Ecoembes opens the first innovation center on the circular economy in Europe

Ecoembes opens the first innovation center on the circular economy in Europe

  • The project, which will turn La Rioja into a full-scale experimental laboratory, involves an investment of almost 10 million euros and entails the creation of 40 jobs onsite and more than 200 through incubators in the network.
  • Its main areas of research include studying the packaging of the future through ecodesign, developing solutions that make it easier for the public to recycle , and the smart management of waste.
  • The event was attended by José Ignacio Ceniceros, President of the Government of La Rioja, Cuca Gamarra, mayor of Logroño, María García, Secretary of State for the Environment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Daniel Calleja, Managing Director of the Environment for the European Commission.

 

In Logroño this morning, Ecoembes, the non-profit environmental organization that promotes the circular economy by recycling packaging, opened a pioneering innovation center in Europe: TheCircularLab. It is a laboratory that, under the parameters of the circular economy and through collaborative research, focuses its activity on the study, testing and development of best practices in the field of packaging and its subsequent recycling. It’s a project in which Ecoembes will invest 10 million euros by 2020 and that, in its initial phase, will result in the creation of 40 jobs onsite and more than 200 through entrepreneurial ecosystems.

The ceremony, which was held this morning, was attended by José Ignacio Ceniceros, President of the Government of La Rioja, Cuca Gamarra, mayor of Logroño, María García, Secretary of State for the Environment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Daniel Calleja, Managing Director of the Environment for the European Commission. Ignacio González, President of Ecoembes, and Óscar Martín, the company’s CEO, were also on hand to explain the various initiatives that are already underway.

TheCircularLab works in four different areas of research. The first focuses on developing the packaging of the future, an area in which eco-design plays a fundamental role by helping to make packaging more sustainable and reducing its environmental footprint. To this end, a project has been launched that evaluates the performance of packaging throughout its life cycle and proposes recommendations to reduce the use of resources. Work in this area is also aimed at searching for new sustainable materials and introducing recycled materials into production processes. In addition, and in an effort to identify and apply any new developments that come up in this area, the first Future Packaging Observatory has been created.

The public is a key player in recycling, as it is the public that starts the process by depositing waste in the appropriate container. As a result, TheCircularLab seeks to develop the tools that make it easier to separate trash at home and recycle it correctly. Digital tools are already being developed to help the public with any questions that may come up, such as an application that identifies packaging by using voice and images (a sort of “Siri for recycling”). In addition, Big Data and data analysis will be used to design environmental education campaigns aimed at creating a real citizen science in order to boost society’s environmental commitment even more.

The third area of research focuses on the application of cutting-edge technology to the processes of collecting, sorting and recycling packaging waste. To this end the SmartWaste platform was created, the first information management and data analysis tool to improve the efficiency and quality of municipal urban waste management services. Work in this area is also geared toward developing smart containers, searching for new models of collection vehicles that are more environmentally friendly , and incorporating robotic systems into waste treatment, thus transitioning sorting plants towards industry 4.0. Likewise, together with the UNESCO Life Cycle Chair at the ESCI-UPF, a method is being consolidated that provides information on the real impact of packaging throughout its life cycle (LCA).

Finally, TheCircularLab seeks to encourage open and collaborative innovation by networking with new entrepreneurs and startups who are working in the field of the circular economy. To do this, TheCircularLab, in collaboration with the Government of La Rioja, the Economic Development Agency of La Rioja and Emprenderioja, launched an incubation program to accelerate new business ideas related to ecodesign, recycling, waste management and the public.

“TheCircularLab, by Ecoembes, is another step toward the consolidation of a sustainable development model based on the circular economy and collaborative innovation. It’s a goal that we have been working on at Ecoembes since we began our activity 20 years ago, and that undoubtedly brings us closer to unifying a public that is increasingly involved in recycling”, said Óscar Martín, the CEO of Ecoembes.

La Rioja, a full-scale laboratory to investigate recycling

Located in La Rioja, TheCircularLab aspires to be an international leader in the field of circular economy, and will turn the region into a large, full-scale center of experimentation with the aim of developing new processes that can be transferred to other areas of Spain, or even Europe.

This region’s demographics exhibit the ideal characteristics to host this project, both from an operational point of view and from the standpoint of citizen interaction. Similarly, it should be noted that this is a region of Spain with a powerful ecosystem of innovation thanks to the involvement of its universities and technology centers.

La Rioja will thus position itself at the forefront of recycling, enhancing the commitment and collaboration of its citizens, local entities and companies.

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