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Smart Growth: the Role of the Circular Economy in Portugal

On the 5th May, our Portuguese speaking team members and Porto-based Head of Engineering attended the conference “Smart Growth: the Role of the Circular Economy” hosted by Serralves and Smart Waste Portugal. This was a great learning opportunity for SEaB as we accelerate our entry into the Portuguese market to promote sustainable technology implementation and the circular economy transition in society.

 The objective of this conference was to show how economic growth does not necessarily need to mean more waste. Also how innovations and new projects initiatives can be rentable while achieving the European Union goals for the circular economy transition.  This is really important when you think we need to protect the environment from full destruction and resource depletion. 

All the discussion about linear economy is once again on the conference agenda, stimulating reflections on the system,  when we think about social-environmental impact worries. This is why the traditional model of resource extraction is not sustainable and generates innumerable impacts. The negative consequences of immense use of natural resources are sending us a warning for future generations with alarming extreme heat, low air quality, superstorms, wildfires, floods, degradation of soil and desertification.

How does this affect the actual demands to mitigate climate change in Portugal?

At this important conference, Serralves Institute and Smart Waste Portugal members were present and active. Filipe Araújo, Vice-President of Porto City Council represents the Porto city interest and follows the changes to transition in the country. Showing the importance of these issues to the government of Portugal, Paulo Portas, Minister of Foreign Affairs, discussed the raw material crisis and the impact on the economy.

European Ecological Plan targets 2030 and the environmental economic fund were the highlight agenda items of the first part of the discussion. When we think about the importance of circular economic regulations we have to pay attention in the period between 2017 to 2020 in Portugal and all future projections. These years marked the period for investors and political decision makers to increase investments to keep Portugal on top of the countries leading the environmental energy transition. 

The amount of money raised and invested by the environmental “superfund” increased fourfold reaching a record figure of almost 570 million euros in 2020. The expectation, for 2022, is the European Union will increase the efforts to national investments, especially focus on the waste problem, one of the biggest challenges of the European Union. According to the Porto city representative, Portugal has a cost of around 110 billion euros for raw material extraction on this linear economic model. This highlights how important it is to invest in rethinking all the productive chains from the type and the source of raw material. 

The circularity model aims to retain the value of recycled material while eliminating waste as much as possible. Resources should be used minimally and reused to the maximum. By inverting this destructive paradigm, a circular system provides opportunities to preserve resources and ensure more high quality, sustainable use which increases value and  innovation. It inspires us to constantly seek improvement in our products and projects and we are now looking to provide circular economy waste recycling products as a rentable service to facilitate easy investments in green business. The design of material, products and business models needs to be restorative or regenerative and aim for the elimination of waste by recapturing it as a manufacturing resource. The big advantage of our system is that it has a very low life cycle carbon impact and eliminates the negative climate impacts of organic waste. 

The promotion of the Sustainable Bioeconomy, launched by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Action, focuses on circular economy transition, definitely highlighting the speech of Felipe Araújo at the conference. This component of all the economy infrastructure is the Recovery and Resilience Plan that in 2022 will distribute 145 million euros for the enhancement of biological resources and the development of sustainable and circular bioindustry with the aim of stimulating the development of products with high added value from biological resources, as an alternative to fossil-based materials.  

So, how can SEaB make a difference in the Portuguese market? 

The economic growth, feedstock use and consumption need to be balanced towards sustainable development. The food waste, for example, has a lot of attention, in Porto, north of Portugal. The Porto Pact for the Climate was one of the priorities of the local policy with the Dose Certa Program (The right portion project) in school or business cafeterias. This was mentioned at the conference and supported by the quantifying of food waste generated every year with the landfill as the final destination. 

Lipor is a waste management company in Portugal. According to this company, it manages 500.000t of waste every year, 23% of which is food waste. A big amount of waste means a huge environmental impact.

SEaB’s technology can reduce the carbon footprint of portuguese landfills and waste management system. Reusing organic waste as a resource to produce green energy, water (easily treatable), heat and fertiliser Our systems can increase the rate of food waste and other organic waste recycling. We believe our efforts towards a circular economy can provide a better, more sustainable future! 

An interesting alternative for Portugal, our Flexibuster technology uses food and kitchen waste that can come from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises. We work with one of the biggest targets of the EU. So it can be an opportunity to increase the Dose Certa Program (The right portion project) in the country. Lipor estimates with this program is able to reduce food waste in restaurants up to 30%. 

How could Lipor and Porto Council, for example, benefit with a sustainable food waste reuse?

We see the waste not as useless, but as a valuable resource to businesses to reduce waste normally going to landifills, helping municipalities and small-mediums with waste management. SEaB’s technology can help EU member states to reach their sustainability targets and reduce the impact of biodegradable municipal waste. Our FLEXIBUSTER™ solution is perfectly aligned with the EU and UN’s goal to stimulate sustainable food consumption,  reduce  and  reutilise  food  waste.  It  also  has a significant impact on carbon and climate change by reducing GHG from landfilling and transporting waste to landfills.

This scenario of the circular economy SEaB’s business model suggests one important question. How to finance sustainability?

During the conference, Luís Laginha de Sousa, member of the board of directors of the Bank of Portugal, discussed this theme. He highlighted how important financial services are in working providing mechanisms for supporting investments in bioeconomy and green business. This is something crucial to the circular economy transition: be a company that internalises negative externalities and assume the responsibility for rethinking the business model and socio-environmental risks. 

The agenda presented in the speech was the importance for more initiatives with carbon neutrality to 2050.  Luís Laginha de Sousa mentioned as necessary reducing general net emissions by 40%-50% before 2028. In general,  the circular economy in Europe has the potential to increase EU GDP by an additional 0.5% by 2030 and to create around 700,000 jobs, while decreasing our environmental footprint and GHG emissions. 

This proves that energy transition is necessary to avoid an increased stress climate scenario in the world and diversify the market. The Bank of Portugal intended to stimulate companies and initiatives that do more than recycle, but innovate with technology providing emissions licences, carbon credits or low carbon footprint. This was affirmed by the other discussion panels. It is not just thinking of new business models towards circularity. 

SEaB works by building a circular economy for food waste. We can develop a sustainable system and create real benefits to Portugal. The balance of economy and environment is essential to a sustainable future. And the bioeconomy construction needs environmental funds more than ever as well as tools to build a circular economy infrastructure.

By |2022-06-26T14:34:59+01:00May 12th, 2022|News|

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