économie circulaire, Paris

External Relations Manager (International) Federico Manca External Relations Managers (Italy) Federico Manca, Anna Re, Matteo Reale Press and Media Relations

M. G. and L. P.


Focus Packaging vs Food Waste Paper and Cardboard Become Smart



Focus Packaging vs Food Waste How Cans Have Changed

Annual subscription, 6 paper issues Subscribe on-line at This magazine is composed in Dejavu Pro by Ko Sliggers Published and printed in Italy at GECA S.r.l., San Giuliano Milanese (Mi)

M. G. and L. P.


Focus Packaging vs Food Waste Steel: A Safe of Nature

Emanuele Bompan


Water Resilience

Roberto Giovannini


The Media Circle A Compass against Misinformation


Case Studies

Marco Gisotti and Letizia Palmisano

Contact Edizioni Ambiente Via Natale Battaglia 10 20127 Milano, Italia t. +39 02 45487277 f. +39 02 45487333

Federico Pedrocchi


Innovation Pills Science in the Trenches

Copyright ©Edizioni Ambiente 2017 All rights reserved

Cover Maurice Mbikayi (Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1974), Techno Addict, 2015. The artist focuses on e-waste, electronic waste landfills poisoning Africa where he draws materials for his work. From the exhibition “We call it Africa”. Sub Sahara African artist, courtesy of Officine dell’immagine, Milan

renewablematter 15. 2017

Lest We Forget


Interview with Stefano Boeri by Marco Moro

Today, it is in cities that key themes of the circular economy are concentrated; in urban scenarios, the relation between the environment and human activities must be combined with new formulas. But the added value of beauty should not be neglected. By its very nature, a city serves as an accelerator of integrated formulas of the circular economy. Citizens’ proximity, production activity, business networks, service suppliers, educational bodies and institutions, create an ideal platform to activate in a short time effective forms of collaboration and business model that complete the picture. The city acts as a hub for the movement of materials and services, offering diversified competences and, at the same time, customers sensitive to new experimentations. If seen as a tool to attract and reintroduce “nutrients” (whether they are technological, biological or natural), the city encompasses in a concentrated way all the key words of the circular economy: matter, service, network, training, integration. So, we need to look at the urban scenarios if we want to pinpoint the most innovative solutions for this role to take shape. By creating the much celebrated Bosco Verticale (“Vertical Forest”), Stefano Boeri put forward a vision of the city where the relation between human activities and the environment takes new forms, succeeding in a synthesis of objectives so far considered incompatible, for example the high population density, the guarantee of a balanced relation between green and built up spaces and the conservation of biodiversity even in the city itself. Following the success of the building in Milan – 2014 International Highrise winner and recognized as the “most beautiful and innovative skyscraper in the world” – a series of tree-lined buildings by other architects in various parts of the world cropped up, and Boeri himself elaborated projects on an urban scale, glorifying the vertical foresting

potential as far as the environmental and housing quality and the reduction of soil and energy consumption are concerned. Renewable Matter reached the Milan-based architect in his study to discuss the role of the city and the planning culture in the transition towards relation models between the environment and society, geared to sustainability. How do you think the culture of those who plan, engineer and administrate cities should change in order for these entities to become real hubs of a new economy? Actually, to turn them into much more, places where the relation amongst human activities, resources and societies is based on something new? “Today we have to deal with resources that are no longer infinite; they have been depleted or are less and less available, such as soil, raw materials and resources of public investment. That is why social and intellectual resources are fundamental; they have been used inappropriately or even despised, such as cosmopolitan cultures that today live in our ‘city worlds’ or the hundreds of young creative businesses supporting, with no recognition, the economy of our cities. “But this is not enough: today we have to learn to make the best possible use of synergies and connections between different and apparently distant resources. Unite within one cycle – such as that of nutrition, or knowledge or urban regeneration – production supply chains, processes and energies that stem from different worlds and cover various stages

Right page: Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) is intended as a model to build sustainable residential buildings that combine both a housing function and metropolitan reforestation, contributing to the regeneration of the environment and biodiversity while limiting urban sprawl. “A house for trees inhabited by humans,” is how the architect describes it. The first Vertical Forest, built in Milan, is made of two 110 and 76 metre high residential towers: it hosts 900 trees (3, 6 and 9 metre high), as well as over 20,000 plants and a vast range of bushes and flowering plants distributed according to the façade’s position in relation to the sun. If arranged along a horizontal plane it would extend over a 7,000 m2 area.

©Stefano Boeri Architetti



renewablematter 15. 2017 of the production and consumption of goods and services. We should never underestimate the multiplier effect that beauty, aesthetic consistency and the elegance of style have on the economic and commercial value of a product. Beauty is not a stable condition, it cannot be theorized; but we know that in Italy – in the history of design, fashion, cinema, art – on almost every occasion it stemmed from a combination of simplicity and inventiveness. There is no guarantee that beauty will be obtained, but amongst its preliminary conditions, there certainly is that of ‘do more with less.’ Beauty is an added value that when lies over an object it accelerates, as if by contamination, its communication: it is an extraordinary resource rewarding those who are able to discipline their creative talent and offer it to lend limited resources a new life. For example, to a block of marble, a lamp post or a steel tube.”

Photo by Iwan Baan

Digital infrastructure has been described as a new determiner in the transformation of cities, after those represented by the creation of energy and transport networks. In your opinion, what is the relation between this digital-based transformation and the establishment of new forms to use space? “I am thinking of energy. Today the challenge is to make up for the crisis of the traditional centralized model, with the gradual growth of an energy cycle stemming from the widespread presence of thousands of ‘smart networks’ for the production and distribution of clean energy. Using the technologies of digital information to promote information exchange and sharing the energy produced. “Buildings collecting solar or wind energy are no longer enough. There is a need for buildings

that, starting from our most widespread social infrastructure – schools, theatres, museums – also act as energy accumulators and distributors. Buildings that act as micro-power plants, thanks for example to innovations in the use of hydrogen as accumulator and other devices enabling the conservation of locally produced energy. “It is precisely here, from the transformation of the nature of the last stops of consumption that a new idea of energy is being born. As Jeremy Rifkin suggested, it should phase in buildings able to absorb and conserve more energy that is needed for their needs. So, they must be able to offer and sell some to the nearby people: neighbours, blocks of flats, the district.” In your opinion, what is the individual, or individuals, that in such scenario has the best potential to act as a driver for the transformation? Civil society, i.e. people, citizens? Institutions? Businesses? “’To do more with less’ means that the economic development is not only a variable of financial mechanism and international relations amongst central banks. Relaunching Italy means planning a new relation amongst society, the State and its territories. To understand that the added value that Italy can offer derives from an old attitude to experience every economic process as a local project, to consider entrepreneurial risk a variable of social relations, to pass down to industrial and artisan products the distinctive features of women, men and places where they were made.” From the Vertical Forest to the Forest City: what role can these projects have in shaping a new “urban bioeconomy”? Was the value of such projects merely a demonstrative one or are they elements of a strategy for

Stefano Boeri is full professor of Urban Planning at Polytechnic University in Milan. He taught as guest professor in various international universities, including The Harvard Graduate School of Design of Cambridge, the Strelka Institute in Moscow, the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam and l’École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne. He was designer and member of the scientific committee of the Skolkovo Innovation Center, a hub for advanced technology near Moscow. Today he directs the Future City Lab of Tongji University in Shanghai, a post-doc research programme where the change of global metropoleis is anticipated. He was a Councillor for culture for the Municipality of Milan from 2011 to 2013. Since 2015 he has been a member of the scientific committee of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Boeri directed international magazines such as Domus (2004-2007) and Abitare (2007-2011) and published articles on several

Trees in an urban context contribute to the lowering of temperature inside buildings between 2 to 5 °C, thus allowing a 30% reduction in air-conditioning and guaranteeing considerable energy savings.

Right page: Nanchino’s Vertical Forest, which should be completed by 2018, is the third prototype – after Milan and Lausanne – of a project on demineralization and urban forestation that Stefano Boeri Architetti is carrying out all over the world and in particular in other cities in China, including Shijiazhuang, Liuzhou, Guizhou, Shanghai and Chongqing. China’s interest in Vertical Forest and Forest City’s projects is confirmed by the publication, in April, of the book A Forest City, edited by Stefano Boeri Architetti China and published by Tongji University Press.

publications. He authored a number of books including: Biomilano. Glossario di idee per una metropoli della biodiversità (Corraini, 2011), Fare di più con meno (il Saggiatore, 2012), A vertical forest. Instructions booklet for the prototype of a forest city (Corraini, 2015) and La città scritta (Quodlibet Edizioni, 2016). In 2015, Boeri was invited to the COP21 international conference on climate in Paris, where he illustrated the Forest City project. Currently the study is committed to international projects such as the Masterplan for Tirana 2030; the organization of Tour des Cedres in Chavannes (Lausanne); the general Plan for the Republic of San Marino, public and residential projects in China, evoking the idea of Bosco Verticale, a Milan prototype. Recently, the Stefano Boeri Architetti study was asked to set up a project for the new school canteen in Amatrice, built with the funds collected with the national campaign promoted after the earthquake that hit central Italy in August 2016.

©Stefano Boeri Architetti ©Stefano Boeri Architetti

a new vision of cities? And in such vision of nature, are green spaces elements of environmental and habitat quality or a vital part of the urban economy? “The challenge underpinning Vertical Forest and the project of Forest City that we are working on in China is to open up new possibilities in terms of integration between nature and architecture, giving rise to a completely new vision of a city. Buildings become a habitat not just for humans, but also for plants and animals. At the same time, together with the advantages in terms of health and quality of life, they have a direct impact on the urban economy. Trees in an urban context contribute to the lowering of temperature inside buildings between 2 to 5 °C, thus allowing a 30% reduction in air-conditioning and guaranteeing considerable energy savings. Moreover, plants retain water, thus reducing the risk of flooding with all the benefits this entails. A series of actions and factors that make projects such as Vertical Forest tools to recover and optimize energy and water resources.” The circular economy represents another challenge for planning. Building involves a high use of resources with ridiculously low levels of “circularity” in many instances

renewablematter 15. 2017

Right: Taranto Calling is one of the three winning projects of the OpenTaranto competition for ideas whose objective is the regeneration of Taranto’s historical city centre – the Old City – an island between two seas – today lying derelict – despite its extraordinary potential. The idea underpinning the project includes a series of physical and immaterial actions aimed at improving quality of life, configuring an urban welfare system and one of social infrastructure to strengthen the urban community and supplying services for temporary as well as permanent residents. Public space becomes the cornerstone of the transformation, defining more permeability and accessibility, in and outside the island, while building an all-too-often denied relation of continuity with the sea.

(including Italy). In your opinion, what are the main strategies that the planning culture and urban policies can elect to achieve effective results in this field? “The issue of the circular economy requires a U-turn in the current Italian economic policy. One of the main challenges that urban policies must tackle in the next few years is that of wood, ecological material par excellence and irreplaceable resource for our territory, considering that in Italy the quantity of spontaneous forests keeps on growing due to the abandonment of fields and of Apennine villages. In order to change direction towards

©Stefano Boeri Architetti


a marked reduction of the consumption of resources in the building sector, we need a national plan: a system of wood districts scattered all over the national territory and a supply chain covering the whole wood life cycle and use, from cutting up to recycling and reintroduction into the production cycle. Just as in the last century coal and steel determined a whole production model, now it is time to invest in woods and forests in order to imagine a landscape where forestation, even in cities, becomes an economic model, and not just a social and environmental theme.”

©Stefano Boeri Architetti

Left: Tirana 030 represents a “vision” for Tirana’s future from now to 2030. On average, Tirana does not display very high buildings, but it is one of Europe’s most densely populated cities, as if it were compressed, sacrifying all open spaces. The strategy aims at leveraging the void in order to create public space, nature and agriculture in order to absorb diversities and complexities within the new urban boudaries. The new public interventions include a continuous forest system around the metropolis; new ecological corridors along rivers, a green ring around greater Tirana as linear public space and a ring road, revamping minor centres as widespread network of interconnected tourist, agricultural and production hubs with access to the urban area. ©Stefano Boeri Architetti

Right: The new canteen for Amatrice is a project developed thanks to the fundraising campaign “Un aiuto subito, Terremoto Centro Italia,” (“Help now, Earthquake in Central Italy”) promoted by Corriere della Sera, TgLa7, Tim and Starteed. The “Amate Amatrice” (“Love Amatrice”) project represents a challenge both for the tight deadline required and for the budget, exclusively limited to the costs of materials. Thanks to the versatility of buildings, if required, their intended use can be quickly modified, once the city is rebuilt and will need new services. The first construction to be built will be the school canteen, followed by a food court around the open courtyard. The structure will be accessible to the local community and will represent a point of reference for neighbouring villages. From an employment point of view, it will create 130 new jobs.

renewablematter 15. 2017

ARTPORT_COOL STORIES IV: Katja Loher: yellow present, 2014


The Power


Interview with Anne-Marie Melster Thanks to its strong evocative power, the artistic act can generate sensitivity towards sustainable behaviour, increasing awareness on the environment and climate change and pushing people to change their habits. by Carola Marzullo

ARTPORT_making waves is the curatorial collective that elicits and stimulates sustainable behaviour through art. An international platform that combines distant worlds through an interdisciplinary approach whose aim is to raise awareness and reflect upon everyday and global solutions to protect the environment with creative means. Anne-Marie Melster will discuss this aspect with us. Anne-Marie Melster, co-founder and executive director of ARTPORT_making waves, curator, author and advisor, deals with art, education, the environment and nature.

How did the idea of ARTPORT_making waves come about? “The co-founding partner Corinne Erni and I met in New York in 2004 and one year later decided to set up a curatorial collective together, focused on art and climate change. When we started, people were actually laughing at our idea, today the issues dealt with underpin a movement that we are proud to have stimulated. Our aim was to introduce an environmental approach to the contemporary art world, putting together projects that could sensitize the general public towards more sustainable behavior. With our initiative, we intended contributing to social change: the curatorial collective formula enabled to involve associate curators from other countries.� Why discuss climate change through art? What is the relation between raising awareness and art language? “Art has always had the power to access people with socially critical content. Young people understand immediately how food and climate change are related when they see an artistic video about burning forests to create grazing lands for cows or monocultures to feed the masses. The most effective way of engaging people in behavioral change is to work with the audience directly. People feel closer to art than to articles in newspapers or hard scientific facts. Contemporary art has the power to show facts, reveal scientific knowledge and local experiences but also provoke reactions through images. Scientific facts become smoother and easier if they are explained through art videos for example, which touch the senses and open the mind of the viewer.


ARTPORT_COOL STORIES IV: Katja Loher: purple future, 2014

ARTPORT_COOL STORIES IV: Katja Loher: green present, 2014

Think Tank

We don’t come with ready-made projects for a new geographical area. We prefer to work with local partners and let them choose which subject matter is important.

“Art can be a combining element to bring people from different professional backgrounds around one table to discuss possible solutions. ARTPORT_making waves operates on multiple fronts (art production, organizing events and public initiatives, editor’s note) also through an advisory service that we provide to involve companies and institutions interested in finding a way to organize more sustainable exhibitions and publications.” I am particularly interested in your international perspective. What are

ARTPORT_making waves: Barthélémy Toguo: Bandjoun Station workshop at Grand Palais/COP21, Paris. Photo by Maxime Riché, 2015

“What you don’t buy or use, will not be produced, will not be wasted. The less, the better. This is what we want to inspire.”

the most receptive and welcoming countries to the ecological issues in the artistic field? “Mexico and India are extremely receptive countries where people have not our Western living standards, and are confronted directly with the effects of climate change. Students, pupils, artists, curators, filmmakers, there are so many engaged people in these countries. “We have non-profits in Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland; in the US we work with New York Foundation for the Arts. But we work internationally, choosing the country where we want to establish a new project through our collaborators or through the fact that specifically interesting events like conferences are happening there, so that we can address a certain public. We don’t come with ready-made projects for a new geographical area. We prefer to work with local partners and let them choose which subject matter is important. We worked in this way with hundreds of children in Cancun and Quintana Roo as part of COP15, and then in Miami around the problem of rising sea levels and possible personal solutions and contributions by the kids through creating their own art work with local materials. They came up with ideas of how they and their parents could change their behavior and become more respectful towards nature.” What is the role of Sustainable Art in the contemporary art panorama? “There are many artists who are focusing on socially-engaged art and climate change. They exhibit in important museums, are represented by influential galleries and collected by huge collectors worldwide. With this movement art changes from a mere

ARTPORT_(Re-) Cycles of Paradise, COP15, Copenaghen installation view Hall 55_3, 2009

Our goals: Making art accessible to the general public and use public space to engage the public in a discussion around socially-engaging subjects.

luxury good to an important vehicle in society. In contemporary art there have always been fashionable subjects. We are happy that something which we have been focusing on for more than 10 years, has become a real movement in the arts. It started some years ago, but the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference in particular intensified this movement. I hope that this movement will last, that people don’t just jump on board the ‘climate change’ fashion train, but everybody takes their responsibility seriously, also when prices on the market drop again and other subjects become more appealing.”

