Although some of the current urban municipal waste fractions benefit from efficient strategies and good management performances, several waste streams have limited opportunities to positively contribute generating value for the EU society for different reasons (i.e. lack of logistics, lack of stringent legislation, difficulties to find high added value applications, etc.), being thus, finally landfilled or incinerated.

One of these difficult streams is bulky waste, which has no European common definition but includes, for instance, furniture, mattresses, upholstery, appliances, textile, garden and outdoor, or other large fixtures and fittings. The characteristics of this waste fraction greatly vary depending on the legal, economic, social, or geographical situation of each country.

Estimated data on bulky waste generation (based on a report completed by WRAP) suggests that about 19 Mt/year of bulky waste are produced in Europe, more than 60% of it is being currently landfilled in EU because there is neither specific EU legislation nor cost-effective valorisation methods. This implies significant environmental impacts and a loss of resources that could be reused or valorised.

An innovative management system

In this context, the URBANREC project has developed and implemented an eco-innovative and integral bulky waste management system, enhancing prevention (including reuse), improving logistics and allowing new waste treatments to obtain high added value recycled products and have demonstrated its effectiveness in different regions and contexts. In the URBANREC project, Northern, Mediterranean, Eastern and South-eastern areas in Europe were represented by Local Authorities (LA) located in Belgium, Spain, Poland, and Turkey.

One of the main outcomes of the projects was to create the right European framework for the implementation and replication of the URBANREC results in the EU Member States. The Local Authorities involved in the project were committed to considering the obtained results as a basis for future legislation and reuse/recycling incentives in every related country in the framework of their competences. The project’s findings were aimed to inspire the proposal of recommendations for a draft European legislation addressing bulky waste that was presented last November in the European Parliament. These legal recommendations are included in the URBANREC GUIDELINES available here.

Additionally, an Eco-design guide can also be found in this section to minimize the environmental impact of the products, focusing on products included in what is considered bulky waste stream. It is also important to highlight the fact that this interactive tool was developed by the project partners to help any territory to identify potential improvements thanks to the implementation of URBANREC solutions although more specific information about regions assessed during the project and valorisation routes developed can be found.

The role of AIMPLAS as a coordinator

AIMPLAS participates in this project as a project coordinator and developing research and innovation work in line with its commitment to environmental sustainability. Thanks to this, companies in the sector can introduce the Circular Economy criteria into their business model and convert the legislative changes that affect them into opportunities to improve their efficiency, reduce their environmental impact and increase their economic profitability.

The URBANREC project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 690103.