Waste

  • 16 September 2022

    Cirplus: making plastic waste history

    How creating a global marketplace for plastic recylates make plastic waste a thing of the past In 2018, cirplus’ journey began off the unlikely coast of Colombia. After building and scaling BlaBlaCar Germany – today’s largest ridesharing platform in the world – co-founder, Christian Schiller took himself on a well-deserved break. His idea was a beautiful trip around the world, sailing from coast to coast through the Caribbean to Colombia and Panama. However, on the open sea, he didn’t just have to consider the dark depths of the ocean and the irregular weather caused by global warming, he was face-to-face with a problem of magnitude – a hundred meters long dense carpets of plastic waste. Shocked, yet determined, Christian knew he had to do something to tackle this crisis. With co-founder, Volkan Bilici, web technologies veteran and blockchain expert, the idea of cirplus was born. The ambition of the founders was to create a global marketplace for circular plastics and take on the impressive task of making plastic waste history. Cirplus is the world’s-first global AI-enabled marketplace for circular plastics. Its software simplifies the currently complex trade of recyclates and plastic waste by digitalizing the complex, and largely offline, transactions of plastic waste feedstock, regrind and regranulates. Created for companies in the plastic and recycling value chain, cirplus mission is to build a platform for finding, negotiating, contracting, shipping, insuring, and paying for recyclates and plastic waste trades across the globe – a solution to the world’s plastic waste crisis. Its digital procurement platform connects waste managers, recyclers, and product manufacturers to buy and sell plastic recyclates in a reliable and cost-effective way. Using its software, it brings high-quality recyclates back into the supply chain at a lower transactional cost by using AI-enabled smart matching of supply and demand based on volumes, quality and price. Over time, AI...
  • 27 July 2022

    Recovery of Organic Waste

    During the Re-think Circular Economy Forum event held last year in Taranto among the guests who spoke was Maurizio Cianci the CEO of ASECO S.p.A – Acquedotto Pugliese began his speech by sublining that not only did he want to recount the results achieved so far by Acquedotto Pugliese (AQP) and Aseco in the field of sewage sludge treatment and the organic fraction of Municipal solid waste, but also to bring to the general attention to what can still be done and the projects in the pipeline. Acquedotto Pugliese is the manager of the integrated water service in Puglia and in addition to providing excellent drinking water to its more than 4 million inhabitants, it tasks also includes the removal and treatment of sewage. It can be said that sewage sludge constitutes the most significant processing waste in AQP’s industrial process. Taking an overview of the amount of sewage sludge produced by AQP, it emerged that in 2009, the 183 managed sewage plants produced about 160 thousand tons per year and this amount has gradually increased to reach 250 thousand tons in 2016. This was a very significant growth trend which in 2017, led to an estimate in the absence of significant interventions in 2021, an amount of sewage sludge in the range of about 380 thousand tons would be produced. Interventions to contain and reverse this trend were necessary and, therefore, additional treatment sections were introduced downstream of the purification process, such as, to mention the most significant; high efficiency dewatering, natural greenhouse sludge drying, anaerobic digestion and cellular hydrolysis. Thanks to these interventions, Acquedotto Pugliese has been able to counteract the expected increase in the production of sewage sludge, even in the face of the strong efficiencies of the managed plants and the consequent strong increase in their...
  • 29 June 2022

    International Plastic Bag Free Day

    Did you know it takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill? Even so, the bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment. According to The World Counts, 5 trillion plastic bags are used per year, which is 160,000 plastic bags per second, which can cause major environmental challenges and active measures must be put in place to minimize its usage. International Plastic Bag-Free Day is a movement started by Rezero in 2006. The campaign against single-use plastic bags began in Catalonia by a group of people to fight for the elimination of plastic bags. It is celebrated on every 3rd July to promote environmental conservation and spread awareness on the consequences of the use of plastic bags. The birth of Plastic Bags Interestingly, Polythene, the world’s most popular plastic used as carrier bags was first discovered by accident. In 1933, a team of chemists at the ICI Wallerscote plant were working on polymers. During the process, the experiment went wrong yielding an unintended result: a white waxy residue which was polythene. This invention served a good purpose to the British military during the second World War. Polythene was used as an insulating material for radar cables during the war, and the substance was a closely guarded secret until after the war. In 1960, a Swedish company called Celloplast filed a U.S patent for tubing for packaging purposes using polythene. The initial design was better developed and in 1965, the team of three at Celloplast obtained a patent for what is now called “the T-Shirt Plastic bag”. Plastic bag quickly replaced grocery bags made from fabrics in Europe. Supermarket chains in the United States of America and all around Europe switched to single-use plastic bags...
  • 10 March 2022