“(Re-) Cycles of Paradise” is an exhibition of yours on the relationship between climate change and Gender. “Mother.Nature,” the work by Nnenna

ARTPORT_COOL STORIES IV: Magdalena Correa: PARALLELS 11 and Magdalena Correa_PARALLELS 7, 2014

In 2016, ARTPORT_making waves presented COOL STORIES for When the Planet gets Hot IV at the Socrates Sculpture Park in New York. Tell me about this collaboration and this peculiar exhibition choice of welcoming the public inside containers... “Socrates Sculpture Park is an institution in New York that shares our goals: Making art accessible to the general public and use public space to engage the public in a discussion around socially-engaging subjects. We’ve known them for some years now and proposed a public screening of the best of COOL STORIES I-IV in their park (a compilation of short videos from international artists focusing the subject of climate change were chosen by ARTPORT_making waves and Socrates). The best way to present videos open air is either on a big LED or an inflatable screen (which cause CO2 emissions) or in a container.

We decided to choose recycled containers. A recycled container gives shelter from sun and rain, can be placed anywhere, creates an intimate space and lets the viewer directly immerse into the videos. A perfect combination.”

Carola Marzullo is a researcher working on contemporary art and shares her time for her studies between Paris and Milan. In 2015 she graduated in history of art at Sorbonne University and worked with different institutions in the same field including Centre Pompidou.

ARTPORT_making waves,


it is a poetic approach to the aspects of re-cycling, water shortage and how to use found and natural material.

ARTPORT_COOL STORIES IV: Lia Chaia: Eating Landscapes 1, 2014

Renewable Matter is particularly interested in recycling: could you name one of your artists linked to this topic? “Re-cycling and re-using are important paradigms in this context. I could name several artists: Nnenna Okore, Betsabeé Romero, Perla Krauze, George Steinmann (he works with found minerals from Alpine waters and converts them into paintings), Charley Case, Meschac Gaba, Ander Azpiri, and some of the Indian artists: They work a lot with found material, convert it into art works, installations, sculptures, but also more scientific approaches like research, conferences and panels.”

ARTPORT_(Re-) Cycles of Paradise, general view, LACE, Los Angeles, 2012. Photo by Joshua White

Okore, embodies this issue with sensitivity. Could you expand on that? “Nnenna Okore’s work ‘Mother.Nature,’ which was specifically created for this exhibition, is an installation comprising fifty containers in the shape and form of pregnant bellies made from handmade paper and wax. The work shows how a woman’s maternal qualities can be extended towards the restoration and preservation of natural resources. The installation is not only an African position within the exhibition and an earthy counterpart to the technology based works, it is also a poetic approach to the aspects of re-cycling, water shortage and how to use found and natural material in African countries to face the effects of climate change. The work reflects on the notion of adaptation in the climate change debate.”

ARTPORT_(Re-) Cycles of Paradise: Nnenna Okore: Mother.Nature. CCEMX, Città del Messico/COP16. 2010-2011. Photo by CCEMX

Think Tank

ARTPORT_COOL STORIES IV: Ivan Puig: Tierra y Libertad 3, 2014

ARTPORT_(Re-) Cycles of Paradise: exhibition view Betsabée Romero, Anita Glesta, Ander Azpiri, 2010-2011. Photo by CCEMX

What are ARTPORT_making waves future projects? “We are preparing a rich project around food and food production in India which will also be taken to Germany. And we are planning the new edition of the short video competition dedicated to African artists; and an interdisciplinary project for Valencia (Spain) which is the World’s Food Capital in 2017. And a few more which are not yet official.”


Has its Very Own Formula Interview with Ernesto Ciorra The story of ENEL’s transformation: in the top five of Fortune’s 2015 Change the World list, the Italian energy company has made a 180° turn compared to what the multinational was just a few years ago. Now the organisation considers innovation a prerequisite of sustainability, the essential key to facing the challenges set by distributed generation, electro-mobility, the Internet of Things and smart cities. And it has no fear of sometimes having to confront its past. by Sergio Ferraris

Utility companies are having to reinvent themselves. And to do it they are taking a different direction from that of the past, mainly due to environmental issues. The climate first and foremost, but it doesn’t stop there. Renewable energies, domestic and industrial energy efficiency, the circular economy and resource management are the urgent, prevailing matters that utility companies need to deal with on all levels. And that is exactly what energy manager ENEL is doing. From 1963 to 1999, the state-owned company distributed exclusively electricity, but it now focuses more on services than on energy supply. This is a radical change for the large ex-monopolist, ex-nuclearist and soon-to-be ex-fossil energy company which is forcing itself to think about environmental matters not only in terms of electrons produced and CO2, but with a more systematic approach. In the future, energy production, but also and above all management, will require better tackling of the transformations caused by the circular economy, distributed generation, the Internet of Things and smart cities, with a much more all-round approach compared to the past. And ENEL’s CEO Francesco Starace must be convinced, considering he has merged the company’s sustainability division with innovation and handed the reins to Ernesto Ciorra who is considered a key international-level innovation player and telecommunications and finance expert. This hybridisation is no coincidence. In ENEL, both external and internal action logics are being turned on their heads to make the company permeable to innovative market and environmental requests of a social nature. Ernesto Ciorra told

Renewable Matter the dynamics and methods being applied within the company. ENEL has opened outwards over the past years in a way which is unusual for a utility company. Why is that? “Today, our objective is to access the ‘richness’ of innovation, involving internal and external parties, thus allowing the company to make use of the best talent offered on the international market. We draw up industrial partnerships with those working in big companies and give those involved in small startups the chance to collaborate. We also use InnoCentive, an online platform that collects solutions offered by independent innovators for unresolved problems and, once implemented, finances them. The objective of all this is to place ENEL among the top five most innovative companies in the world.” And what has happened? “The first thing that we did was to close down – over the course of a year – twenty-two power plants which were no longer competitive or efficient. But it doesn’t stop there. Innovation has also and above all been internal. For example, our CEO, Francesco Starace, has sent all top management, including himself, to study innovation twelve hours a day at the University of Harvard. He chose to transform the company beginning with management. And he was right to do so. If you don’t start from the top, nothing happens down below.” And what were the results? “The results were immediately evident. In 2015,

Policy we appeared on Fortune’s list (Change the World) ranking fifth for our efforts towards changing humanity. The list is based on two parameters regarding innovation and two regarding sustainability. We come right after Vodafone, Google, Toshiba and Wall Mart. In 2016, Bloomberg placed ENEL among the fifty companies to keep an eye on. These two acknowledgements confirm we are on the right path. However, we still have a lot to do.”

And when something is useful for everyone, in the end, it becomes stronger and it becomes an opportunity for companies.

These rankings are great, but more needs to be done. What do you still need to do? “We have to face two or three big problems and try to resolve them. One of these is access to energy. 1.2 billion people across the world do not have access to energy and another billion have unstable access. In order to overcome this problem, we are focusing on low-cost renewable solutions that allow energy to be taken all over the place. We are working with big players such as Google X (Google’s research centre), Tesla, Toshiba and others. We want to innovate with these partners practically, regardless of their location. “Another matter is electro-mobility. We are working with Nissan to make electric cars into ‘moving batteries.’ So, in Denmark, electric cars, once hooked up to charging posts, are able to stabilise the grid, without emitting CO2 and without needing new static batteries, but using the car’s batteries. We are the first in the world to do this and, in 2017, we will develop the system in Germany and also in the United Kingdom, getting a great deal of attention from local decision makers that are driving implementing ‘distributed battery’ technology. We are talking about a niche of 20,000 cars in the United Kingdom and in Denmark, but when we have finished, with a million electric cars, we could do all the balancing without involving power plants. All this entails greater speed and efficiency in terms of response times and the advantage that the batteries

Ernesto Ciorra was appointed the ENEL Group’s Head of Innovation and Sustainability in September 2014. He began his career as an associate in the consultancy company Busacca & Associati, supporting leading Italian and foreign telecommunications

companies in endless innovative projects. In 2003, he founded Ars et Inventio, a consultancy company specialised in innovation and creativity, which he managed until taking on his current role. He has supported leading Italian and foreign companies in devising and launching innovative products and services which have been worldwide successes. He has taught Innovation Management in Italian and Spanish universities and business schools. He held the position of scientific coordinator of the Innovation Management post-graduate course run by Sole24Ore’s Business School. He is a member of the advisory board for the University of Ca’ Foscari’s Strategic Innovation post-graduate course and director of the advanced programme of innovation management at Madrid’s Istituto de Empresa. He is the author of three poetry collections, as well as a play shown in a number of Italian theatres.

are more flexible, perform better and enables the use of a greater amount of renewables in the grid. This innovative aspect of the sharing economy combines distributed generation and smart cities, in an unprecedented union. The user owns the battery, shares it with the grid manager and is paid for this service. Our objective is to offer car drivers zero-cost electricity in exchange for using the battery. Grid services will also have a higher value than that of the electricity supplied for charging, allowing us to maintain good margins.” What is the Italian situation on the energy “services” front? “In Italy, we have a good grid, excellent experience managing distributed plants and we can count on the fact that all the meters are electronic. The meters we are installing in Italy are third generation. We are the first in the world to use them. These devices can be read and complete any check on electricity in real time. There are also advantages in terms of safety since the new meter can operate with a gas sensor and suspend electricity supply in the event of a gas leak. And again as regards meters, we have joined the American Green Button Alliance. This initiative aims to facilitate the end user’s access to their own consumer data, also thanks to Barack Obama’s standardisation.” And what are the advantages? “That’s simple. This way, the App developed in the United States for seeing one’s consumer data can be used in all the countries which have adopted the standard. If, instead, the data are made available in a different way, no-one will develop similar Apps because the market is limited. It is a classic case where lack of interoperativeness is slowing innovation down.” Don’t all these activities damage the turnover on the end? Don’t they lead to less energy being sold? “First of all, we must consider the fact that if we don’t do it, someone else will. We must present ourselves innovatively to our clients, creating value and new solutions. For example, electro-mobility. A car consumes 70% compared to a house. If there were ten million electric cars in Italy, there would be seven million customers/equivalents more in the energy market. We must avoid wasting energy and, at the same time, increase electricity distribution opportunities. We are driving electro-mobility because we believe it is a solution to the problem of pollution. And it is a useful solution. And when something is useful for everyone, in the end, it becomes stronger and it becomes an opportunity for companies.” Isn’t mobility, in terms of company culture, too far off the way you have always done things? “We have studied and become the first energy company in the world to launch an integrated offer of electric cars payable in monthly instalments, along with the wall box for charging, its installation and energy supply, as well as the App which finds activated charging posts. This offer is available for Nissan Leaf users, but during internal trials with our employees, we also used the Mercedes B-class



renewablematter 15. 2017 and the BMW I3. Before offering these solutions externally we try them out with our employees. We are simplifying the buying process, pending the growth of the electricity distribution grid and the introduction of incentives. In the meantime, we are working on the area where we can achieve results: that is, the offer.”

Sergio Ferraris, an environmental and scientific journalist, is director of

Again those incentives. What are they for? “Incentives are needed to develop the market and consequently attract investments. If we do not develop sustainable mobility in Italy, initially also thanks to incentives, we can’t then complain about the fact that electric cars are produced abroad. But incentives needn’t be monetary. For example, an incentive for electric cars can be connected to municipalities, through a national standard, which assign parking spaces (and the relative charging post) to those buying an electric car who do not have a garage to charge it. This zero-cost measure, or rather facility, could be offered to the first buyers of electric cars.” In practice, how did you end up tackling sustainable mobility? “First of all, we created a simple, innovative, sustainable offer for our employees. Innovation and Sustainability collected their feedback on the existing process and we realised that it was too complex. Basically, we verified the customer experience of our ‘employee customers’ who were standing in for ‘real’ customers. Since these experiences were not exactly the best, we simplified them based on their advice and tailored an offer for an internal area taking care exclusively of new business.” Please go on. “We have a company area which sells energy and another which sells only new business, including electro-mobility. We have set up a special team of people who take care exclusively of electromobility. This unit studies mobility matters in depth. For example, at the moment, it is working on scooter, bike and car sharing. We are partners in Car2Go, the biggest electric car sharing in Europe with 500 electric cars in Madrid alone, so it is not the first time that we have faced these problems. Generally speaking, we realised that we cannot manage new things with the same organisation as before. We have become part of the grid balancing sector (a service provided in real time to keep electric grid supply and demand balanced, in order to resolve congestion and guarantee appropriate secondary power reserve margins, editor’s note) with electric cars, in Denmark and in the United Kingdom spending 100,000 Euro in each country, while, before, in order to do so power plants were needed along with greater investments. We are the first to cannibalise the sector’s past and part of ourselves through innovation, opening up other business possibilities. Now, we are active in sectors that were not historically ours.” What do all these innovations mean for the company? “ENEL’s internal structure has changed greatly. The Sustainability department was created, later merging with Innovation. This greatly changed the company structure, which is technological, therefore

all innovation connected to technology is now driven by sustainability. It is a pervasive logic and the innovation sustainability manager – that’s me – is also part of the main decision-making committees. I am on ENEL’s investment committee and if an investment is not sustainable and innovative, I think there is no point in going ahead with it. Innovation and sustainability cannot be excluded from company governance.” And what about innovation outside company dynamics? “We are able to work with startups that bill zero euros and have no employees. This is something which is completely Italian and a great innovation of company dynamics. We have made internal changes in order to work with competent external figures. But it doesn’t stop there.” Really? “For example, now, almost all ENEL employees across the world can propose new business and, if they get the ok from their country manager, they get the funds to create their own start-up. We have invested 16,000 days and involved 860 people, as well as the financial resources necessary for developing the proposals devised by colleagues. It is a cultural revolution because an employee with no hierarchical power can become the head of their very own start-up if approved, beating the hierarchy. In addition, we have launched initiatives like ‘My Best Failure’ where people share mistakes they have made when they tried to do something new.” Would you like to reward failures? What’s positive about failures? “When you do something new, you always make a mistake somewhere along the line. We want to increase the number of mistakes in order to raise success and, at the same time, eliminate repeated mistakes. We ask people to share their mistakes with ‘My Best Failure’ and we reward those elected by the community as the best, because we believe shared mistakes are very useful. Winners are rewarded and sent to work for a period in another country, in a chosen company area or possibly even in a start-up that works with us.” How do you select innovation? “We have divided innovation into two macro-areas: one concerning internal productive processes and technologies and the other concerning the customer. The first is managed by the business line and is selected directly by those managing the technologies and processes. So, if new methods and practices arrive, such as those regarding easy solar panel cleaning, those managing the aspect within the company decide whether to use the new technologies or not. This way, we have completely integrated innovation into all business areas. Those cleaning solar panels have a contact for innovation, the same one for the renewables division, who proposes new solutions, but in the end they make the decision. The second macro-area tends to maintain customer proximity. You cannot select something which concerns the customer if you are not close to them. That is why, as I was saying, we performed

Policy to this line of thought, a washing machine may have an appeal of 10 and a refrigerator an appeal of 0. What does following this logic mean for you, as an energy distributor? “We will not have an Internet of things, but rather an Internet of everything, that is, the net will be in everything, even the medicines we take. We will take smart medicines, connected to a monitoring system that will intervene releasing their active ingredient at the necessary time. Today we are creating the Internet of things in our power stations and plants. Our colleagues must also be connected and if, for example, they have an accident, the system must realise, thus setting off an alarm, reporting the position and getting emergency assistance there as soon as possible.”

sustainable mobility tests on ‘internal’ customers, or rather, our employees, first of all. We launched new smart home solutions that offer a home energy monitoring service integrated with a security alarm. We tested it on 500 colleagues who gave us feedback on the benefits and the critical issues.” Can you tell me anything else about innovative processes? “Yes, in ENEL we apply the ‘innovation formula’ which I created and patented along with my colleague Ivan Ortenzi.”

When you do something new, you always make a mistake somewhere along the line. We want to increase the number of mistakes in order to raise success and, at the same time, eliminate repeated mistakes.

