In the transition from a fossil based to a bio-based economy, it has become an important challenge to maximally close the nutrient cycles and migrate to a more sustainable resource management, both from an economical as an ecological perspective. Nutrient resources are rapidly depleting, significant amounts of fossil energy are used for the production of chemical fertilizers, whereas costs for energy and fertilizers are increasing. However, up until now this transition proved to be difficult to realise due to obstacles in (national) legislative systems, lack of integration of institutional and governance structures and lack of coordination between the actions undertaken by the different stakeholders and government levels. Although EU environmental legislation covers an increasing number of environmental aspects, there are still important challenges ahead to harmonise standards, techniques and markets in this area.
The NWE region with its high population density, intensive industrial and agricultural activity producing large amounts of residues, is an ideal testing ground for tackling these challenges. Therefore, BioRefine aims to follow a cross-sectoral and transnational approach involving all stakeholders and mobilising all knowledge available in the NWE region. To achieve this goal different stakeholder parties in the project area will be brought together, thus covering a large spectrum of mineral flows and offering a broad array of existing recycling applications. This interaction will create leverage of knowledge and will inspire regional applications, thus making a transnational benefit possible. The ultimate goal is to minimize residue flows and to economically valorise the minerals that can be recovered from these residue flows, thereby stimulating a bio-based economic growth and thus creating a win-win situation for both the environment and the economy in the NWE region.
In this project we set out to bring together all stakeholders for the implementation of joint transnational innovation actions to minimize residue flows and to economically valorise the minerals that can be recovered from these residues flows. By bringing stakeholders together in a transnational knowledge platform, delivering pilot cross-sectoral applications of promising techniques on recycling and reusing of valuable minerals, and testing new systems of valorization of recovered minerals, this project will provide improved and integrated responses to the technical, legislative and marketing challenges ahead. Sectors involved in the cooperation on this topic are:
Waste management and water purification organisations, both public and private, bringing together their expertise on techniques for recuperation of valuable minerals from waste and water.
The chemical processing industry bringing in line possibilities for reuse and valorization of minerals that have been recycled (C2C-bio based economy).
Agriculture, since several mineral residue flows have an organic base and mineral cycles can be closed relatively easily in this sector; it is therefore necessary to involve agriculture in a cross-sectoral approach.
Research institutes will be involved for knowledge development on this topic; in view of the cross-sectoral approach of this project, it will be necessary to involve different types of knowledge centres, covering technical, environmental as well as economical aspects.
This project will provide an action-oriented approach to deliver applied technological solutions and transnational strategy development for improved recycling and valorization of minerals that are valuable both from a natural resource as well as from an economic perspective. Policies regarding to use, transport, reuse, recycling and disposal of nutrients are directed from the EU level through various directives (nitrate directive, water framework directive, …). However, the implementation policy of EU directives is decided at regional or national level. As a result, the policies are often not harmonised with each other and conflicts between regions may arise. Also transport of nutrients in the environment is not limited by national borders. Therefore, a transnational approach is almost desired for effective policy making and efficient business development. Through the networks from each of our partners and supported by a range of innovative communication tools, efficient dissemination of knowledge on this theme towards local, regional and European stakeholder will be made possible. This will support homogenisation of territorial disparities in legislation and policies that now hinder the development of a harmonised market of recycled minerals for high value application, thus making a transnational benefit possible. Ultimately, the wasting of finite resources and environmental pollution will be greatly reduced and residues will get economic value, opening up new possibilities for sustainable and more bio-based economic growth and thus creating a win-win situation for both the environment and the economy in the NWE region.