    CE in the Mediterranean Sea

    During the Hacking the City event organised last April, we had the pleasure to host several speakers including Professor Francesca Pirlone and Researcher Ilenia Spadaro from the University of Genoa. Their speech focused on the role of the Circular Economy in the Mediterranean Sea and in particular on the Port-5R project for the creation of circular port-cities.    Numerous projects related to sustainable waste management have taken place for about 10 years, such as the Active project, the Med 3 R up to the Port 5-R project which ended in 2021. The projects revealed an upheaval in the concept of waste, which is now considered as a resource to be exploited, and the transition to a circular economy that aims to close the cycle, through recycling and the logic of the R, and with the objective of strengthening, growing and promoting sustainability while also generating new forms of employment. Waste therefore becomes a resource for sustainable growth, for the promotion of an economy and smart redevelopment of the city, also improving its quality of life.     How did it go from a circular economy to a circular city? Starting from the 2015 Paris COP and largely with the United Nations 2030 Agenda, where 17 common goals were identified to ensure sustainable development. In particular, in the eleventh, it is the city itself that is placed as the main character of the circular transition, as they are also becoming increasingly populated. In 1900, only 2 out of 10 people lived in cities, but by 2050 it is expected that 7 out of 10 people will live there. Cities are great centres of consumption, from food to materials to climate-changing gases. Unfortunately, they are also great centres of inefficiency, for example, private vehicles idle for 90% of their time and offices are switched off...
  • 28 October 2021

    REWOW

    Last October we had as speaker at our event, Re-think Circular Economy Forum 2020 in Milan, Antonino Biundo, CEO at REWOW srl. Antonino explained to us what REWOW is and how they aim to rewind used cooking oil into bio-based materials.  In order to understand their activity, it is necessary to comprehend what is the meaning for Used Cooking Oil. That’s the reason why Antonino Biundo started his speech describing Used Cooking Oil (UCO), which derives from vegetable oils used for food cooking, processing, and storage. As he highlights UCO are also highly polluting for the environment: only 1 litre of UCO may pollute up to 1 million litres of water. In Europe, 4 million tons of UCO is generated per year, but only 5% is collected. Zooming on Italy, we have 64% of UCO which comes from households and only 20% is collected, which is mostly used to produce biofuels with a low value on the market.   What do they do at Rewow?  They create a second life for used cooking oils and, at the same time, they want to raise awareness in order to triple the collection of this waste. To achieve this, in July 2020, they filed the patent on the Chemo-Enzymatic Process to produce innovative Aliphatic Polyesters and thus increment the added value of UCO. Indeed, the market of bioplastics is constantly growing, and it is expected to reach 28 billion dollars by 2026. Generally, the other producers of bioplastics produce their products with either synthetic or biological processes. However, biological processes are more expensive, especially for the significant downstream processing costs for their technology. The Rewow materials, instead, are produced synthetically from waste, but they have similar characteristics to the biologically produced ones, especially for the hydrolysis and flexibility. Moreover, Rewow, together with other few companies, is planning and making awareness raising campaigns....
  • 21 October 2021