How does it work? “The ‘innovation formula’ states that innovation is the same as the multiplication of the values of three aspects: creativity (that is, having a good idea and giving it a value from 1 to 10), the execution (that is, how to implement one’s idea and give it a value from 1 to 10) and the appeal (that is, the value given by a customer to the idea with that implementation giving a value from 1 to 10). It is almost a game which makes us think about how to generate ideas, in order to guarantee the implementation and measure customer appeal. Let me give you an example. In 2004, I collaborated with Nokia to devise a touchscreen mobile phone with GPS. It was the Nokia 7710. The idea had a value of 10, as did its implementation and the appeal of the GPS, while the appeal of the touchscreen back then had a value of 0, because no-one wanted it at the time. Thus, by applying the ‘innovation formula’: 10 times 10 times 0 equals 0.” Did this innovation come too early? “Precisely. At the time, everyone wanted a small flip mobile phone, nothing like today’s keyboard-less mobiles. The Nokia 7710 was extremely similar to the current iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, and that was fourteen years ago. A smart idea, with a smart implementation but it did not have sufficient appeal at the time. That is why it is essential to observe customers. As regards internal technologies, our customers are the colleagues which manage them, while externally we refer to end clients.” Today we talk a lot about the “Internet of things.” It is an enormous universe. According

How do you see the next five/ten years in terms of innovation? “Increasingly more fun and more interconnected, in particular in terms of sectors. We are active in broadband, smart homes and home security, as well as in car sales and grid balancing. We are doing things that just two years ago, when I came to work at ENEL, we were not yet doing. There are six or seven new businesses. We sell insurance along with home energy supply and we will sell car insurance. Then there are mobility data. For example, it will be possible to optimise consumption courses and timescales, choosing those which avoid the traffic lights. I think that there will be increasingly more space to do positive things and increasingly greater competition between different sectors.” In a context which is increasingly more connected, what type of competition will there be? “It will be competition which may become cooperation. We are collaborating with Google for new energy generation technologies. Google has the data of all its clients who are looking for a new home and, thus, a new energy supplier and it can provide information on the home, comparing suppliers, proposing the purchase of solar panels with storage, offering an optimisation algorithm for the user’s specific consumption habits in order to set the energy system correctly and not depend on the energy suppliers. Google may become our competitor, as could Amazon that could manage the energy produced by the user by selling it to another, leaving ENEL out. However, we could collaborate and not compete with these parties. Business models are becoming increasingly more uneven and interconnected.”



renewablematter 15. 2017


Enlargement is Required by Roberto Coizet

Today, while politics seems to have lost any planning ability – often devolved to managers and businesses – gurus and new thinkers offer their vision for the future. Under these circumstances, the publishing industry must make some adjustments and integrate new tools. The example by Centro Materia Rinnovabile (Renewable Matter Centre) that carries out projects and environmental strategies for businesses – or whole industrial supply chains – offering support in the recovery of waste flows.

Roberto Coizet is chairman of Edizioni Ambiente and of Centro Materia Rinnovabile.

In a magazine devoting a whole section to policies, it behoves us, after slightly over two years from its inauguration, to consecrate an in-depth analysis to cultural policies carried out by those dealing with, in addition to many other initiatives, this very magazine. It behoves us because it is not about a sort of self-presentation, but rather about openly illustrating our vision on the best ways to talk about sustainability effectively, as the 20s of the third millennium approach. There are some crucial questions. For example: can the publishing industry, both paper

and digital, be the tool to guide us towards new economic, social and lifestyle scenarios, rapidly unfolding around the globe? To be more precise: the fact that the publishing industry can and must accompany these processes by providing the necessary cultural tools is out of the question. But can the latter – books, magazines, online publications – carry out a function whose scope is comparable to that covered by the publishing industry, say, 40 or 50 years ago? If we look at things from this perspective the answer is no. Books and magazines are losing their pervasive ability that they enjoyed up to a few years ago and no longer play that almost exclusive


The new actors playing the leading roles in the cultural panorama are private companies.

role that enabled them to be at the helm of key cultural turns. The change of opinions, social and economic behaviour, rests on various elements – often less pondered but with great penetration force – mixed with consumption patterns, trends and fashion, with job and money choices and with the persuasive ability that the gurus of our times may express. Second question. Who are the real gurus displaying the ability to aggregate behaviours and enabling ideas to evolve? Of course, intellectuals are still at the forefront, sometimes constrained by TV formats dwindling their narrative skills. But they are not alone. They must come to terms with other individuals, often more impromptu from the point of view of the thought structure, but equally able to launch new, effective and quick visions as well as to create fresh relations amongst social areas, widespread behaviours, symbols and values, revolutionizing the cultural scenario. Marc Zuckerberg, tapping emerging technologies, created Facebook before it was clear – even to himself – what cultural orientations this social network would have promoted. And so the old classical analytical thinking – disciplinary and “vertical” – must come to grips with successful new thinking – antidisciplinary and “horizontal.” This is no easy task because there is often a time lag and while analytical thinking is still formulating a “discourse,” others – the new thoughts – have already become mass behaviour. So, whoever the gurus may be, the effects of their reflections or their inventions spread in a way in which the written word can no longer represent the primary tool, but it only becomes a witness. The third question is about the actors of change. How are the actors arranged in the cultural scenario? Who produces the most significant effects while envisaging new horizons and who, on the other hand loses his/her credibility in designing a new future? Politics has lost its planning ability. From a social, economic, cultural and value point of view. In the industrialized countries there is a heated debate about what caused such phenomenon, but nobody denies that this has happened. Such fall dragged down – in a waterfall model – the credibility of public institutions. From local to national administrations up to universities and the whole school system which has not ceased to be the main educational point of reference, but it raises growing uncertainties and anxiety, as if it were slowly drifting away from what everybody senses as a “new reality.” So, politics and institutions are weaker and weaker as “culture creators.” So who does that?

Here is the most disruptive and creative aspect of the last three decades: the new actors playing the leading roles in the cultural panorama are private companies. Small and medium enterprises, multinationals or short supply chain businesses, historical or start-up entities, corporations or social enterprises, and then more flexible and innovative structures intercepting the third sector, voluntary work, up to exchanges of activities without monetary transactions. All in all, an extremely varied panorama of individuals from the world of work who took, more or less knowingly, the initiative to steer the new social and cultural attractors. It is a baffling role change. Businesses are the first to be bewildered, since in as little as two or three decades have realized they are in the limelight. Looking around, there is nobody else. And industrialists, entrepreneurs, managers would have never thought they would have to play a vicarious role compared to weak policies and a boundless social contract. They could have simply minded their own respective businesses, dealing with an increasingly messy and in-a-flux economy, without embarking on even more demanding challenges. But, actually, there is no alternative. Each company must come to grips with a complex context where success will depend not only on the possibility to sell a product or a service, but above all on the ability to interpret trends mirroring new citizens/ consumers’ needs. In other words, the market supply must embody a cultural model and those opting for the right one have a competitive advantage. The panorama is varied and these new cultural protagonists enter the fray with a different attitude. Some businesses sniff the problem without smelling its essence and choose to disguise themselves: they embrace, not without some gaucheness, over- the-top values and adopt, for example green washing as a decoy to attract the more sensitive members of the public. On the other side of the spectrum, there are intrinsically disruptive companies that are already where the transformation of lifestyle has occurred, because they were born there (for example the above-mentioned Facebook) and they gain from their position. These entities neither deny nor confirm the new role of companies: they simply conquer it in a way that is more similar to political success rather than the expansion of a company (actually Zuckerberg could convert effortlessly into a politician, relying on personal assets 20 times those of the current USA president).



renewablematter 15. 2017

Centro Materia Rinnovabile, www.centromateria

Short Report, Renewed Matter, June 2016; www.materiarinnovabile. it/pubblicazioni

Marco Moro, “Circular Economy Showing off”, Renewable Matter 13; www.renewablematter. eu/art/282/Circular_ Economy_Showing_off

Then there are more and more companies well aware of the change of scenario with a responsible mission to integrate business with culture. Such experiences developed in a transition, they have no qualms about complexities, and are used to integrate economic aspects with environmental and social ones. They are aware of difficulties and are no stranger to discussing leading values even at a board of directors. The new role has been theorized for years, with different perspectives by leading authors, such as Lester Brown, Amory Lovins, Gunter Pauli or Pavan Sukhdev (all published in Italy by Edizioni Ambiente) who grasped the scope and growing responsibility of production and work in our future. Not only with these companies is it possible but it is necessary to work in order to build cultural perspectives able to rely on concrete situations. Nevertheless, it is obvious that faced with such scenario the publishing industry must make some adjustments. Prestigious authors are there, but, alone, they are not enough. The readership is vast and must be enlarged, with specific attention, to companies and the young who will embrace the new jobs. Written texts will be accompanied by new formats and tools. The group generating the magazine you are reading is today relying on three integrated companies: a publishing house (Edizioni Ambiente), a company supporting and guiding enterprises on environmental compliance – including with educational activities (Eda Pro) and another company carrying out environmental projects and strategies for individual companies or whole industrial supply chains (Centro Materia Rinnovabile). We believe that in the field of environmental sustainability and the circular economy, it is no longer possible to play a somehow effective cultural role without integrating such variety of tools with cultural measures poised between various tools. The map is getting broader, both for the techniques to be employed but above all the map of interlocutors we should address in order for the reflection to be checked and be effective. On a case by case basis, the starting point of each initiative has to be found where the heart of the matter is and then transfer the issue to other fields. From some research to a book, from good practice to a magazine, to a training course, to a conference, to an exhibition, to a voluntary campaign or a project about a whole industrial supply chain. In our case, in order to talk about the possibilities linked to recovering the flows of matter, we started this magazine, published books on new materials, curated and organized the ExNovoMaterials Exhibition at Ecomondo in 2016 (we talked about it in Renewable Matter,

issue 13). Not only that: we supported a few exemplary industrial experiences, we analysed their legal aspects in our Rivista Rifiuti magazine, we collaborated with voluntary associations and foundations, we discussed the function of the so-called collective systems (a form of extended producer responsibility) in order to make recovery of some waste more effective, we promoted conferences, international partnerships, we organized courses and master’s degrees, we set up online data bases, we studied models for industrial optimization. We did it in our sector, but we believe that anyone with the same objective should do it in their own field. It is not an option, but a necessity. There is an ongoing initiative that represents effectively the blend of themes, relations and initiatives integrating in an “enlarged map” cultural strategy. We mention it because it combines various themes analysed by this magazine: waste recovery, supply chain economy, collective systems. And also because from a certain point of view it represents a model of the approach we tried to illustrate. Centro Materia Rinnovabile, together with Edizioni Ambiente, in October 2016 started some research on the topic: “Building and infrastructure: towards a circular economy.” The objective is to promote, within such supply chains, the relation between supply and demand and recovered materials. The leading issue is that of construction and demolition waste (C&D), a staggering flow of materials that, up until now, with very few exceptions, is only marginally recovered. In Europe, the C&D waste flow exceeds 800 million tonnes per year. In Italy the official figures amount to about 50 million tonnes but – since many factors compromise traceability of such data – we can safely say that the actual figures are far higher. In June 2016, this magazine published a dossier entitled “Renewed Matter” – downloadable for free – which you can consult for data and analyses on the building sector and organic waste, in Europe and Italy. However, figures aside, the opportunity of this piece of research stems from a number of factors. First of all the strong tendency, promoted by the European Commission, towards a circular economy, i.e. towards practices promoting – above all in sectors such as building, where large quantities of raw materials are used – the use of “renewed materials” (recovered, recycled, reused or reinvented) rather than extracting primary resources.


The objective is to find shared solutions, through consultation in the form of meetings and conferences where the various phases of the process are presented, in order to reach decision makers and politicians with a package of solutions.

Such tendency falls within a serious economic and employment crisis in this sector. Building and infrastructure thus need to revisit their development drivers, where a new economy of materials can become a crucial element. As for Italy, these factors are accompanied by a new set of rules and regulations of public procurement that – after promulgation of Dlgs 50/2016 of April 2016 – provides for all buildings subject to such procedures, compliance with some “minimal environmental criteria” (abbreviated as CAM), including substantial use of recovered materials. In sum, introducing new elements of the circular economy in this sector, to leverage recovery and C&D waste recovery, can be both an adjustment to the new compliance requirements and a starting point to revitalise sector companies. However, there is a key problem: C&D waste belongs to a “poor” sector, where the unit value of the recovered material is relatively low. Unlike what happens for other “luckier” materials – such as metals, paper or some types of plastics – the cost of recovering such waste is very close to the market price of corresponding virgin raw materials. In other words, the cost of collection, selection, traceability, treatment, qualification and certification of inert waste performance can be higher than a similar material coming from a mine, undercutting all recycling and recovery processes. How can this problem be solved? From a methodological point of view, the solution is the same adopted for other waste supply chains: it is a matter of balancing legal requirements (limiting indiscriminate extraction of virgin materials) and economies of scale (promoting, through coordination of companies, the creation of huge flows of materials and of necessary infrastructure.) So, economic and technical issues can be solved. But it is key that the companies in this sector – from builders to waste managers,

from construction materials producers to recyclers – be able to work as a system, i.e. to collaborate on technical solutions and to coordinate themselves on economic rationalizations. Such possibility to organize the sector is thus the trickiest challenge because on the one hand, it requires that companies see a tangible advantage in cooperating and on the other, that the relevant institutions suggest organizational solutions and convincing regulatory simplifications. A difficult but possible journey, involving many technical, cultural, economic and legal aspects. Given the scope of this subject, in order to develop the project, Centro Materia Rinnovabile has first of all started some consultation and debate with the main relevant associations in the sector and with the leading institutional representatives. The objective is to find shared solutions, through consultation in the form of meetings and conferences where the various phases of the process are presented, in order to reach decision makers and politicians with a package of solutions, in other words those legal, technical and economic tools that could speed up and promote an eco efficient use of materials in the sector. Research provides its findings to the project, but it shares it with the professional associations, in order to confirm its economic and technical aspects and passes on the solutions to relevant institutions and monitoring bodies, to be sure of the compliance and end-of-waste formulas. A small example of cultural politics blending a variety of tools and interlocutors, in line with the formula mentioned above, trying to achieve flexibility and the required ability of retroactivity in order to be effective. The project is valid until June 2017 and we will report on its developments in other articles of this magazine.



renewablematter 15. 2017

Mekong river trapped by hydroelectric dams

Dongzhong t Guoduo Lin Chang Kagong

Ru Mei Guxue Gushui Wunonglong Lidi Huangdeng Xi'er He Dams

Dahuaqiao Miaowei Gongguoqiao

XunCun Xiaowan Laoyinyan Nanhe 2 Dachaoshan Nanhe 1

Manwan Dam


Luozhahe 1 Dam Luozhahe 2 Dam







Hanoi Nam Ou Dams Nam Khan Nam Ngum 5 Nam Chian 1 Nam San 3A

Nam Beng Pak Beng Xayaburi Nam Pha Gnai Dam Nam Lik 1-2 Pak Lay Santhong-Pakchom


Nam Ngiep Dams

Sanakham Chulabhorn

Nam Ngum

Theun-Hinboun Nam Theun 2

Nam Leuk Dam


Houay Por

Ubol Ratana

A Luoi

Ban Kum Xeset


Hydroelectric dams

Latsua Pak Mun Siridhorn

Operational Under construction Proposed Installed capacity MegaWatts 5,850

2,000 1,000 500 100



Jinghong Ganlanba

Luangprabang Nam Tha 1




Don Sahong


Stung Treng Battambang 1


Nam Kong

Houay Lamphan Houayho Xe Kaman 3 Nam Bi 2 Dams Xekaman-Sanxay Plei Krong Sesan 3 Sesan 3A Yali Falls

Lower Sesan 2 Sambor

Sesan 4 Sre Pok 3 Dray Hinh 2 Buon Kop Buon Tua Srah

Photographs by: ©Thomas Cristofoletti Map edited by: Riccardo Pravettoni Map’s source: WLE 2017. Dataset on the Dams of the Irrawaddy, Mekong, Red and Salween River Basins. Vientiane, Lao PDR: CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems – Greater Mekong. wle-mekong.


the Disputed River by Emanuele Bompan

Mega-dams, levees, and drought: from China to Vietnam, escalating social and environmental tragedies are boiling political tensions among the states bordering the river. An international river: twenty-eight dams planned on the Mekong blocking the free-flow of sediment and fish could endanger food security in South East Asia. The most affected? The indigenous communities living along the river that will be relocated en masse. Emanuele Bompan, an urban geographer and environmental journalist since 2008. Together with Ilaria Brambilla he authored the book Che cos’è l’economia circolare (“What’s the circular economy”), Edizioni Ambiente, Milan 2016.

