2010-2020: most prolific period for policy frameworks on biowaste and circular bioeconomy in the Biocircularcities pilots and Europe

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What are the existing policies related to biowaste and circular bioeconomy in Europe? Are there already good practices developed in this field?

With the view of providing policy recommendations for the three pilot territories of the project, it is important to understand the policy framework and identify barriers and opportunities that limit or promote the circular use of bio-based products and processes. Thus, to answer the questions above, the Biocircularcities project partners started a review of the existing policy framework and good practices related to circular economy and biowaste management both at European and national and regional level of the three pilots.

For the three pilot metropolitan areas, and the corresponding regions, countries as well as Europe, legal acts (such as directives), plan and programs were collected and classified. The scope of the content included not only biowaste and circular economy but other fields as bioplastics, fertilisers, emissions, etc.

2010-2020, a prolific period for policies on biowaste and circular bioeconomy in Europe

The analysis of the current European policy framework shows that 2010-2020 was a very prolific period for biowaste and bioeconomy. During this period, the number of plans, programs, and regulations to achieve the recycling goals fixed by the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 98/2008, on waste and repealing certain directives) significantly increases.

What are the policy trends regarding circular bioeconomy?

Several key trends appear when comparing the collected policy documents. When considering biowaste policies at European level, the key points are:

  • the gradual reduction of biodegradable waste in landfill;
  • the current landfill ban for source separated biowaste, the reduction to 10% of municipal solid waste by 2035 sent to landfill;
  • Recycling targets for municipal solid waste (55% by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035), which cannot be reached without biowaste recycling;
  • the obligation of biowaste separate collection for all European municipalities from 2024 and;
  • the exclusion of the bio-stabilised output generated from the mechanical and biological treatments among the flows accounting for recycling rate objectives.

These different measures are in line with the PNUD Sustainable Development Goals and particularly Goal 12: responsible consumption and production which addresses bioeconomy.

How do the Biocircularcities pilot territories aim to comply with the waste Framework Directive 98/2008?

In the area of influence of each pilot territory, regulations and plans have also been developed to fulfil the objectives of the Waste Framework Directive 98/2008.

The main targets of the area of the Italian pilot include a 5% reduction in the ratio of generated municipal solid waste (MSW) and the implementation of a more circular economy. One of the main goals is to create a more effective interconnections among the various bioeconomy sectors in Italy as well as their associated value chains. Overall, environmental protection is the main topics referred in regulation affecting the pilot.

In the case of the Barcelona pilot, the first regulations focusing on biowaste were implemented in 1993, and since then many other regulations and programmes have been developed. This includes the obligation for the local councils to provide systems for the separation of biowaste as well as the rest of the municipal waste fractions, for all the municipalities since 2010. In consequence, the valorisation of waste in 2020 reached 60%, and the average impurity rate of biowaste was about 10% for all the territory. In the territory of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, it is foreseen to introduce systems to identify households for the separate collection and make the separation of biowaste compulsory for the citizens.

In the Bulgarian pilot of Pazardzhik, the policy focuses on the reduction of organic waste sent to landfills, and to promote other treatments route as well as modern landfills.  A proper implementation of separate collection of waste is also needed. Even though separate collection has been deployed in some areas, it must be generalised to all the territory. The recycling and re-use of waste needs to be boosted, and a waste taxation system must be implemented for households.