    Sweet Waste

    Dolci scarti: quando il rifiuto diventa una risorsa. Lo scorso aprile durante il nostro Hackathon, Hacking the City, abbiamo avuto il piacere di avere con noi numerosi ospiti, tra cui la Professoressa Paola Branduardi dell’Università degli studi  Milano-Bicocca.   Nel 2050 il numero di abitanti sul pianeta Terra sarà all’incirca di 9 miliardi, un dato conosciuto non di recente, ma che è accompagnato da una recente percezione di poter offrire delle soluzioni alternative che siano in grado praticamente di risolvere le sfide attuali garantendo a tutta la popolazione un accesso equo a beni e servizi.   Come può il micro non essere in realtà un’altra faccia del macro?   Da quando è arrivata all’Università Milano-Bicocca, la Prof.ssa Branduardi si è occupata dei microrganismi considerandoli come gli attori principali dell’equilibrio dinamico del nostro Pianeta e studiando il ruolo che possono giocare anche nel macro ambito. Durante la sua presentazione ha spiegato che la Terra è caratterizzata al suo interno da flussi di materia di energia che non sono altro che il modo dinamico che questa ha di tenere in equilibrio la parte biotica (dove c’è vita) e quella abiotica (dove c’è materia). È fondamentale che questo flusso continui e che tutto ciò rimanga in un andamento ciclico, dove i produttori primari sono con una materia organica che poi è consumata, e qui troviamo sia organismi che microorganismi. Dopodiché, c’è la fase di decomposizione che riporta i nutrienti organici ed inorganici a disposizione. Questa chiusura del cerchio la fanno solo i microrganismi con dei metabolismi unici e la fanno sin dalla loro comparsa sulla Terra, dove sono i primissimi abitanti e sono anche la maggior biomassa vivente.   La Prof.ssa Branduardi ed il suo team, prendono ispirazione dalla natura e da ciò che già conoscono, ad esempio i lieviti, per studiarli nella loro biodiversità ed inserirvi dei principi di ingegnerizzazione che possano espanderne le...
  • English What do a pencil and fashion have in common? Susanna Martucci, Founder Alisea – Perpetua and Alice Fortuna, Sustainability Communications Manager at WRAD Focus Design, explained to us – during our Re-think Circular Economy Forum 2020 in Milan – what it is and how it is possible. Susanna Martucci is an entrepreneur whose job is to extend the life of materials. She has always worked in sales and communication and after 12 years of experience in a large Italian company, in 1994 she founded her own: Alisea. She was in the business of creating promotional “gadgets” made in Italy. However, a little over a year, products made in China arrived on the market and competing became impossible because they had unbeatable prices and looked exactly as the products she was making. She was risking of going out of business and leaving 20 people unemployed.  One day of that same period she found herself in a bar where an acquaintance gave her a small notebook as a gift. When she opened it she read “no trees has been cut down for the production of this notebook”. This suddenly took her back to 1982 when she was on a train and by her side two university professors were having a conversation: “we are all sitting on a huge landfill, it’s a ticking bomb, a huge problem for future generations but also a great business opportunity for those who will be able to seize it”. However, in 1982, in Italy, nobody had a clue what household waste recycling actually meant.   Then, she asked herself: “Why don’t we give a new life to waste?“. Therefore, she started speaking to her clients’ marketing departments and asked to see the waste their companies were producing. Thanks to the production managers she could walk through their production processes and she could learn about the technical data sheets of the materials. This is the moment when at Alisea they realized how, through creativity, all waste could become the protagonist of a fascinating story to tell. In fact, it was 1996 and from that intuition Alisea found a unique collocation on the market, becoming the only operator in Italy that...
  • 28 July 2021

    Coffefrom: from nature, the future

    English Version Have you ever thought that spent coffee grounds could not be a waste, but a great resource?  Let’s start with some numbers. Italy imports annually around 606 thousand tonnes of coffee (this is 17% of the EU’s coffee imports), and on average an Italian consumes 6 kg of coffee annually. As we can see, Italy is a significant coffee consumer, which means that Italy produces a significant quantity of spent coffee grounds. Spent coffee grounds have a lot of qualities: in particular, they are rich in nitrogen, an element with a high potential for energy production, saturated fatty acids, and cellulose. They can be used in several industries as they can be used to produce cosmetics, compost, pellets, biofuels, etc.  While some industries do recognize the potential of spent coffee grounds, there are some innovative startups that truly went above and beyond. Coffeefrom uses this resource in a circular way, with a zero-waste approach.  Coffeefrom is an Italian company that was born in 2019, it is based in Milan and it brought an innovative, extremely versatile, and sustainable material of biological origin material on the market. This material is made using spent coffee grounds of industrial origin, in a truly sustainable and circular fashion. Coffeefrom is the second circular economy spin-off launched by a local cooperative, Il Giardinone Cooperativa Sociale. The first experience dates back to Expo 2015, when the team of Il Giardinone experimented with the recovery and transformation of coffee grounds from Lavazza bars, using them to cultivate fresh mushrooms. In 2016, FungoBox was launched: the kit allows for self-production of fresh mushrooms from urban coffee waste.  Over time, the know-how of Il Giardinone in the recovery and transformation of coffee by-products strengthened and a new entrepreneurial vision was born: this is how Coffeefrom first came...
  • 9 July 2021