Watergrabbing is a project shared amongst several media platforms, supported by EJC European Journalism Center (, IDR Grant ( and CapHolding (

International Rivers,

Of all the elements on Earth, water is the most precious and circular, an inexhaustible souce of life and livelihood. From agriculture to industry, from hygiene to mining, from quenching thirst to amusement, water is at the heart of our life. But what happens when water resources management becomes biased, unsustainable and instead of being shared it is grabbed by the strongest, be it a State, a business or an economic sector? This phenomenon is known as watergrabbing. This expression refers to situations where powerful players are able to take control or redirect to their advantage precious water resources, taking them away from local communities whose livelihood depends on these very resources and those very deprived systems: from a freely accessible common good water is transformed into a private good which is negotiable at a price. The antithesis of a circular economy. This is why Renewable Matter, in collaboration with a few other publications and with the support of the European Journalism Centre has carried out a series of reportages to highlight the disasters that can occur when water, in its capacity as matter, ceases to be a right. “I’ll die drowned, submerged by the river that gave us life.” Je Srey Neang has her fate reflected in her eyes. She has spent thirty-two springs in the village of Kbla Romes, along the Sesan, a major tributary of the great Mekong River. She has three children, but her son left with her husband after the divorce. He had accepted six thousand dollars to go somewhere in a city for a life of misery looking for factory work. The Cambodian dam, Lower Sesan II, will bury her village, which is located a few miles from the Sesan’s confluence with the Mekong. The Chinese built the dam to provide electricity to the capital Phnom Pehn, a project supported by the elites of the two countries regardless of the impacts on locals. An estimated 5,000 people will be forced to leave, and 40,000 will follow when fish become scarce as the dammed river ceases to flow freely. “I have decided to resist. They will not buy me. They will not bend me with their weapons. And I will not move for as long as I am alive.” Her determination, while continuing to violently hoe the garden,

is underlined by her hard, tearless eyes. A neighbor shows some photos taken with a cell phone of men in black who come each week to pressure Je Srey to leave. “This is what we have been given – it’s our livelihood. I am not opposed to the dam, but it should not have to destroy our lives to power the TV of someone living a thousand kilometers from here. When the water starts to rise I will peacefully stay in my home.” Je Srey’s is a common story. The Mekong River Basin is one of the most contested in the world. Tensions have been growing for years between South East Asian countries over the use of water for irrigation and as a source for hydropower. “Over 60 million people are supported by this basin,” explains Tek Vannara, executive director of the Cambodian NonGovernmental Organizations Forum. “Governments and private companies have agreed to build dams all over that will impact fisheries, tourism and agriculture. The dams will cause instability and persecution, especially for the poorest. Numerous villages, especially indigenous communities, will lose their land, forsaking their customs and traditions. Food security for millions of people is at risk.” Over the past five years, the Southeast Asian continent has plunged itself into a race to build hydropower dams in a desperate attempt to meet the growing demand for electricity. This is especially true for the more developed economies: Thailand, Vietnam and China. The Dragon has built seven large hydroelectric plants in Upper Mekong (known as Lancang in Chinese). Although detailed plans remain secret, twenty-one more dams are being planned. The southern part of the basin, which covers Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, contains eleven dams. The majority are in Laos, one of the poorest countries in Asia. With the help of Chinese and Thai investors, the country aspires to become Asia’s hydropower battery. The potential energy production is 26 gigawatts – more than France produces. Already today, according to the international association of hydroelectric energy, “International Hydropower Association,” electricity accounts for about 30 percent of Laos’ exports. By 2020, the goal is to export over seven gigawatts to Thailand, five to Vietnam, and just

Mekong River Commission (MRC),

From a freely accessible common good water is transformed into a private good which is negotiable at a price.

0.2 gigawatts to their enemy, Cambodia. Three dams are under construction: the Don Sahong Dam, the Xayaburi, and summer 2017 could see planning start on the colossal Pak Beng dam, in the heart of Laos’ Upper Mekong. This is where Francis Ford Coppola placed Kurtz’s base in his Apocalypse Now, and the area is now a popular tourist destination. Pak Beng will be a 912-megawatt giant that could produce 4,775 GWh of energy per year. “At the moment, there are no excavations, but there are often engineers and surveyors taking measurements and surveys,” explains Vilang Mak, a guide with the group Shampoo Tours, which specializes in cruises on the Mekong. The tastefully decorated teak boat is occupied by a dozen French tourists taking pictures of the thick, dense jungle around the Khmu ethnic villages that dot the river along the route from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai. “The dam will stop tourism in these areas, and cruises on the Mekong will become a memory,” continues Vilang. According to Pianporn Deetes from International Rivers, one of the leading organizations for the protection of rivers, interviewed in their Bangkok offices, “about 25 indigenous villages in Laos and two in Thailand will be wiped out by the Pak Beng dam construction. Over 6,700 people will have to be forcibly relocated.” For the countries bordering the river, the dam boom is a source of headaches. On the one hand, the Thai, Cambodians and Vietnamese will secure greater energy security. But, on the other hand, the Laotians’ plans, supported economically by China, are concerning from both a geopolitical and also a food security point of view. Even if today the countries can cooperate in emergencies (as demonstrated by China’s opening of supplies on the Mekong during the drought of March 2016), the control of water flow and sediment in the future could become a tool for political blackmail and a source of tension. According to Ho Uy Liem, vice president of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, “the dams will particularly harm the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, which produces about half of all rice, over 70 percent of fish, and almost all of the fruit in the country. An alimentary threat looms over the region,” underlines Liem, recalling how the Philippines and Indonesia depend on Vietnamese food exports. In an attempt to regulate diplomatic tensions, the states bordering the river created the Mekong River Commission (MRC) twenty years ago. The aim was to provide guidance on cross-border river management. “Let’s clarify immediately that we are a technical commission, not political, and we cannot make decisions,” says the president of the MRC, Pham Tuan Phan, holding his hands out in front of him

while scanning the horizon from his office window in the capital of Vientiane. In the distance is the market along the banks of the Mekong, and on the other side is neighboring Thailand. “With regard to the dams, we have provided important information on how to make implementation more sustainable, monitoring water quality and proposing joint development plans,” he explains in a meeting at the Vientiane headquarters. “We facilitate the consultation process. We meet all parties, including China, which is an observer, but we do not make political decisions. That’s up to diplomacy.” Those who are collaborating, in reality, seem little interested in such diplomacy. The impenetrable authoritarian Bounnhang Vorachit, president of the Laos People’s Revolutionary Party, governs Laos. He has built his developmental policy around dams, at the cost of eliminating internal opposition and any environmentalists who oppose construction. “Laos is not open to any discussion about the dams. Anyone who speaks often disappears,” explains an activist who prefers anonymity to protect his job and safety (there have been numerous murders of environmentalists, including the assassination of environmentalist leader Chut Wutty in 2012). In Cambodia, Hun Sen, prime minister since 1993 and leader of the Cambodian People’s Party, openly supports criticism against dams in Laos. However, he represses any comment on the projects on home soil. Thailand is split between Bangkok, which needs clean energy at a low cost to the economy, and the communities living along the river. The river communities are are suing Thailand’s national electric company, EGAT-Energy Generating Authority of Thailand, for supporting the Xayaburi dam, because they fear strong impacts on fishing. As for Vietnam, the Asian hydropower race is a defeat on all fronts. The country will gain little electricity for imports, a reduced fresh water supply and a collapse in the amount of fish in the river. There is also the risk that a reduced water level in the Mekong Delta could favor saline infiltration and subsidence. This would make the floodplains, the country’s breadbasket, less fertile. Xayaburi, a sustainable dam? Twelve hundred kilometers further north along the Mekong, among the mountains with climbing roads and hairpin bends – not even a kilometer of highway exists in Laos – lies the area of the Xayaburi dam. It’s not far from the enchanting pearl of Mekong, Luang Prabang. The numerous controls at once make clear the level of security around the project. “No journalists, no visits,” say the guards, signaling to leave. U-turn, go back. In the village of Xayaburi no one wants to answer questions. Nobody knows anything about the fate of the inhabitants of Houay Souy, one of the first villages

evacuated by the construction companies and the government. The developer of the 3.8 million dollar project is a Thai engineering group, CH-Karnchang, supported by a group of banks in Thailand. CH-Karnchang never responded to several attempts by the author to request a visit to the site and never responded to questions about the sustainability of the dam. The colossus of 820 meters wide and 33 meters high can be seen only from a distance. With a maximum production capacity of 1,285 megawatts, it is one of the most worrisome projects to farmers, politicians, environmentalists and geologists. Xayaburi will completely dam up the Mekong at one of the points where it gathers the most water. About 95 percent of electricity produced (7,500 GWh per year) will be bought by Thai utility Energy Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), who is also the main buyer from the hydroelectric stations Don Sahong and Pak Beng. “One of the main impacts is the reduction in the amount of nutrient-rich sediment, which will have repercussions on fishing and agriculture for communities living along the river and the southern territories along the Mekong,” explains Tek Vannara, from the NGO forum, during a long interview in his Phnom Penh office. Chris Barlow, a fisheries expert at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), confirms the position of nongovernmental organizations. “When these dams are

completed, the impact on fishing will be immediate, in particular regarding the amount of fish available,” says Barlow. Barlow’s is a position that the president of the Mekong River Commission, Pham Tuan Phan, does not share. “Environmentalists have a radical approach and have decided to not participate in the process. Xayaburi is a state project, which implemented our requests to mitigate impacts. There are passages for fish, with many ‘stairs’ to allow them to go against the current. These passages can even accommodate larger fish, such as the giant pangasius, which is three meters long. There are discharges and the turbines have been modified to allow for the passage of aquatic species.” CH-Karnchang has used the Finnish consultancy, Pöyry, to advise on dam construction in order to properly implement the demands made by the MRC. In a statement released to the author from Knut Seirotzki, director of the hydroelectric section of Pöyry Asia, “The project’s planning and operation is designed to conform to international standards and Mekong River Commission (MRC) guidelines as well as related laws in the Laos PDR and Thailand. The Laos PDR has some of the leading environmental and social impact prevention legislation in Southeast Asia.” However, the strict secrecy surrounding the project, the lack of accessibility and the skepticism of the environmentalists appear to contradict these promises. “The project will be disastrous – to find out, just wait

One of the main impacts is the reduction in the amount of nutrient-rich sediment, which will have repercussions on fishing and agriculture for communities living along the river and the southern territories along the Mekong.


renewablematter 15. 2017 for operations to start. The Mekong will be effectively cut in two,” comments Pianport Deetes caustically. Don Sahong, a dolphin cemetery For 40,000 Laotian kip (4 euro) Suk Lang takes tourists in the middle of the Mekong to spot the famous Irrawaddy dolphin, a mammal of which there remain only 50 in the world. His boat casts off from the Cambodian village of Preah Romkel, in the Stung Treng province. A little less than a kilometer and the boat stops just before entering Laotian territory. The military observes vaguely from afar. A ripple of water, and the shiny head of a male appears. Then another blunt-nosed head breaks the surface, a light grey color. And, finally, a third. “They’re all that’s left. They’ve found refuge in this pool where they know that no one touches them.” Suk, 62 years old, dry and thin in his large uniform, was commissioned by the Provincial Council to monitor the animals, to prevent tourists from disturbing them, or from being hunted by poachers. His enemy now, though, is the Don Sahong Dam, started in 2015 by the Malaysian company MegaFirst and near completion. “Hear the noise? It’s less than a kilometer from here,” he says, pointing to the gloomy northern sky. The dolphins are in danger of disappearing forever. And with them will disappear so many of the ecotourists who come to see them in this picturesque

setting in Kratie, where the Mekong foams and glimmers between the rapids. “Tourism means survival for 600 families,” says Suk, adjusting his military tunic to emphasize the authority of his opinion. Every now and then environmentalist associations come to protest. They bring banners, slogans, songs and sweets with honey to distribute to tourists. But on the other side all is silent. Laos ignores any requests to modify the permit. At least in our case, the construction company also does not allow anyone to come closer to see what is happening. We had to launch a drone from the border and dodge the military to get a few exclusive images. “If there is no hope for the Irrawaddy dolphin – it soon will become extinct – for the inhabitants the real problem is the fish that make up the primary source of survival in numerous communities,” says Suk. Environmentalists repeatedly underline this danger. One such environmentalist is Chhith Sam Ath, country director of the WWF Cambodia, who calls out numerous scientific reports and impact assessments that “clearly show the dam will do untold damage to migrating fish, and will affect the food security of many fishermen south of the dam.” A report from the Mekong River Commission published in 2015 established that the completion of all 11 dams planned could wipe out half of all fish present today in the river. That’s especially true for large fish that may become Buddhism teaches that those who build badly will be born evil in the next life. If someone takes water from the fish, in the next life they will be a fish without water.


UN Watercourses Convention, www.unwatercourses

totally extinct. Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants would lose the ability to fish from the river, which is a loss both of food for survival and employment. The damage to the development and social security in the country would be incalculable. Mekong 2100 The level of the Mekong is at a record low, the lowest since measurements were first recorded hundreds of years ago. The dry season in 2017 promises to be even more severe than last year’s. Yet this report, which required over a month of work in the field, did not find any evidence that the dams will be closed or modified, as evidenced by the recent announcement that work will begin shortly on the Pak Beng dam in Laos. Although Bounnhang Vorachith’s government has shown willingness to incorporate some elements of sustainability into the Laos dams, today there is still not a comprehensive study on the impact of all 11 dams along the Mekong, together with the almost 28 dams on the Chinese territories along the Mekong. Almost all of the NGOs interviewed condemn the modifications made to the dams under construction as “insufficient and not based on solid research,” as well as “a condemnation for many indigenous populations living along the river.” There are several external factors that should also be considered. The impacts of climate change are causing the glaciers in the Tibetan plateau to melt, which increases the intensity of rainfall fed to the river, says IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Flooding will become more frequent in the wet season, and the dry season will bring water shortages. Such conditions will only exacerbate tensions over the water that the dam will remove from the river’s natural flow. An additional factor is the isolationism of many governments in the region from the international community. According to Rémy Kinna, an analyst at Transboundary Water Law (TWL) Global Consulting,


“to-date, Vietnam is the only state to have ratified the United Nations Watercourses Convention, a global legal mechanism to facilitate fair and sustainable management of transboundary freshwater lakes and rivers.” The absence of a common framework has made the states unwilling to negotiate politically, leaving technical and analytical issues in the hands of the Mekong River Commission, without any common decision-making power. The region’s future remains uncertain. “Future water shortages threaten to slow down the key sector for alleviating poverty: agriculture,” explains Brahma Chellaney, a geopolitical analyst and author of the book Water: Asia’s New Battleground. “Water is increasingly becoming a determining factor in understanding whether states are moving towards cooperative development or to destructive competition.” For Chellaney, China carries the greatest influence because China controls the Tibetan plateau, which is the primary source for Asian rivers, the Brahmaputra and the Ganges. China also supports hydroelectric development in Laos. “If these new developments on the Mekong bring water crises, as we have seen in the past, this will intensify the tensions between states. It can slow development, jeopardize food security, and trigger mass migration fro the worst affected areas. With Asia’s peace at risk, it is imperative to invest in institutional water cooperation that will reinforce work on transboundary water resources.” Meanwhile, Je Sre sits in her village, hoeing the ground and waiting for the water to begin to rise. The neighbours are smoking on the stairs, while a father ceremonially pours water over his daughter’s head. The Buddhist monk who looks after the local pagoda peeps out. Pol Kong, he introduces himself. He gazes out into the distance at the river and shakes his head. “The dam builders have already built a new temple to seek Buddha’s favor. But Buddhism teaches that those who build badly will be born evil in the next life. If someone takes water from the fish, in the next life they will be a fish without water.”


renewablematter 15. 2017

NEOCLASSICAL or EX NOVO? Interview with Anna Pellizzari and Emilio Genovesi

by Diego Tavazzi

Material ConneXion Italia,

Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Growth within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Europe, 2015;

The use of matter in linear production processes is bound to be modified. New materials are at the heart of our circular model. Biobased neoclassical and ex novo materials. These are the neomaterials representing the new scenarios of matter. Plant or bio-based, extracted from urban mines or recovered from waste, they are the protagonists of the circular economy paradigm. Renewable Matter asked Anna Pellizzari, who, together with Emilio Genovesi edited the book Neomateriali nell’economia circolare (Edizioni Ambiente, 2017), to describe their distinctive features. What are the macro-factors modifying the big picture of materials used by industries (demography, scarcity of resources, pressure on ecosystems)? “The current industrial model, still based on a linear produce-consume-dispose path, stems from the assumption that resources are infinite. Clearly, this is not the case: the pressure from the baby boom on the one hand on the other the industrial expansion of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China, editor’s note) and of all other developing countries, caused a drop in the availability of raw materials, with strong tensions on the international markets. This is accompanied by a demand of naturally scarce materials – such as some metals and rare earths – necessary for example for hardware manufacturing in electronics. “Meanwhile, the modalities of distribution and the reduction of a product’s life expectancy (on average, a mobile phone is discarded in under two years; let alone more complex products such as home appliances, cars, furniture), generate unimaginable heaps of waste. Today, in Europe, as many as 6 tonnes of raw materials, out of the 16 consumed overall

by every citizen of the Union individually, become waste. It is therefore obvious that the two phenomena must interact and develop a rationale of supply and demand where waste can become resources.” What are the “founding fathers” of the circular economy? Historical facts, books, theorists... “It is difficult to establish the authorship of the concept of the ‘circular economy’ because it has developed over time thanks to contributions by many people. At the moment, the most exhaustive definition of circular economy is that provided by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the famous chart showing – by dividing the production cycles into natural (‘biological’) and artificial (‘technical’) – the virtuous modalities according to which the linear model produce-consume-dispose can be ‘bent’ so that from all the three phases one can go back to the origin. This can occur through active policies of recycling, reusing, repairing, but also thanks to extending products’ life expectancy, through process efficiency improvement, waste reduction and smart planning. “The concept is not new: the idea of a circular circuit of materials was already presented in 1966 by Kenneth E. Bouding in its article “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth.” Although traces of the circular economy appear as far back as antiquity, where reusing goods at the end of their life and controlled management of resources were well-established practices. “Today, one of the most original thinkers is undoubtedly Gunter Pauli, who theorized the blue economy (the blue economy aims

Policy •• development of sharing platforms; •• transition from products to services. “For instance, getting your washing machine repaired (thus as a manufacturer making it more easily repairable) is an action pertaining to the circular economy. So is using timber from 100 trees to make drawers and planting as many. The objective of the circular economy is to combine these single elements within a joint policy aiming at zero impact.”

