Promoting the circular economy requires all of society's support

As part of the Repsol Foundation conference series, a new series on the circular economy, organized by Funseam, has just begun. On this occasion, it was focused on waste management, with additional sessions that will take place over September and October. At the start of this first session, we learned the preliminary results of a study on circular economy that identifies opportunities, spreads awareness, and makes recommendations to administrations.

The first session of Funseam and the Repsol Foundation's Circular Economy Conference Series began with a presentation by Jaime Ferrer, who coordinated the “Identification of opportunities and an action plan for the Circular Economy in Spain” project, which included the participation of Funseam, academic representatives from several universities, and more than 100 companies from 11 different key sectors. Ferrer, who presented some of the study's results, noted that it is essential that large, medium, and small companies take part because the latter represent a large part of the country's GDP and have more difficulty accessing resources. “We intend to provide the proper authorities with information on existing barriers where they need to work to achieve circular economy. A regulatory framework is necessary but not sufficient alone. We have to give incentives and support governance that will help achieve the anticipated goals.” According to the results from the study, 55% of companies are already involved in circular economy, 38% have objectives and governance mechanisms to make it happen, and 15% have a specific committee to promote it.

Various projects that directly underscore the benefits that the circular economy has on the energy transition were presented in this first session of the conference series. António Calçada, executive managing director of the Repsol Foundation, pointed out in his welcome speech that, “we are living in a moment of profound transformation, a transition toward a more efficient and innovative production model. And the circular economy is going to be one of the drivers of that transformation, which needs to be speedy yet ordered, considering the business opportunities that it provides to all types of companies.""

Joan Batalla, general director of Funseam, pointed out that “the need to recover our level of economic growth prior to the pandemic and the obligation to continue working to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 pushes us necessarily toward a completely circular economy, where waste management takes a leading role.

Ismael Pereda, from Repsol, presented the Betunia Project, which analyzes where waste is produced in the asphalt manufacturing and application process. The goal is to recover 100% of this waste by providing the entire value chain with circular solutions. “Repsol is the first European company in the asphalt sector to obtain Environmental Product Declarations, which are detailed analysis about their life cycle. With this analysis, we have been able to assess that all the initiatives identified in the Betunia Project make up a total savings of 1,400 tons of CO2.

Pedro Martín is general manager of Ilunion Reciclados, a division of Ilunion within the Grupo ONCE that, together with the Repsol Foundation, createdRecycling4all, a new company that apart from handling industrial waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), also provides quality work for people with disabilities, which creates a huge social impact. WEEE is the fastest growing type of waste worldwide; and last year Ilunion managed to recover 93% of the waste it treated in Spain. According to Pedro Martín, the waste sector is a strategic one for the country and society. ​ “Economically, because it allows us to obtain resources from our own waste; socially, because it creates green jobs; and inclusively and environmentally, because it benefits people's public health”, he said.

The last to speak was Rafael Aguilera, general director of UNO Logística, the Spanish organization that joins the transportation sector with logistics businesses. Transportation generates 27% of our greenhouse gases, makes up for 20% of traffic in big cities, and also continues to create more and more jobs. As Aguilera states, “our sector has a huge impact and should be the focus for taking on profound change toward circular economy that we should make happen as a country, as it is at the center of any operation”. Logistics companies are supporting electric mobility and the future is headed toward reverse logistics, but the sector demands incentives, regulation, and awareness.

Upcoming sessions 

""Economic and energy recovery of waste"", Thursday, September 30, from 12 p.m. to 1_30 p.m.

""Technological solutions in the waste sector"", Thursday , October 14, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

""International experiences in waste management"", Thursday, October 28, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.