    Giovani circolari: EVE1

    By Sofia Fisicaro ‘’Quando ero bambina mi chiedevo spesso come avessi potuto lasciare la mia impronta, contribuire al cambiamento, all’evoluzione, per un mondo migliore. Man mano che crescevo mi rendevo conto che la creatività, l’arte, in particolare la moda, potesse essere il mezzo con cui esprimere questa mia esigenza di trasformare e migliorare ciò che mi circondava. Così, durante una giornata di lockdown, ho capito finalmente come poter essere parte del cambiamento.’’ Mi chiamo Sofia, ho 21 anni, frequento il terzo anno di Fashion Design & Accessories, sono anche la creatrice e designer del brand genderless e sostenibile: EVE1. Durante il percorso di studi all’università, ho iniziato il percorso di avvicinamento al mondo della sostenibilità. Spinta dal desiderio di conoscere i lati “oscuri” del mondo della moda, ho cominciato a evidenziare quante crepe esistessero all’interno di questo sistema produttivo. A partire dall’eccesso di merce prodotta senza una reale necessità o gli sprechi di materiale che dopo qualche tempo venivano ammassati in un magazzino buio e dimenticato. Tutto ciò mi ha reso cosciente della necessità di creare un’alternativa sostenibile e circolare. Cominciando a scrivere la mia tesi di laurea, ho acquisito consapevolezza nel dettaglio dell’universo di sprechi che genera il mondo della moda, tanti purtroppo. Concentrarmi su cosa non posso fare però, non è mai stato il mio forte e lo considero un dispendio inutile di energie, così lasciando da parte i macro-ambienti non controllabili direttamente da me mi sono focalizzata su cosa invece io potessi cambiare nel mio piccolo. A ottobre 2020, durante un pomeriggio di lockdown decisi di sfruttare i momenti di pausa in casa per riordinare tutti i tessuti rimanenti dai vecchi progetti universitari, erano davvero tantissimi e mi sono subito resa conto di quanto fosse stressante l’idea di doverli gettare via inutilmente, così mi sono chiesta: ‘‘Perché...
  • By Claudia Fabris English Fairphone is a company that manufactures smartphones by paying special attention to the materials used and the conditions of workers throughout the supply chain. The smartphones are designed to last longer thanks to a modular design that allows for the separation of components to be repaired or upgraded. This extends their life and allows waste parts to be collected and recycled, promoting the idea of a circular economy. That cellphones’ manufacturing relies on practices that are not always sustainable or ethical, as it is sadly known. Fairphone is a model and an example for other companies working in the same field of how it is possible to produce smartphones while respecting the environment and the workers throughout the production process, from the extraction of raw materials to the recycling of components. The “coltan”, a mixture of minerals composed of columbite and tantalite, is used in the production of small high-capacity capacitors for devices such as cellphones and computers. Tantalum has a particularly high commercial value and, for this reason, its extraction in areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to fighting between paramilitary and guerrilla groups for control of the territories where this material is found. These practices have led to uncontrolled exploitation of resources and the population employed in the extraction of these minerals. By committing to purchase materials directly from producers, Fairphone seeks to create positive change to ensure fairer working conditions and increase the amount of recycled and responsibly extracted materials. Together, these practices are designed to increase awareness in the industry and consumers of possible solutions to the problems associated with smartphone production. By 2040, the communications sector will contribute 14% of the total global footprint. The contribution of smartphones will exceed that of computers, displays and laptops combined....
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