Anna Pellizzari started out as a graphic designer and then expanded her professional competences to planning of materials and trims in the sports and automotive sector. She collaborated with Domus Academy Research Centre and since 2012 she has been Material ConneXion Italia’s executive director. An expert in design and corporate strategy issues, Emilio Genovesi was Domus Academy’s General Director and Biodiversity Park’s project leader (2015 Expo Milan’s theme pavilion). Since 2015, he has been Material ConneXion Italia’s CEO.

at the creation of a sustainable global economic model inspired by biomimesis and the functioning of nature, where there is no waste, editor’s note).” The introductory chapter to your book is entitled “Dalla linea al cerchio” (“From line to circle”), a formula that embodies the on-going transformation. What is it about and what does it imply for those who plan, produce, dispose of or recover? “Overriding the linear model aims at reintroducing into the production cycle as many resources as possible (preferably everything) – by ‘resources’ we do not only mean physical material making up the product, but also collateral elements entering its processing, such as air, water or the energy used in the production, both generated with fossil fuels or renewables. In practice, overriding the linear model is not the mere disposal and recycling of the end product, but it also includes various ‘return policies’ that may be addressed to several levels of the production chain: from self-repairing up to the disposal right back to the origin of the chain, leading to a new production. “The idea of a circular economy transcends the cycle of any single product, suggesting synergies amongst various companies directed at reusing what for an industry is waste and that for others can be a resource. Or imagining different consumption models, such as rental, where management, and ultimately liability of the product stays with the company, which manages to centralize all aspects to handle (repairing, updating, replacement of components as well as collection and final disposal) in a more competent and therefore more efficient manner. The McKinsey study commissioned by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation pinpoints five main strategies: •• circular supply chain; •• recovery and recycling; •• extension of a product’s life expectancy;

What is the difference amongst biobased, neoclassical and ex novo materials? “Biobased materials are those of plant or organic origin, partially or totally made up of organic components and as such they must be considered renewable because they can be reproduced according to organic life’s ways and rhythms. Biopolymers are amongst the most innovative in this field because, thanks to increasingly interesting performances, they can replace traditional fossil-based plastic materials, as well as those ‘grown’ from bacteria or mycelia combining both the advantages of biobased materials and a considerable energy reduction in their transformation process. “The second family of circular materials comes from the so-called ‘urban mines’ or ‘industrial mines,’ materials that until not so long ago were called ‘waste’ and that are now bound to become raw materials. Materials that for quite some time now have averted ending up in landfills thanks to established industrial supply chains and are thus defined as ‘neoclassical’: paper, glass, aluminium, steel, wood and more recently plastic materials and rubber, but also e-waste. “There is also a third family, just emerging in the raw material panorama aiming at reusing materials that up until very recently were deemed unrecoverable for economic or processing reasons, thus inexorably destined to incineration, landfilling or storage. Materials such as food industry processing waste, but also street sweeping dust, incinerator ash, gaseous waste as well as difficult-to-recover urban waste such as nappies and plastic mix. These are ‘ex novo’ materials, that is materials considered ‘exhausted,’ but that thanks to the development of new processes and supply chains, re-enter the production cycle, often starting from the very beginning, thus becoming virgin raw materials.” Which of the materials/supply chains described in the book is the most interesting and why? “Undoubtedly, the most fascinating family is that of ex novo materials because it is the most challenging in terms of creativity and technological development. Actually, ex novo materials entail all round planning: from identifying the most interesting waste (that is, with a constant supply enabling the development of a stable supply chain); the creation of a business model of the supply



renewablematter 15. 2017

IN SITU RECYCLING (reprocessing, regranulation, etc.)

PRE-CONSUMER RECYCLING (post-production)


Waste, scraps, offcuts, etc. The products re-enters its own production cycle

The products re-enters its own production cycle

POST-CONSUMER RECYCLING The product re-enters a different production cycle, alone or combined with others

chain including logistics; the development of a technology capable of processing waste. It also includes the concept of upcycling materials that at first could seem hopeless: incinerator ash, street sweeping dust, sewage and sludge. Materials with zero or even negative value (since their disposal comes at a cost) that are upcycled along the value chain becoming tiles, plastic materials and fabrics.” Robotics and advanced biotechnologies are some of the most promising sectors and fundamental elements of the Fourth industrial revolution. What synergies can be identified amongst these new materials and these fast growing sectors? “Generally speaking, we can say that neo materials fit into the same industrial paradigm: that is precisely that of the circular economy. There are several synergies: robotics and industry 4.0 have a series of practical implications on materials. Particularly on themes such as waste reduction, through innovative production processes, such as additive manufacturing, and the management of small lots while still producing on an industrial scale, this enables the reduction of production surplus. Or the ability to tag different parts of a product to plan replacement, thus extending its life. In these cases, materials can offer enabling solutions, from materials suited to be transformed through additive processes, to sensors, tags, circuit boards and much more. “Advanced biotechnologies also make great use of biocompatible materials, which can generally

Policy MATERIALS FROM CROPS Biobased materials able to effectively replaced non renewable fossil-based equivalents

Biobased materials from traditional recycling supply chains

Materials from organic waste from food industry or post-consumer








Materials from traditional recycling supply chains

Materials from urban industrial and construction waste excluded from traditional recycling supply chains

Materials from waste suitable for developing established supply chains


be divided into two macro categories: materials that can be defined as ‘inert,’ in other words they do not have a negative interaction with the organism they come into contact with because they do not release harmful substances and are not ‘attacked’ as foreign bodies. We are talking about materials normally used in the medical sector, titanium for example. But there is also a new generation of biomaterials, simulations of organic tissues, created thanks to tissue engineering techniques.” It would be like squaring the circle, finding the philosopher’s stone. At what stage are we in the study of combining new materials with projects for absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere? “The main problem is CO2 low energy content, it is a low reactive molecule requiring great amounts of energy to react and to transform into another compound, and this has a negative impact on the carbon footprint of the entire process. “The direct use of CO2 is still at an experimental stage and its advantage calculated though life-cycle assessment is not that obvious, while its indirect use is already at a more advanced stage, such as the creation of intermediate polymers in the production of polyurethanes. For instance, it can be converted into methanol and then into formaldehyde and polyoxymethylene, a building block of polyols (very important chemical compounds in food science and polymer chemistry, editor’s note). CO2-based methanol is already available on the market; it is at the core of many projects yielding encouraging results.”



In a country where the unemployment rate is 18.4%, the bioeconomy represents a huge opportunity to balance economic growth, skilled job creation and environmental sustainability. The government in Madrid understood that very well, devising a specific strategy to develop its whole potential. Recognizing the essential role of correct communication with all social and economic players.

Skyline: Vector Open Stock – C.C. 3.0



Sustainable AMBITION Considered central to consolidating economic growth, Spain’s bioeconomy can count on its strong agri-food and forestry sector that ensures vast resources in terms of essential raw materials for producing bioenergies and new biomaterials. Its highly-competitive biotech industry, involving both joint-ventures and SMEs, is a world leader. by Mario Bonaccorso

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

The Spanish Bioeconomy – 2030 Horizon,

A need and an opportunity – this is what the bioeconomy is for the government of Spain, that, in March 2016, was the first of the big Mediterranean countries to present its own national strategy (The Spanish Bioeconomy – 2030 Horizon). This was a necessary means for moving the country in the direction of becoming a society which is less dependent on non-renewable resources from fossil fuels “whose consumption is accelerating the climate change process which is putting the future of our planet at risk.” It is also an opportunity to stimulate “a process for consolidating economic growth,” where new technologies are considered competitiveness instruments for Spanish companies.

The role of the agri-food sector

the majority of the biotechnological innovation developed. Their importance in the Iberian country’s productive system is demonstrated through data supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture, which show that the agricultural sector represented 2.5% of GDP in 2013 and generated a gross value added of €21,707 billion, giving work to 740,000 people. The food industry represented 2.7% of the GDP and generated a value added of €28.448 billion, employing 480,000 workers in over 28,000 companies. In total, the agri-food sector made up 17% of national exports. Furthermore, forestry was worth €762 million, the fishing and aquafarming sector over a billion Euros, the paper industry €3.3 billion, the wood and cork industry around €1.9 billion. The Spanish strategy sets the challenge of maintaining primary production sustainability in economic, social and environmental terms. All this, Madrid believes, will be possible, improving productive efficiency and organisational and logistical processes, through technologies and innovation. Food discards produced by agriculture and the food industry must become raw materials for producing new biomaterials and bioenergies.

The main players in the Spanish bioeconomy strategy are the agricultural, food and forestry sectors, that are considered the prime beneficiaries of economic development based on the use of organic resources. On the one hand, there are the raw material suppliers that do not have to compete with the food industry. On the other, there are the recipients of

According to the Spanish Renewable Energy Association, in the 2007-2014 period, the average annual GDP generated by the bioenergies (including biomass for electricity generation) and biofuels for transport sector was 3.562 billion Euros. In the same period, an annual average of 47,880 direct and indirect jobs were created.

“The main objective – Isabel García Tejerina, Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, wrote in the strategy introduction – is to construct a bioeconomy as an essential part of the country’s economic activities, with innovation that generates know-how. We need the public and private sector to collaborate closely and greater interaction between the Spanish and scientific and technological systems.”



renewablematter 15. 2017 The Abengoa Bioenergy case

©Manuel Estrada, cover for Alianza editorial

Succinity GmbH,

The Abengoa Bioenergy case has certainly left a shadow line on the sector. At a stone’s throw from bankruptcy, it is decommissioning all its plants across the world and managing to avoid chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy law through serious debt restructuring. At the end of last year, its subsidiary Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas was forced to sell its cellulosic plant in Hugoton to Synata Bio for 48.5 million dollars. The sale encompassed the cellulosic ethanol production establishment with a 25-million-gallon-a-year capacity, the co-generation plant and 400 acres of land. The intellectual property contained in the process was, however, excluded along with its license agreements with Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies. Back in 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy had loaned the company 134 million dollars for the plant’s construction. In August 2016, Green Plains Inc. paid out 237 billion dollars in cash to get its hands on three U.S. Abengoa Bioenergy ethanol plants: in Madison, Illinois; in Mount Vernon, Indiana, and in York, Nebraska, totalling a productive capacity of 236 million gallons a year. That is not all. The same Green Plains also bought the Ravenna plant in Nebraska

Manuel Estrada, based in Madrid, was one of the first interpreters of the Spanish design ola, that after Francoism has become a unique phenomenon in Europe for its quality and range. Over time, this image revolution has involved institutions, companies, products and cultures in a strongly iconic, constant and highly recognizable process. We offer you some examples of Manuel Estrada’s work where the “nature” aspect is both communication and happy wisecrack.

and the Colwich plant in Kansas, while the Portales plant in New Mexico went to Natural Chem Group. In Europe, the Abengoa Bioenergía San Roque S.A. biodiesel production plant sited in Cádiz, southern Spain, was purchased for eight million Euros by Cepsa (Compañía Española de Petróleos S.A.U.), already recipient of 100% of the biodiesel produced using soya, rapeseed and palm oil. Last June, Belgium’s Alcogroup took over the Europoort plant in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). The La Coruña, Salamanca and Cartagena establishments are currently up for sale. In France, the negotiations for the transfer of the Laqc bioethanol plant in the PyrénéesAtlantiques (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) are near conclusion. The potential buyers of the biorefinery, which employs 70 workers and produces 250 million litres a year, are OCEOL, a group of the region’s main agrarian cooperatives and companies, and a European investment fund. Biochemistry, made in Spain In the green chemistry field, the main Spanish biorefinery belongs to Succinity GmbH, the joint-venture created in August 2013 by Dutch company Corbion Purac, world leader in lactic acid and derivative production, and German chemistry giant BASF. Its plant, located at the Corbion Purac site, in Montmeló, Catalonia, produces biobased succinic acid for the global market on a commercial scale and has an annual capacity of 10,000 tonnes. “We have analysed the life cycle – refers the company with headquarters in Düsseldorf, Germany – and proven how the carbon footprint of ‘Succinity’ biobased succinic acid is over 60% lower than that of fossil-based succinic acid.” In 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy included succinic acid in its list of the twelve best chemical intermediates obtainable from biomass. There is, thus, no lack of competition in terms of industrial players: from BioAmber in Canada (Sarnia), supported by Mitsui and Lanxess, to Reverdia, DSM and Roquette’s joint-venture, in Italy (Cassano Spinola). Its applications are numerous: as raw material for bioplastics, upholstery, adhesives, sealants and personal hygiene products. Furthermore, bio-succinic acid is also used for foodstuffs and flavourings as an acidifying agent and preservative with raw plant-based materials. The “Succinity” industrial process is based on raw renewable materials, which, thanks to proprietary microorganism Basfia succiniciproducens, are flexibly used in an efficient closed-cycle process which generates no particular waste streams.

Policy Industrial biotechnologies Alongside the BASF-Corbion Purac jointventure, a series of small and medium-sized Spanish enterprises are focusing their work on developing a new innovative chemistry based on the use of biotechnologies and the transformation of agri-food discards. One of the most significant cases is that of Neol Bio. The Andalusian company led by Javier Velasco, with headquarters in Granada, has developed a microorganism capable of transforming agrarian discards into new bioproducts (above all, bioplastics and biolubricants). “Just in Almerìa – Neol Bio reveals – agriculture produces two million tonnes of discards, worth 30 million Euros a year, which can be reused through biotechnologies.” Last November, the Andalusian biotechnological company signed a collaboration agreement with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in order to produce fatty alcohols from lignocellulosic sugars. The objective: to develop liquid biofuels for transport at competitive costs. In 2015, Neol Bio was also selected in two tenders for realising a biorefinery in Puertollano (ClaMber project), in the Castilla-La Mancha

Microalgae Microalgae are the first link in the aquatic food chain. Without them there would be no life. In addition to providing us with oxygen through photosynthesis, they can now help us to face many of the challenges connected to climate change and world population growth. Given their composition which is rich in protein, carbohydrates and fat, microalgae are the source of many products which are beneficial in a vast range of sectors, such as human nutrition, animal feed, agriculture, aquaculture and cosmetics. Furthermore, the international scientific community agrees on the fact that, in the near future, microalgae will be competitive for generating clean energy and second-generation biofuels, thus contributing to sustainable development in environmental and economic terms. This is because: •• they are a very productive, limitless natural resource; •• they allow for daily harvesting; •• they do not need fertile land and are not in competition with human nutrition; •• they grow in sea, fresh, salty and waste water; •• they allow for greater CO2 reduction (up to 2 kg for every kg of biomass produced).

One of the first uses of second-generation biofuels produced by Repsol was on the Iberia Madrid-Barcelona flight operated by an Airbus A320 in 2011.

region, which will produce high value-added biofuels from agricultural discards. The total investment comes to 20 million Euros, four/fifths of which made available by the European Regional Development Fund. According to ASEBIO, the Spanish Association of Biotech companies, Spain is a world leader in the industrial biotechnology field. The Spanish Statistical Office (INE) censused 2,831 biotech companies with around 173,000 workers, 9,135 of whom employed in research and development. These include Alkol Biotech, a genetic engineering company focusing on the development of new plant varieties adapted to the needs of the bioindustry market. “Our research regards new crops as raw material for producing biofuels, bioplastics and other bioproducts” explains Al Costa, CEO of the Spanish company. “We aim to improve crops in order to allow for the sustainable production of any bio-based product.” EUnergyCane is a new variety of sugar cane, a hybrid grown in the fields of Motril, Andalusia. It guarantees very high resistance against viruses and parasites, higher yields in terms of sugar and fibre, as well as greater resistance to chemical agents. The company, led by Costa, aims to create a variety of sugar cane which is able to grow in the coldest and driest climates. Repsol biofuels Even Spanish petrol and natural gas giant, Repsol, one of the ten most important petrol companies in the world, has made biofuels central to its sustainable energy development plan. In 2010, 1.2 million tonnes of biodiesel and 273,000 tonnes of bioethanol were sold (most recent data available supplied by the company listed on the Madrid stock exchange). “We select – Repsol illustrates – the biofuels which are most suited to the market and we add them to petrol and diesel in the highest proportions permitted by the legislation of each country.” In order to stimulate the new renewable energies business, in 2010, the Nnew energies department was created, allowing the Spanish company to launch second-generation biofuels. Consequently came the newco Kuosol, an equal partnership joint-venture with Mexican group Kuo, boasting investments of 80 million dollars for the development of bioenergies from the cultivation of Jatropha curcas, an inedible oleaginous plant with a high oil content cultivated on 10,000 hectares of land in Yucatan. The new advanced biofuels, developed in Repsol’s Technology Center, have been tested industrially in the Spanish Puertollano and Cartagena refineries. The process also allows for the development of a co-product, biopropane, a gas whose characteristics are identical to propane, but which is 100% renewable.


renewablematter 15. 2017

The Company’s second plant, that also involves Spain’s airport manager, Aena, and airline company Iberia, stands near to Madrid’s Barajas airport. Biofuels are also produced here through the use of particular microalgae with photosynthetic capabilities which are rich in fatty acids (features which allow for using less water and land in plant production). These are experimented on the Spanish airline company’s flights. In addition to biofuel production, all the technologies used until now to capture CO2 produced by airports are tested in order to improve them.

above all, according to that provided for in the action plan, a policy of green public tenders, with relative labelling and standardising systems.” Behind the coordination of all the actions necessary for implementing the national strategy is the monitoring group created by the Interministerial Council of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, which unites representatives of the involved ministries, productive sectors, the scientific community and civil community. The bioeconomy really is an opportunity that Spain does not want to miss out on.

