Horizon 2020 Embraced Project was protagonist at Ecomondo in Rimini last week. Hosted and organised by Novamont, the event offered the opportunity to present to a selected public made of stakeholders, professionals and policymakers the final achievements of this project started in June 2017.
The target of zero CO2 emissions by 2050 and an economic growth that does not lead to increased resource depletion, together with development equity and inclusiveness, are the pillars of the European Green Deal launched in December 2019. Reducing emissions by 55% by 2030 poses an even more challenging target in the context of necessary recovery after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of rising energy and raw material costs, and the consequences of the conflict triggered by Russia in Ukraine.
The latter objective finds its lines of implementation within the Fit for 55 package, presented by the European Commission in July 2014. In this scenario, acting on the reduction of resource consumption in a perspective of circular bioeconomy represents the most advanced trend in the implementation of virtuous processes capable of recovering matter from critical fractions of waste to reintroduce it as a nutrient in further industrial cycles or to bring it back into the ecosystem.
Waste generated from the use of sanitary absorbent products (AHP) still constitutes a significant fraction of municipal solid waste (estimated between 3 and 4%) destined for incineration or landfill, options that in the European waste treatment hierarchy are at the bottom of a priority scale dictated by sustainable development objectives. On the other hand, the consumption of AHP is also set to grow because of the demographic dynamics that are manifesting themselves as a long-term trend – albeit with due differences – within the member countries of the European Union, the associated EFTA countries, and the candidates for membership.
The progressive extension of life expectancy – despite the halt imposed by the pandemic – associated with persistently low birth rates, defines a picture of a general ageing of the European population. According to data provided by Eurostat, between 2009 and 2019, the number of elderly people, i.e., over 65 years of age, increased by 2.9% of the total population.
According to Eurostat projections, the ageing trend to 2100 will radically alter the age pyramid, which will shrink more and more at the centre and widen at the top, where the proportion of people aged 80 and over will also grow. The importance of developing circular industrial processes for AHP is therefore clear. The results achieved with the EMBRACED project provides an integrated supply chain model for the recycling of AHP waste, which starts from separate waste collection to valorise materials.
These are then transformed into building blocks and polymers for applications in various sectors, from biomaterials to fertilisers. The whole process creates new employment opportunities that meet an inalienable need for a fair and sustainable development. A result consistent with the circular bioeconomy vision shared by a group of partners formed by leading companies in their respective sectors, ONG and research institutes: Novamont, Fater, Fertinagro, Circe, Contarina, Fraunhofer, Wittenburg, Saponia, Terracycle, Legambiente and Reteambiente.
Embraced project’s achievements are described in a final publication and a video, both presented at Ecomondo 2022 and available on http://www.embraced.eu