Ecoembes: “In 20 years, we have recycled enough bottles to fill the El Sadar stadium over 2,000 times”

  • Today, Pamplona hosted a seminar about the role of the circular economy in the energy transition with experts from the institutional, university and business fields a few days after the Navarre government approved the Agenda for the Development of the Circular Economy in Navarre with a 2030 horizon.

In 20 years, the company Ecoembes has recycled 19.3 million tonnes of domestic bottles in Spain, “enough to fill the El Sadar stadium over 2,000 times”. This example of the circular economy was one of the pieces of information provided by José Arrancudiaga, Expert in Waste Management in Navarre and the Basque Country for Ecoembes, at a seminar organised by the Naturgy Foundation in Pamplona today. The seminar gave experts in the institutional, university and business fields the opportunity to discuss the role of the circular economy in the current energy transition.

Arrancudiaga explained: “recycling is a perfect example of the circular economy, a well-established habit for people from Navarre.” “Recycling gives waste a second life, avoiding the use of new raw materials,” explained the expert from Ecoembes, a company with 20 years’ experience promoting the circular economy by minimising the environmental impact of bottles and waste. “Spain generates approximately 23 million tonnes of municipal waste and only 30% is recycled”, he said.

Maria Eugenia Coronado, Managing Director of the Naturgy Foundation, explained that we have to speak about the circular economy because “it is, without a doubt, one of the main aspects of the energy transition we are experiencing”. “We all have to promote a more sustainable economy, with a lower energy consumption and better use of available resources, which means the circular economy must be present throughout the value chain.” “For the energy sector, the development of the circular economy is one of the main factors of transformation and the future”, stated Coronado, who advocated moving away from a linear economic model, which wastes a large amount of materials, resources and energy.

The circular economy in the future of Navarre

The Vice President and Director of Economic Development in the Navarre Government, Manu Ayerdi, who took part in the opening ceremony of the seminar, explained: “The Government propose to lead the energy transition, the fight against climate change and sustainability from the political sector, integrating the circular economy into the different sectoral policies.” Ayerdi highlighted “the importance of sustainability for the Regional Government, especially for the Department of Economic Development, because we cannot achieve such development without respecting the environment”. “We are utterly convinced that economic viability and competition must be united in protecting the balance of our environment”, he said.

The Managing Director of Environmental Affairs and Land Use Planning in Navarre, Eva García Balaguer, explained the recently approved Agenda for the development of the Circular Economy in Navarre with a 2030 horizon (ECNA 2030), which the Navarre Government wants to use to guide and support the sectoral policies in the transition towards a new model. García Balaguer reaffirmed that one of the main objectives is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% in comparison with 2005 and ensure that the renewable energy rate of the final gross energy consumption is 50%.

The dean of the College of Industrial Engineers of Navarre, Miguel Iriberri, also highlighted the role of the circular economy as a driver of the energy transition, based on principles such as “eco-design, industrial and regional ecology, economy of functionality and reuse”.

Towards a model of eco-cities

The seminar was also attended by an expert in eco-cities, Joan Rieradevall, researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). Rieradevall explained that 50% of the global population live in cities, and that urban areas consume 75% of the energy and produce 80% of the greenhouse gases.

In this context, he reviewed the evolution of the urban metabolism of cities from the perspective of the circular economy. “Some of the environmental improvement strategies of the urban systems we deal with include auto-sufficiency, improvement of the flow of resources, cities for people and the improvement of urban spaces”, he explained. Rieradevall put forward several examples of urban eco-design projects: eco-efficiency for underground urban supply and drainage networks, environmental analysis of pavements, symbiosis of urban agriculture with buildings and reduction of greenhouse gases in waste management.

The role of renewable energy was developed by Pablo Ayesa, Managing Director of the National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER). For Ayesa, renewables will have an important role alongside other technology and he stressed “the energy transition requires more significant changes than those citizens have seen until now. In addition to wind and photovoltaic power, the next 20 years will see significant changes associated to transport, city layout, industry processes, recycling and even agricultural and urban soil management.” “Europe has a long-term strategy to comply with the Paris Agreements in 2050 and Spain in particular has agreed to significant objectives such as a 100% renewable electricity system”, he said.

Practical cases in the food and construction sectors

Andrea Urzaiz Huguet, head of Marketing and Business Development at Aceites Artajo, explained: “In our company we have water availability detectors and satellite control; we crush the remains from pruning to use them in the soil, we control pests with traps and rows of flowers.” In addition to an efficient use of water, which is the main waste in extracting oil, she also explained that biomass, in particular olive stones, is “the main energy resource of the buildings we have, both for air conditioning and hot water.”

On the other hand, Miguel Ángel Paris, head of the Sustainability department in the construction company ROCKWOOL, explained that this sector “produces approximately a third of the waste in the world, the majority of which ends up in landfill”. That is why ROCKWOOL produces stone wool, which can be used as part of these materials. “Approximately a third of the raw materials used in our production are recycled waste from other industries, which are added to the process of a lot of waste generated during the manufacturing of materials, as well as an optimal use of water”, he stated.

The Naturgy Foundation and its mission to raise environmental awareness

This seminar is one of the training activities that the Naturgy Foundation is carrying out in different Spanish cities about issues relating to energy and the environment. Its main goal is to promote the rational use of energy resources and foster sustainable development.

Set up by the power company in 1992, the Naturgy Foundation is also engaged in social action programmes both nationally and further afield, by influencing particular initiatives aimed at alleviating energy vulnerability.