Alga Energy,

©Manuel Estrada, labels for Spanish wine

One of the first uses of second-generation biofuels produced by Repsol was on the Iberia Madrid-Barcelona flight operated by an Airbus A320 in 2011, where a product mixed with conventional Jet A1 fuel and a biofuel derived from camelina were used allowing for a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases. Repsol is also studying the use of algae as a raw material for biofuel production. This project has led to a 20% shareholding in Alga Energy, a leading enterprise in the microalgae research field, which boasts Iberdrola as shareholder. The latter, the biggest producer of electricity and natural gas in Spain, was selected by the European Commission last November from the six small and medium-sized European enterprises with the highest growth potential. Alga Energy manages a biofuel from microalgae production plant with a capacity of a million litres a year, at Arcos de la Frontera, close to Cadice. The establishment, part of the CO2Algaefix programme co-funded by the European Commission, covers an area of 10,000 metres squared and aims for an annual production of 100 tonnes of dry biomass.

Society’s role For a country with unemployment rates settled at 18.4% at the end of 2016 (Eurostat data), the bioeconomy is a great opportunity for conciliating economic growth, creating skilled jobs and environmental sustainability. In order to fully realise its potential, the Spanish government wants to obtain the complete support of public opinion. That is why the strategy assigns a fundamental role to accurate information and to training. “Society – it says – must identify and understand the value added generated by the development of this strategy for our economy, and be clearly committed to using our agricultural areas which are useful for providing food for human and animal consumption. We must develop other value chains based on the use of technologies for transforming organic matter into bioproducts and bioenergies, ensuring that all the biomass generated is exploited in full.” “The creation of a bioeconomy market” must be promoted “by supporting the bioproduct demand, with,

©Manuel Estrada, cover for Alianza editorial


Policy Interview

by M. B.

We Have Made the Strategy: Now We Must Make the Market Jose Manuel Gonzalez, Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) under the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness

The Spanish strategy on the bioeconomy is directed by the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, particularly by the Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation. One of the members of the “Steering Committee” is Jose Manuel Gonzalez from the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) who is also the Spanish representative for the bioeconomy in Horizon 2020 and in Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking. Renewable Matter interviewed him.

CDTI – Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial,

What is the Spanish bioeconomy’s distinctive feature? “Undoubtedly, the strategic role played by the agribusiness and the food production sector which represents over 5.3% of GDP, 7% of working population population, more than 900.000 farms and 30,000 companies and almost 20% of exports in Spain. Not only that: the sector is characterized by a high rate of innovation, based on excellent basic and applied research. This is proved by the excellent results achieved by the Spanish projects within the European bids.” The agribusiness is the backbone, but what role does the biobased chemistry play? “In Spain, the chemical sector is also strongly linked to the agribusiness. One of the main enterprise is Fertiberia which is the Spanish leader in the field of fertilizers and one of the main players at European level. But there are many other companies which also deserve our attention. Its role in the bioeconomy has multiple functions: it contributes to improve efficiency in the agricultural production and develops new innovative biofertilizers, thus reducing the use of fossil raw materials. In Spain, the whole chemical industry is strongly committed to researching alternative sources to oil, able to place on the market biobased products, sustainable from all points of view. This is why the European Commission selected Andalusia as one of the six model demonstrations regions to lead the way towards sustainable chemical production in Europe (the others being GroningenDrenthe, the Netherlands, Kosice, Slovakia, Scotland, South-Eastern Irland and Wallonia, Belgium, editor’s note).” Repsol too is committed to developing biofuels... “Of course. In Spain, Repsol produces a considerable amount of biofuels and carries out advanced research in the field of biofuels using both macro- and microalgae. They could become very competitive in this field. But it seems to me that, even at European level,

over the last period there has been a slowdown, also due to the low price of oil hindering the research of alternative fuels.” The difficult situation of Abengoa Bioenergy does not help either. What is your opinion on that? “I believe that Abengoa Bioenergy’s bankrupcy is very unfortunate. The company had a well-established international leadership, based on cutting-edge technologies. The latter remain, though. Their expertise in processing different sources of biomass is impresive. I think that the use of urban solid waste as raw material could be able to give new impetus.” The Spanish strategy explicitly refers to the need to support demand. Are you considering a green procurement system? “The need to support the input on the market of biobased products is at the heart of the debate started within a workgroup created by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competiveness. It is crucial to make society understand exactly what the bioeconomy is in order to create greater awareness. We must also involve the private sector, the university and research community because, to develop this meta-sector, we also need new graduate profiles and new educational courses in line with the needs from the private sector. Some well-recognised universities have already created a curriculum focused on the bioeconomy. Very soon, they could also start a Master’s Degree in Bioeconomy. “These topics were at the heart of the Bioeconomy Steering Committee meeting that took place on 28th February in Madrid, where the Action Plan for 2017 was also discussed together with the setting up of the Bioeconomy Observatory. “In order to accelerate the entrance in the market of the biobased products, some tools are going to be further considered, such as a green procurement system accompanied by the implementation of standards and labelling.” Who are going to be the members of the Observatory? “All the stakeholders within the Bioeconomy businesses, the research world, the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competiveness (Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation), the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and the Digital Agenda and the Regions too. The latter play a pivotal role in the implementation



renewablematter 15. 2017 of the national bioeconomy strategy. At ministerial level, we asked the 17 autonomous regions to come up with specific bioeconomy strategies. Andalusia, Estremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Valencia are already committed to this. While 16 have decided to include the agribusiness sector in their smart specialization strategies. “Representatives from different organizations will also be included (consumenrs, environment, farmers, financing sector). “It is the intention of the Steering Committee to set up the Bioeconomy Observatory very soon.” What role does the Mediterranean play in the Spanish bioeconomy? “In a water scarcity scenario, there is a need to develop the circular economy and to reinforce the role that biological resources must play on it. For the Mediterranean region it is essential to ensure

the sustainable production use and exploitation of the biological resources within the different value chains that make up the Bioeconomy: agriculture and food production, including livestock production, forestry, blue economy, and biobased products and bioenergy. Sustainability must be considered as a whole (people, profitability and planet). Due to the limited water framework in this region, the valorization of waste from diferent sources must contribute to more efficient and sustainable production systems and to generate new jobs, growth and competitiveness of the Bioeconomy sectors. “The Spanish bioeconomy is mainly focused on agrifoodbusiness but also on fishing, aquaculture and marine research. Research in the field of algae and generally on marine biomass plays a strategic role for the present and future of the bioeconomy in our country. But also in the whole Mediterranean area to restore the right centrality to Southern Europe.”


by M. B.

The Spanish Way to Biotech Isabel Garcia Carneros, Asebio’s Operations Director

Asebio is the Spanish Association of biotech companies. It representes companies involved in all fields of application of the biotechnology. Renewable Matter interviewed Isabel Garcia Carneros, Operations Director, on the role of industrial biotechnology to boost the bioeconomy.

Asebio – Asociación española de bioempresas, index.cfm

What is the state of the art of industrial biotechnology in Spain? “Early Spanish initiatives to promote and encourage the bioeconomy, along with the existence of a developed bioindustry sector, existing market opportunities and an advanced cooperative system have created the optimal environment for our industry to flourish. Progress in the field of biorefineries, research into new production processes and improvements in chain values have allowed us to acquire the necessary knowledge to attain rapid advances, create new technologies for the utilisation of biomass and generate new market niches. “At the national level, a number of public bodies have aligned themselves with European policies and strategies. A favourable political framework is therefore being created for the establishment of biorefineries and the implementation of the bioeconomy in Spain. For instance, the Secretariat of State for Research, Development and Innovation, part of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, with the participation of the industrial, academic and scientific sectors, has published the Spanish Bioeconomy Strategy, which is designed to boost economic activity by improving competitiveness and sustainability

in production sectors, promoting and encouraging the development and the practical application of technologies resulting from collaborations between the science-technology system and private Spanish firms. At the core of the Spanish Strategy are the activities of the agriculture, marine, food and forestry industries and the efficient and sustainable use of products, sub-products and all waste produced by them – transforming waste into a new line of bioproducts, including bioenergy, for which industrial biotechnology is essential. “We should also note that the European Commission (DG GROWTH) selected the project presented by Andalusia to turn the region into a model for research and development of circular economy and industrial symbiosis systems. The objective being to make a more efficient and sustainable use of the resources and raw materials available, such as biomass and waste management.” What is the role of industrial biotechnology in developing the Spanish bioeconomy? “Industrial biotechnology provides a great opportunity to solve the current global challenges the international community is facing, offering potential solutions to the growing demand for food, animal feed, fuel and other materials. Industrial biotechnology enables us to develop higher yield solutions for a variety of products, while also reducing environmental impact. By incorporating this technological step forward, new products and production processes can be obtained, turning the so called ‘alternative’ materials

©Manuel Estrada, logo for Cajaiva, a merger of four agricultural banks


©Manuel Estrada, logo for Gamesa, wind farm, 2016

or products into economically and environmentally efficient solutions with a wide range of everyday applications, leading to more competitiveness and market share. This helps companies to develop and launch products and processes incorporating an intrinsic innovation value, which is of great relevance when comparing them to traditional competitors. “In this manner, such tools help to reduce the environmental impact of production processes without reducing efficiency, performance or profitability. The growing use of Industrial Biotechnology in traditional firms allows for the inclusion and application of the technology to mature sectors, improving efficiency and sustainability.”

©Manuel Estrada, cover of a cooking magazine

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Spanish biotech industry? “Spain has a wide network of universities and well-known centres of excellence specialised in multiple areas of great importance for biorefineries, such as chemistry, energy and biomass; as well as a lot of industrial infrastructure that has grown exponentially during the past 10 years. The science-technologyprivate sector triangle is a great hub of knowledge with a long tradition of cooperation, a sure sign of success for the development of a globally integrated system. Moreover, increasing numbers of innovative Spanish biotech firms have internationalised successfully, leading to more international interest in the Spanish biotechnology industry. “Although in terms of research and academic development, quality is high, not enough knowledge is transformed into industrial products that take such knowledge to the market. It is therefore important to promote the creation of institutes and technology firms that will utilise knowledge, transforming it into a tangible industry asset. The public administration must also support firms by encouraging them to innovate. Access to venture capital and financial markets, as well as strong government support for R&D policy are crucial guarantees when investing in the bioindustry.”

IDAE – Instituto para la diversificación y ahorro de la energía,

How is biotech innovation supported in Spain? “As a public institution, the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) makes a fundamental contribution towards the development of biotechnology in Spain by publicly financing research projects and also through private funding, via specialised biotechnology funds. “References to the institutional support for the bioeconomy can already be seen. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment (MAPAMA) explicitly supports biorefineries through its National Programme for Innovation and Agro-Food and Forestry Research, the National Programme for Rural Development 2014-2020 and the Spanish Bioeconomy Strategy. These programmes support the optimal use of biomass in Spain, providing

a solution to technological challenges in the near future. “Additionally, the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness launched a number of support mechanisms for R&D, to foment these industries (Spanish Strategy of Science and Technology and Innovation and the National Plan of Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation). The Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism (MINETUR) also adopted the objectives set out by the EU Directive on Renewable Energies (2009/28/CE) in its National Action Plan for Renewable Energy (PANERO) 2011-2020. The document lists the objectives that Spain must meet by 2020: 20% of final energy consumption in 2020 must come from a renewable source of energy – and 10% in the case of transport. The ministry also made the reindustrialisation of Spain a fundamental objective, committing itself to developing industries operating closely with biorefineries. Furthermore, we must stress the great interest shown by the various regions of Spain when it comes to revalorising their biomass and establishing Bio-Industries – leading to social, economical and environmental gains in their areas.” What are the most important clusters for industrial biotechnology and green chemistry? “As well as Andalusia, there are other stakeholders throughout Spain working on R&D projects in this field, including private sector initiatives, organised with the support of the public administration, as is the case of the CLAMBER project (Castilla-LaMancha Bio-Economy Region), which is currently underway. This project intends to establish the foundations for the region to become a leader in the field of biomass management research in southern Europe. The project included the development of innovative research projects to transform agricultural residues into added-value products, as well as the construction of a versatile modular pilot biorefinery.” Is there a biomass availability problem in Spain? “Spain has a lot of potential when it comes to biomass. This makes for a strong foundation in the development of biorefineries, given that biomass is the raw material from which energy, chemical products and other substances are obtained. We have a large amount of biomass, which is increasing every year, yet is underused. Additionally, Spain has the optimum conditions, both because of its geography and its weather, to produce certain types of biomass. Efforts are also being made to facilitate the use of currently fallow or unproductive land, thereby reenergising rural and industrial areas. “According to the technical report titled ‘Assessment on the potential of biomass energy,’ which was carried out by the Spanish Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE, Evaluacion del Potencial de Energia de la Biomasa), Spain has the potential to produce nearly 40 million tons of agricultural products a year,



renewablematter 15. 2017 of which 17.7 MM would be biomass crops and 21.6 MM would be wood biomass. The study also suggests revalorising agrifood waste biomass as well as energy crop biomass. “Another IDAE internal report has shown that it would be viable (from an agronomical standpoint) to dedicate 50% of currently fallow land – close to 2 Mha – to growing energy crops. The majority of fallow land is non-irrigated land which is currently unused, meaning that, when put to use, it would have no negative impact on food production. Finally, it is important to underscore the importance of

farming: it accounts for 79% of agro-industrial biogas production and 67% of the total biogas that could potentially be available in Spain.” Are there plans for the use of marine biomass? “At present, in the field of marine biomass (mainly macroalgae) the focus is on continuing with the research to find competitive bioproducts and fuel. Although there are no actual ‘institutional’ plans as such, the scientific community and various research groups, particularly in northern Spain, are very active in this field.”


by M. B.

The Bioeconomy in the Vocabulary of Politics Javier Velasco Álvarez, CEO of Neol Bio

Javier Velasco Álvarez is the CEO of Neol Bio, one of the most dynamic industrial biotech company in Spain. He is also the Chairman of the Industrial Biotechnology Council at Asebio, the Spanish Association of Bioindustries. In this exclusive interview with Renewable Matter, he talks about the bioeconomy in Spain: its strenghts and weaknesses, the role of society and the measures it needs to take.

Neol Bio,

Mr Velasco, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the Spanish bioeconomy? “Spain has a strong food and agricultural sector and a large availability of geographical spaces which can and must make the most of the benefits offered by the bioeconomy, fostering them to the maximum. However, the agricultural activity is conditioned by growing limitations on the availability of water and the need for sustainable management based on science and technology. As result we have productive sectors that are already consolidated, along with others still emerging and developing. “Besides, Spain has significant capacity to generate relevant know-how in the area of the bioeconomy in public research centers, universities, alongside with companies working in the field and developing very interesting technologies but still – and I think that’s common to other European countries – there is some misalignment between public R&D and the interests of private companies. “But having said that, in my opinion the main weakness of the Spanish bioeconomy is the lack of large chemical companies that could act as a driving force and final users of the bioproducts generated. And this issue has become worse with the financial problems that Abengoa has recently suffered.” How has the failure of Abengoa Bioenergy influenced the development of the bioeconomy in Spain?

“Of course the problems that have affected Abengoa Bioenergy have negatively affected the bioeconomy in Spain because this company has been a driving force of the sector leading many R&D and industrial projects (Babilafuente, Hugoton, etc) but I’m genetically optimistic and, as it happens with energy, bioprojects ‘can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another.’ I’m confident that the technologies and, more important, the people behind them, would find other ways to get founding and start again improved by the lessons learned.” What are the other major players of the Spanish bioeconomy? “I would say that the companies that are leading the way in bioeconomy in Spain are industrial biotech companies such as Biopolis, Inkemia, Alga Energy and, of course, my company Neol Bio. Some large companies such as Fertiberia in the chemical and fertilizer sector and ENCE (energy, pulp and paper) are also very active in R&D and industrial projects. The large oil and energy companies (Repsol, Cepsa, ENDESA, etc) have participated in R&D projects but in my opinion they should have a more active role.” Could you explain to us in which sector is your company active? “The focus of the Company is the development of bioprocesses from residual raw materials specifically for the production of microbial oils and oleochemicals. “We have developed several bioprocesses for the microbial conversion of agricultural and industrial waste into added-value products. Some of these technologies have been developed for industrial clients whereas others have been developed using internal resources and now form part of the Industrial Property of the Company as patents and know-how.


©Manuel Estrada, image of the Manuel Estrada exhibition in Bilbao, 2015

most respondents share an optimistic vision of the potential benefits of the bioeconomy. The reduction of waste and pollution is the potential benefit of bio-based economy identified as most relevant. But many respondents agree that there are a number of important risks that need to be kept in mind when developing the biobased economy: over-exploitation of natural resources and food security both in EU and third countries. “Spanish Society as a whole must be familiar with the objectives and principles of the economy based on the use of resources of biological origin, its favourable impacts on our surroundings, reducing dependence on fossil resources once the technologies have been adequately evaluated, and also of the new product ranges that will gradually appear on our market and become available to consumers.”

“The most relevant technology developed by Neol Bio is MicroBiOil®, a platform to produce added-value oils and microbial derived oleochemicals from renewable sources. “In the field of food ingredients we have developed a bioprocess to obtain DHA-rich oils through the culture of microalgae selected from in the Iberian Peninsula’s ecosystems.” The national strategy was presented last year. At what stage is its implementation? “Yes, the ‘The Spanish Bioeconomy Strategy 2030 Horizon’ was presented last year and, although we have some uncertainty due to the political situation, a first action plan was put in place. The best result is that bioeconomy is already in the vocabulary of several Ministries and Regional Authorities and there is an interest in identifying society’s perception of the subject and exchange of opinions with representatives from the productive sectors, consumers, opinion makers, NGOs, etc.” The strategy gives an important role to society. What is the perception of the bioeconomy by Spanish public opinion? “Development of a communication strategy with all our social and economic players is an essential element to attaining technological advance and its application to the productive reality and should be a priority in the development of the BioEconomy Strategy. “According to a recent public perception studies

What measures are present in Spain to support the development of the bioeconomy? And what do you think should be implemented in the short term? “Actions in five specific areas will be taken in pursuit of the operational objectives: 1) innovation by generating knowledge and its application in a business setting; 2) fostering the interaction between the different players involved in the bioeconomy; 3) developing the market for existing products or new products arising from the bioprocess context; 4) promoting the demand by analysing procedures for innovative public procurement and 5) expanding the knowledge of bioeconomy via cooperation and by communicating successes. “To promote public and private research and company investment in innovation in the area of the bioeconomy funding research projects an important target is to analyse successful public-private collaboration models for generating entrepreneurial innovation (e.g. Bioaster, Novo Nordisk, Wageningen), proposing similar measures applicable to Spain.”


renewablematter 15. 2017 edited by Institut de l’économie circulaire, Paris


Adrian Deboutière, Project Manager, Institut de l’économie circulaire. Laurent Georgeault, Research associate in Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne, lab. Géographie Cités, team CRIA.

Laurent Georgeault

by Adrian Deboutière and Laurent Georgeault

Savings in the use of raw materials, transformation of waste into resources, reduction of costs thanks to sharing of goods and services. This is how the French programme on the industrial symbiosis allows companies to become more competitive while improving their environmental performance.

Adrian Deboutière


In France, industrial ecology has gradually been integrating both scientific and policy fields since the beginning of the 21st century. First research-action programs have mainly been limited to industrial parks management. PNSI (Programme National de Synergies Inter-entreprises) has been designed as a national experimental program aiming to renew industrial symbiosis methods in France in consistency with recent territorial reforms. During the G7 workshop on resource efficiency, the French Ministry of Environment presented PNSI as a lead program for French companies competitiveness and sustainability. Industrial ecology is a scientific field aiming to integrate economic activities within

ecosystems boundaries. It is operationalized through industrial symbiosis that has rapidly been considered as a powerful policy tool to enhance both economic and environmental performance in territories. An industrial symbiosis is a cooperative action between several companies which consists in mutualizing capacities or optimizing material and energy flows. Waste water and energy recovery, raw metal and mineral substitution through reuse, or equipment and knowledge sharing are some of the synergies that were led through the French national program on industrial symbiosis (PNSI). PNSI arised as a lead-program after the 2013 French Environmental Conference that pointed industrial ecology as one of the priorities of Environmental French policy. This was confirmed in 2015 by the national law on energy transition. Designed by the Institut de l’économie circulaire, this experimental program is deployed in four regions (NouvelleAquitaine, Bretagne, Normandie, Auvergne Rhône-Alpes) and upscales industrial symbiosis implementation areas in France. Contrary to previous projects that were targeting restricted industrial areas on a limited timeframe, regions are given a leading role to ensure complementarity, coherence and continuity of local actions. This coordination scale is consistent with the new competences of regions on economic and sustainable development


attributed by the latest French law on territorial organisation. PNSI contributes to renew French industrial symbiosis methods by answering more efficiently to industrial needs and constraints. While former experiments were based on exhaustive material flows analysis for each company, PNSI is resting on a more cooperative workshop-based method coming from the UK. Fifteen meetings gathering more than 500 SMEs and large companies have been organized since the beginning of the program in July 2015. Every company has been given new business opportunities with environmental benefits. A set of practitioners has been designated in every region to assist companies in synergies completion. Companies are pleasantly surprised to discover that many cross-sectoral synergies are likely to be generated with neighbours. Technical and regulatory support can be mutualized and provided at a regional or national scale. For instance, administrative barriers to synergies which are identified through the program can then be removed at the national level. However, practitioners must be deployed closer to companies to ensure success. In France, chambers of commerce, local officials or associations complementarily play this intermediation role. A national network of PNSI practitioners has been created in order to share best practices on companies mobilisation

and synergies monitoring. Inter-regional synergies may even be conducted when companies needs cannot be met locally. Results from PNSI will be delivered at the end of July 2017 and will orientate the French national strategy on industrial ecology. Intermediate results are already promising and have reinforced the growing dynamic for industrial symbiosis in French territories. Local authorities are crucial actors of the ecological transition through territorial land planning and economic policy. Yet, they are missing operational tools to involve local companies into sustainable development and circular economy. PNSI demonstrates that companies are motivated to reduce their environmental footprint as soon as they perceive concomitant economic benefits. Industrial symbiosis has consequently been cited as an efficient intersectoral policy in both G7 and European Commission recommendations for resource efficiency.

Programme National de Synergies Inter-Entreprises,



Icons ©Freepik da Flaticon


PAPER and CARDBOARD Become Smart

Aldric Rodríguez/The Noun Project

Case Studies

Innovation in the paper packaging sector can contribute to combating food waste. With active packaging that interacts with food, limiting product degradation and prolonging shelf life.

by Marco Gisotti and Letizia Palmisano

Marco Gisotti is a journalist and adviser. He heads Green Factor, an environmental communication and studies agency. Environmental journalist and social media manager, Letizia Palmisano deals with communication, training and development of web communication strategies. She teaches these subjects in Master’s courses, also in Universities.

Packaging (just think of ancient urns) has long been made to contain, transport and, above all, store food. Or even to avoid food waste. These days, in rich countries, the wide availability of food and the parallel lack of information or attention to expiry dates make many fridges and pantries depositories for food which has gone off and will become waste. What is more, even when food is used correctly, a remarkable amount of waste is produced and it cannot always be recycled or composted because of nonrecyclable packaging. Over the past years, waste reduction has become an important matter for Europe, individual countries and food industries. Packaging must be cut down on which would contribute to reducing food waste. Packaging needs to be made with less raw materials – this would also positively affect production cost reduction. Paper or cardboard packaging Paper and cardboard, “star” players on the circular economy, are some of the most used packaging throughout the whole agrifood industry, where the same waste becomes a resource for recycling. “The paper and cellulosic packaging cycle – Comieco and the Club Carta e Cartoni tell us – is itself a perfect example of the circular economy, with a recovery percentage of 89%,

and a recycling percentage of 80%. This means that, today, 8 packages out of 10 are reincarnated: in 2016, 4.6 million tonnes of cellulosic packaging were issued for consumer use and 3.7 million tonnes were sent to be recycled.” Currently, studies and technologies involved in paper and cardboard packaging production are concentrating on solutions for reducing food waste. There has been a great deal of innovation to this respect: Modified atmosphere packaging is now consolidated and active packaging is establishing itself. These are highly-technological packages which interact with the food, like cellulose pads which absorb gases and liquids or packages which release antimicrobial substances preventing or limiting food degradation of meat, for example. A lot is being done for fruit and vegetable storage. There are now packages which release essential oils and antimicrobial substances to the food, so that the product, whether it is a pear or a tomato, can not only extend its shelf life, but also stay sweet-smelling and tasty until consumption. Another innovation being examined is the introduction of cellulosic packaging for food use combined with bioplastics. According to recent research performed by Bocconi University and promoted by COMIECO, this could be a way to contribute to prolonging product shelf life and reduce the presence of foreign materials in paper



renewablematter 15. 2017 “If I’m left over, eat me” Bocconi University’s research presented at Cibus 2016 (

The initiative “Doggy Bags – If I’m left over, eat me” created by COMIECO (Italy’s National Consortium for the Recovery and Recycling of Cellulose-based Packaging) in collaboration with Slow Food Italy incentivises and promotes (also in Italy) using doggy bags so you can take your restaurant leftovers home. Transforming a problem into an opportunity and setting off a cultural revolution with the objective of reducing the quantity of binned food and stimulating a mentality change in restaurateurs and customers. The project was has been welcomed by important members of Italian society, such as architect Michele De Lucchi and writer Andrea Kerbaker who coordinated a team of professionals tasked with making the doggy bag a true designer item. The project, launched in Milan, has spread to Bergamo, Varese and Rome, and has been met with enthusiasm by restaurateurs.

and biodegradable sorted waste, with significant savings on disposal costs (22 million Euros for paper waste and up to 56 million Euros of biodegradable waste). Use of packaging which can be handed over along with expired food in the biodegradable waste would mean being able to compost more than 615,000 tonnes of compostable packs (which increase to around 877,000 tonnes, also considering retail waste, the research highlights) which would otherwise end up in the unsorted waste; a paper use increase of around 588,000 tonnes; a rise in the bioplastics market of more than 121,000 tonnes. Formats which are more suited to new consumption habits are also being studied in order to combat the waste problem, for example, through greater use of smaller, single-portion packages. The key role held by food companies Club Carta e Cartoni was founded in 2012 to create dialogue with food companies and convey best practices and information regarding cellulosic packages. The Club which, in addition to making this information available online, has promoted a series of other training initiatives and refresher courses on sustainable packaging and supports research projects involving the development of sector innovation. It now has 270 company members, most of which operate in the food sector; it also focuses on promoting greater dialogue throughout the packaging industry, putting producers and users in contact, with their needs and problems. “Over the years – the Club explains – companies have shown significant, growing interest in an increasingly sustainable approach, also and above all beginning with packaging which is a product’s “business card.”


Case Studies


Packaging vs Food Waste

How H. Alberto Gongora/The Noun Project


by M. G. and L. P.

Have Changed Cans, tins, and trays: the thousand faces of aluminium packaging. A material allowing constant evolution.

Tracing the history of a can of our favourite beverage would be sufficient to realize how the world of packaging in the food sector has changed. Starting from the creation of a new product, from the appearance of a bottle, but in essence from aluminium. “In the sector of aluminium packaging for beverages we are actually witnessing the introduction on the market of a new and innovative can-bottle ‘hybrid’ by Rexam Srl, named Fusion” explains CiAl, aluminium packaging Consortium. Fusion maintains in all respects the characteristics of the traditional formats of cans: lightness, recyclability, and excellent level of protection and preservation of the product. But is an aluminium “bottle,” cap included, which in terms of collection and recycling of the container is an advantage. In Italy, cans also tell another story. In less than 20 years, from 1997 to date, the thickness of the rolled steel, for instance, shrank by 6.9%. So much so that if we compare

a 2016 can with a 1977 one we can see that there was a 37% reduction. In 1990 a can weighted 16.58 grams, today 12.50. Then there were changes in the design: let’s take as an example the sleek can, launched in 2009, taller and slimmer but no less efficient for that. Quite the opposite. The improvement of such product is not merely aesthetic, it entails obvious advantages in terms of saved raw materials, reduced weight in all transport and logistical phases. Such conditions have positive repercussions on environmental impacts of the sector. Safe both inside and out But when we talk about nutrition it is clear that consumers’ worries are not only about the external environment but also – and above all – about what the containers protect within. Food safety first and foremost, but also ability to preserve food and beverages, undamaged in their organoleptic characteristics.



renewablematter 15. 2017 Aluminium packaging, CiAl explains, is high performing. It guarantees preservation of taste, colour, structure and nutritional values of food. It ensures overall better protection from contamination and pollution through a barrier effect, blocking penetration of oxygen, humidity, light, ultraviolet radiation, oils and fats, microorganisms and smells. It is no coincidence that aluminium is used to pack also sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals. Moreover, it guarantees a longer shelf life, to the advantage of a rational use of food resources and their distribution and logistics. And, thanks to the thermal conductivity, it enables better efficiency in the use of energy in the refrigeration phase. Last, aluminium packaging allows preparing, transporting, displaying and consuming food always in the same container, thus saving energy and matter. Not just Cans One of the sectors with a faster innovative development is that of tins. “Over the last few years, tins – according to CiAl – have been at the centre of the attention and of the design models with the advent of new modern and innovative forms characterized by softer and rounded lines. The new design of tins has been accompanied by interesting solutions

An Ecological “Tatoo” Undoubtedly, it is important to explain consumers how much aluminium can be recyclable. And making it obvious on the packaging itself can be a quick way to do it. Today a new technology allows us to brand the aluminium trays without having to overprint anything. Constantia Teich has recently presented an aluminium tray with an embedded Recycling logo. The elaborated process consists in embedding the logo – or the series of logos – in the sheet, thus making it part of the material, without having to resort to embossing or printing processing. In the final rolling phase an image on the surface of the aluminium is created making changes to the brilliance of the sheet in certain areas. Unlike normal embossing, in this technically innovative procedure, the material is not warped on both sides. Such technology represents a good alternative for high-end products that undergo complex production processes, including sterilization or other demanding procedures for food preservation.


of lids and ways to open them, more user friendly and safe.” For example, the peel seam lids, ring pull lids, once only used almost exclusively for dry products such as powdered milk or coffee, today are more and more in demand on the Italian and European markets. Indeed, thanks to the use of materials resistant to sterilization, this closure type is popular in the packaging of products requiring a thermal treatment for their preservation. Moreover, combined with odd-shaped cans – from bowls to domes including perfectly rectangular ones – original packaging and customized packaging can be obtained according to customers’ needs. And, above all, made of one single material, making it easier for separate waste collection and recyclability. PeeliCan is a variant on the same theme: a system equipped with little lids for the fish industry representing a user-friendly and clean alternative to the traditional ring pull fish tins. The world of trays has also undergone progressive evolution. As it happened with cans, here too they tried to make them lighter thanks to the design of new moulds using ribbing and multi-diameter edges ensure the production of thinner containers, while maintaining the same performance. Let alone the G-edged trays for hot food, allowing to stack the same number of trays, but in less space, thus reducing the size of secondary packaging. Or, alternatively, increasing the number of packaged pieces. In conclusion it is worth mentioning the advantages offered by aluminium when it comes to flexible packaging and polylaminate wrapping. Over the last fifteen years, CiAl points out, the average thickness of aluminium sheets has been reduced by 30% both in packaging for chocolate and in polylaminate application for cardboard for long-life beverages; by 33% in polylaminate materials for coffee. So, united we stand, if we consider that polylaminate packaging containing aluminium needs less paper and plastic compared to those where it is not present. The most direct example is that of long-life sterilised food that may not be refrigerated thanks to the barrier effect offered by the aluminium sheet. Moreover, the continuous process innovation in the fusion and rolling phases, the application of sophisticated automation and monitoring systems and the use of new alloys developed for specific applications, enabled the production of thinner and thinner and more effective aluminium sheets, while reducing, in preserved foods, the additional weight from packaging. And we should not forget that, aluminium – with few other materials including glass and steel – is a permanent material. Once produced it can be recycled forever.

Case Studies


Packaging vs Food Waste

Nook Fulloption/The Noun Project

Steel: A Safe

OF NATURE From tins used during the Crimean War to family bags, innovative fashionable containers to carry leftovers. Each year in Italy we use – just for tomato-based products – 3.5 billion steel cans: put one after the other, they would amount to 700,000 km, or 17 times the circumference of the Earth. by M. G. and L. P.


In the collective imagination, steel is the indestructible metal (an alloy to be more precise) par excellence. As a matter of fact, it is no accident that it belongs to those materials, such as glass and aluminium, which are seen as permanent: once produced, it can be recycled ad infinitum. According to Domenico Rinaldini, President of Ricrea, “Steel is the most recycled packaging material in the world.” And in a continually evolving world, there is an increasing number of examples showing how this material can adapt. One of the most recent fashionable trends of steel is designer containers to take home dining-out leftovers. This idea, called family bag, was made possible thanks to Ricrea consortium in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment and Unioncamere Veneto, including the entire CONAI system and other supply chain consortia. The aim is to awaken

public opinion to food waste, avoiding leftovers ending up in the dustbin. “I worked really hard to start this project, representing a culturally important change for all Italians,” explains Barbara Degani, Ministry for the Environment undersecretary, “Family bags are an upgraded version of doggy bags, legitimizing, thanks to a safe and designer container, the idea of asking for it at the end of a meal, thus doing away with our collective embarrassment. To avoid wasting must become a new Italian lifestyle.” But the connection between steel and food can take up other forms as well and has been going on for much longer. Giovanni De Angelis, CEO of ANICAV (Italian Association of Industrial Vegetable Preserves) declares, “For over 150 years, steel cans, thanks to the product healthiness and food safety they offer to consumers, have been the most used containers in our companies producing



renewablematter 15. 2017


tomato-based products. Besides retaining nutritional and organoleptic properties, they are absolutely sustainable, guaranteeing total recyclability.” To give you an example, in Italy, steel containers – mainly cans – used every year for the production of tomato-based products amount to 3.5 billion: put one after the other they would amount to 700,000 km, or 17 times the circumference of the Earth. Moreover, last December, the partnership between tomatoes and steel led to an event-


exhibition that took place in Città della Scienza in Naples, devoted to the history of preserving tomatoes in this very metal. In this context, the educational aspect becomes particularly significant. For instance, in Pollenzo, in the Cuneo area where Università di Scienze Gastronomiche (University of Foods Sciences) commissioned by Slow Food is based, RICREA trained and gave “tins classes.” As a matter of fact, understanding how and why we use certain types of containers rather than others is not that obvious and at the same time it can become very important for all those wishing to work in the food handling sector. According to Giovanni Cappelli, member of the board of directors of RICREA Consortium and manager of ANFIMA, the association of metal packaging and the like, historically, the use of steel in the food industry did not happen by chance. “This was possible, and even more so today,” he explains, “Because food metallic tins are hermetic and practical. They can be kept at room temperature; they are strong, safe and unbreakable, protecting their contents from light and air; they do not require special precautions while offering a longer shelf life. Moreover, since they can be recycled ad infinitum, from an environmental protection point of view they are the best.” “Tins,” continues Cappelli, “are a real safe of nature. They are the packaging method with the lowest waste rate, next to zero. Thanks to all their properties, the environmental impact of steel containers for food has been cut by 30 %.” In our kitchens, we can find a plethora of foods conserved in steel tins: from tuna to canned fruit, from coffee to peeled tomatoes, sweets and liqueurs. Even steel kegs and aerosols, in the beginning characteristic of other sectors, thanks to their versatility and safety, have become over time useful containers and even tools for food. Not to mention beer crown caps, various capsules for glass bottles and jars or lids for so-called easy-open containers. Apropos of steel containers, there is a story going around, which really happened during the Crimean War. It took place in mid-19th century, between 1853 and 1856 to be precise. At the time, it was called Eastern War: on one side the alliance amongst France, Britain, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire and on the other Russia. The official cause involved the possession of sacred sites in the Ottoman Empire. Obviously, political reasons were completely different, the fear that Russia could expand into the Mediterranean. In this difficult historical situation, steel tins played an extremely important role. They were highly appreciated and used on battlefields because they were deemed an invaluable provisioning tool. In particular, English soldiers were able to avoid contracting scurvy while consuming safe food.

Case Studies

It should be enough to remember that today – according to COREPLA, the National Consortium for the Collection, Recycling and Recovery of plastic packaging – thanks to the ongoing development of new technologies it is possible to make PET bottles with 50% of recycled material. Our homes are full of packaging for food and beverages made of all sorts of plastics. The most widespread ones are the following: •• Polyethylene Terephthalate, of the polyester family, for its characteristics of transparency, resistance and gas barrier, is mainly used for the production of bottles for fizzy drinks and food trays. •• Polyethylene (PE) is the simplest amongst synthetic polymers and it is the most common plastic material. It is a thermoplastic resin particularly suitable for the production of cans and containers for food. Pipes for water distribution are often made of polyethylene. •• Low-density polyethylene (another thermoplastic of the polyethylene family) is mainly used for the production of flexible products such as films and foils – including bags and sacks – used both for packaging and agriculture. •• Isotactic Polypropylene, another thermoplastic, is the famous invention by Nobel-prize winner Giulio Natta, marketed in the 50s and 60s under the name of “moplen.” This is one

of the most common plastics, used for household goods and toys, but also for many sturdy packages (cans, bottles) and flexible (automatic packaging films). •• Last, polystyrene, another very successful polymer (of styrene), used from packaging to the production of disposable flatware. According to COREPLA, in 2015, about 900,000 tonnes of waste from packaging in plastic from separate waste collection have been recycled in addition to 327,000 tonnes deriving from independent recycling. Also, 324,000 tonnes of packaging still struggling to find industrial solutions towards mechanical recycling and the market have been recovered, which produced heat and clean energy.

Why Wine and Oil Go Hand in Hand with Glass What have wine and oil got in common? First and foremost, certainly the fact that they are two iconic products of the Made in Italy trademark, much appreciated (and consumed) in Italy and abroad. Second, the packaging. Indeed, in both cases, the main material used for their preservation is glass.


Icons ©Freepik da Flaticon


Icons ©Freepik da Flaticon

All Plastics for Food

The reason for it has been recently illustrated during a conference by Assovetro during which two pieces of research on the use of glass to contain wine and oil have been presented, organized by the Department of Agricultural, Food and Agro-Environmental Sciences in Pisa and by the Department of Science and Technological Innovation of the University of Eastern Piedmont – Alessandria. Both studies showed that glass represents an irreplaceable packaging material to keep unchanged all the nuances of taste of these two products, to protect the precious substances for health, to isolate them from external factors, avoiding oxidation while extending their shelf life. All this helps the environment, since glass bottles – a permanent material – represent a perfect example of the circular economy. Specifically, as for wine, the best results reported in the University of Pisa’s research were in glass bottles, closed with a cork, better if kept in a horizontal position. As for the conservation of the oil properties, The University of Eastern Piedmont’s research pinpointed dark glass as the best packaging.


WATER Resilience by Emanuele Bompan

Spills, breakdowns, rising water tables and even cyber attacks. In order to manage such occurrences the EU asks to set up resilience strategies for water infrastructure. Gruppo CAP is one of the first companies to have done so in Europe by starting a water safety plan in order to guarantee healthy water even with increasingly complex risk scenarios.

WHO, Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality, v. 1, 3. ed., Ginevra 2004;

When playing chess, thinking about the next move is not enough, it is necessary to look at least four or five moves ahead. It also means preventing the most improbable occurrences; creating a resilient strategy, ready to absorb shocks and react. Up until now water supply has never acted according to a chess player’s strategy. The water we drink in Europe is certainly safe. Companies carry out their regular checks on wells, drinking water plants and on access points to the water supply network for any lead or arsenic contamination and to avoid the presence of herbicides and pesticides in tap water. But a true resilience strategy for the whole water infrastructure, taking into account any ordinary (malfunctioning, spills, breakdowns) and extraordinary event (adjustments to climate change, rising water tables, terror and cyber attacks) in the short and long term, is still not very widespread.

However, a resilient model does exist. It is called Water Safety Plan (WSP), an approach created in 2004 with the publication of the third edition of the Guidelines for drinking water, contained in the handbook made by WHO – World Health Organization. The WSP’s objective is to map out all factors peculiar to a territory, both geographical and anthropic, assessing risks and threats while making the most of the local opportunities. Everything falls within a holistic vision of the system based on a series of possible scenarios. “Traditionally, water quality supplied to consumers relies on tests carried out in the vicinity of treatment plants or by randomly selecting consumers’ taps. The negative aspect of such approach is that water is consumed before it is analysed, and so before the results are published,” explains Luca Lucentini from the Italian Istituto Superiore di Sanità. “The WSP, instead, looks at the system as a resilient entity. When a potentially

Case Studies

WHO, Investing in Water and Sanitation, Report 2014;

WHO gave it its seal of approval and highlights the need for WSP, both in small rural communities and in large Western urban centres. “This modality is still the most effective in order to supply a continuous water service of good quality,” as it reads on the 2014 WHO report, Investing in Water and Sanitation. So much so that WSP has become part of the European legislation, through directive 2015/1787 modifying directing 98/83/EC about water quality for human consumption. Thanks to this new directive, member states have to comply with the regulation within two years: so, by 2017 all companies should be equipped with WSP. The first country to move in this direction was Italy. Here, Gruppo CAP, managing the integrated water service of the Metropolitan City of Milan and several areas of Lombardy. Instead of waiting for the directive, it anticipated it by setting up its own Water Safety Plan on one of its aqueduct systems,

in Legnano, a city in the Milan’s metropolitan area. In order to test the WSP – and a series of supporting technologies linked to its implementation – Gruppo CAP chose three Municipalities (Legnano, Cerro Maggiore and San Giorgio su Legnano). An European experiment aimed at guaranteeing the safest waters in Europe, involving local authorities such as ARPA (Regional Agency of Environmental Protection), ATS (the Agency for Health Protection) and Regione Lombardia, the territorial administration board, with the technical support of the Italian Istituto Superiore di Sanità. The team set up by Gruppo CAP to carry out the Water Safety Plan is characterized by high multidisciplinarity, including hygiene experts, computer science operators, university researchers, water plant operators, thus highlighting the complexity of this project. “In the aqueduct system – explains Lucentini who collaborated with Gruppo CAP – we studied all the critical sections that may jeopardize water in every phase of its presence in the environment: from captation to treatment and distribution

Luca Lucentini

dangerous event happens, the system is already set up to react and respond to the occurrence, preventing contaminated water to be supplied. This is a truly organic strategy, requiring an inclusive and long-term systematic approach.”


renewablematter 15. 2017 to the tap, estimating the degree of risk and the possible impact on health, altering procedures in order to avoid danger.” We have a variety of tools at our disposal: from chemical/biological measuring stations and parametric probes, to enhanced protection of computer science infrastructure. From security and monitoring services of the plants to seismographers in the soil able to stop the supply in the event of strong quakes. Extra cost or opportunity? Lucentini claims, “if we think about the effects of a potentially catastrophic event – for example contamination from chemicals, an earthquake and the long-term overall effects produced by climate change, such as extraction peaks or other phenomena – it is clear the WSP involves huge economic savings and represents a strategy to save human lives. Today, it is better to prevent cyber attacks, rather than facing their consequences.” But even in a more ordinary scenario, WSP enables savings, once the investment costs are paid off. “It means having cautious, modern and safe management, promoting water consumption from the tap rather than from the bottle,” adds Lucentini. This has

an impact from an environmental point of view as by offering citizens a perception of enhanced safety, consumption of bottled water can be reduced. “We have a dream about this – says Alessandro Russo, chairman of Gruppo CAP – we do not wish to rank in the first positions for consumption of bottled water in the world. Today we are in third place after Mexico and Thailand. This is a sign that citizens still do not trust tap water enough. We believe that with WSP this objective can be achieved, thus guaranteeing safer water for all.” For Gruppo CAP, the transition to WSP represents an important investment in technological innovation, research and development of knowledge. It is the followup of a journey that led the Group to equip itself with innovative tools including PIA (Infrastructural Plan for aqueducts), the WebGIS as management system, the ISO 17025 accreditation of the drinking water laboratory and water dumping census. Without these measures it would have been impossible to adopt the Water Safety Plan, thanks to which Gruppo CAP is now a role model in Europe and beyond.


Alessandro Russo, Gruppo CAP president with Legnano’s mayor Alberto Centinaio and councillor for education Chiara Bottalo

Gruppo CAP testing laboratory



Columns The Media Circle

A Compass against Misinformation Roberto Giovannini, journalist, writes about economy, society, energy, environment, green economy and technology.


Stefano Caserini published with Edizioni Ambiente: Il clima è (già) cambiato (2016), Guida alle leggende sul clima che cambia (2009) and A qualcuno piace caldo (2008).

If it did non exist, it would have to be invented. We are talking about Climalteranti, the website created and coordinated by Stefano Caserini dispensing information on climate change. This section is usually devoted to media dealing with the environment, but on this occasion we will describe an information medium telling how media deal with the environment and climate change; too often, as it turns out, with shallowness, approximation and confusion and sometimes with misinformation spirit that leads straight to false and deceptive claims. In Climalteranti’s articles, conclusions are mercilessly exposed with subtle and vitriolic humour. This discredits and dishonours – naming and shaming – the far too many commentators and journalists who, to this day, make scientifically unproven, inexact or wrong statements at times verging on blatant climate change denialism. Climalteranti carries through valuable work since the battle to curb global warming is far from over, quite the opposite. It is essential to do our utmost to guarantee a “limited” or “mitigated” climate change for future generations. Valuable work, a fortiori, in times such as these, characterised by the unstoppable advance of hoaxes and fake news as well as of nonchalantly reiterated “alternative facts.” Actually, it is a war to get rid of tall stories. A war that must be led with determination, without fear of making important enemies, which are the top newspapers, TV news and the “influential” signatures that, when it is convenient, are jeered and sneered at, as they deserve. But this is not Climalteranti’s only core business, which with good reason can be regarded as one of the most authoritative interdisciplinary initiatives by Italian climatologists. They employ a peer-review system for the publication of their articles: a scientific committee is asked to read the potential publications that are assessed and modified for accuracy and legibility. Then they discuss some aspects on the Web, where people can even comment. In most posts of Caserini & C.’s website, they analyse the trend of data of global temperature or glaciers or they study the results of conferences on climate issues. Often, though, they find out small/big hoaxes on the media and debunk them. As mentioned before, the inventor and founder of the website

is Stefano Caserini, an environmental engineer, who holds a course on Climate Change Mitigation at the Polytechnic University of Milan, which has been researching into air pollution, emission inventories and the reduction of emission into the atmosphere for quite some time. Also, thanks to the many exposed absurdities, he published various books on the challenge of communicating the issue of climate change. He started from the fact that the information on climate change is faced with a dangerous split: on the one hand, almost all scientists agree on the fact that human activities are the main cause of CO2 increase; on the other, on the media, claims with little scientific backup deny any value to the accumulating substantial body of evidence. The mechanism through which mystifiers try to defend the legitimacy of certain theories with no value is similar to that examined over the last few months when talking about hoaxes and fake news. There are conspiracy theorists who, with a lesser or greater degree of obsession claim that “all that you know is false.” But these are few and far between on newspapers. On the media one finds mainly three categories of climate deniers: those saying “it’s already too late,” according to whom “a few more degrees won’t do anybody any harm and we’ll find a solution anyway;” those claiming “it is too expensive, though,” who explain that it is not worth penalizing certain economic sectors, with the risk of losing jobs and paying more tax. Last but not least – the majority – those all for “we need to be unbiased,” i.e. those that in the name of an alleged equality compare human-induced global warming theories – agreed upon by 99.7% of the scientific community – with “alternative” theories with no scientific value. This happens quite often. In the past, on some occasions La Stampa – my newspaper – fell for it too. Corriere della Sera falls for it even more often. Last 26th February it published two pages entitled “Credetemi, il clima non è surriscaldato” (“Believe me, there is no global warming”), quoting wrong data and crazy claims. Had they talked – with the same surreal “impartiality” – about vaccines or, even worse, the holocaust, in the editorial office it would have caused bedlam.



renewablematter 15. 2017

Innovation Pills

Science in the Trenches Federico Pedrocchi is a science journalist. He directs and presents the weekly programme Moebius broadcast by Radio 24 – Il Sole24 ore.

Since Renewable Matter is a magazine strongly characterized by scientific and technological themes, I thought that my recent experience in the United States could be useful to gain a certain perspective on what is happening in the few months following Trump’s election. I took part in the AAAS annual meeting – American Association for the Advancement of Science. I participate quite regularly. This year the meeting took place in Boston, where the presence of scientific research is noticeable even in bakeries. But the AAAS meeting is an event that goes beyond its location. It involves about a hundred daily seminars, bringing together thousands of men and women working in science, with 70% coming from the States and 30% from all over the world. I know very well the atmosphere of this event, which was very different to that I experienced last February. We can start by describing some anecdotes. The researcher of Chinese or Japanese descent that before her speech, with her thumb and middle finger of both hands tries to open up her eyes to look truly American, followed by a round of applause and laughter. Indian physicists saying, “I am glad to be here at this 2017 meeting because I don’t know whether next year I’ll be able to take part.” Charts showing data of various phenomena, to which a special according to Trumpism column has been added, i.e. the President’s interpretation. Of course, if the subject is – for argument’s sake – spectrometry, he says that ghosts do not exist in the USA. Perhaps in Europe. And the basic anxiety-inducing fact – psychologically played down with various bells and whistles – is the following: this man lacks the basic fundamentals to comprehend what science is. This is serious. For example, it is very likely that Mr Trump does not know what entropy is, so he may very well fund research for machinery producing energy in perpetuity with no need for power. This man is no anti-environmentalist; this man knows no basic paradigms of environmental phenomena. This scenario has never occurred in American history.

Then there is his solution-driven, decision-making attitude and his aggressiveness. At a meeting devoted to the theme What to do with Trump – there were at least four over five days, with no less that a thousand participants in each – I was gobsmacked upon hearing distinguished scientists giving instructions to researchers in the public administration such as, “Do not let him intimidate you, resist, talk to policy makers in every possible way and explain to them how to do science.” The tone was similar to the appeals launched by De Gaulle from the English Radio to the French during the Second World War. The overall feeling, though, after talking to everyone, is that there is no way that this situation can go on for four or even eight years. Withdrawing from international research projects, for example – Trump mentioned it on more than one occasion – may cost hundreds of billions of dollars to the American economy. In conclusion, from the United States – where of course the perception of facts is based upon news and comments that cannot reach across the pond – the scenario looming ahead in the scientific world is one of an imminent and unprecedented hurricane.

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Renewable Matter #15  

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

Renewable Matter #15  

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