REPAiR will analyse resource flows within cities and designing the Geodesign Decision Support Environment (GDSE), a toolkit for devising place-specific strategies solutions to enhance waste management significantly and promote the development of a circular economy, while contributing to the improvement of spatial quality and the quality of life in urban regions, peri-urban areas in particular. The GDSE will be an open source tool and can be used by regional and local authorities and other stakeholders for informed and participatory decision-making to develop strategies towards sustainable development of urban regions in an integrated and trans-disciplinary manner. By integrating economic, social and environmental dynamics, and being sensitive to gender equality and social inclusion, this instrument will allow for overcoming the compartmentalised waste management and spatial strategy making approach that so far remains predominant in Europe and hinders the capacity of the regional and local authorities to reduce waste generation, improve the local resources-based urban metabolism and enact a transition towards a circular economy.
REPAiR will deepen the understanding of urban metabolism and share this knowledge with a variety of interested stakeholders within the European circular economy community, while educating the future generations of decision-makers and practitioners dealing with waste and resource management. Moreover, REPAiR aims to raise awareness of the need to boost resource efficiency within the wider society and to provide tools that help in bridging the significant gaps in innovation in waste management and in recycling rates between the EU Member States [EC, 2011].
REPAiR’s outcomes will therefore offer a distinctive contribution to the EU’s medium- and long-term aims in terms of greater resource efficiency, as outlined in the key strategic documents EC, 2011a, 2014a, 2014b] and supported by the recent proposals for amendments to the EU’s waste-related legislation [EC, 2014c]. The key ambition underpinning those initiatives is to support re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products in order to enact, by 2050, a transition towards a Circular Economy in Europe ‘where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society’ [EC, 2014a]. The anticipated benefits of these initiatives also include inter alia reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, new growth and job opportunities, improved health and well-being and spatially better organized cities. REPAiR will seek to generate those beneficial impacts by addressing the nine priority objectives of the EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) to 2020 [EC, 2014a].
The REPAiR project will provide a toolkit for turning the European Union’s environmental ambitions concerning waste management and sustainable cities into reality. In fact, the GDSE will allow for translating the EU’s aims into integrated and place-tailored strategies and eco-innovative solutions for using waste as a resource in cities and in particular their peri-urban areas.
REPAiR recognises the essential role of cities and their peri-urban hinterlands for ushering in a circular economy, and will identify and exploit opportunities for combining the use of waste as a resource to achieve enhanced spatial quality, living conditions (health, well-being) and sustainable urban development. REPAiR is expected to offer a significant contribution to the impacts envisaged for the call WASTE-6b-2015 (issue b) Eco-innovative strategies)
First, REPAiR will produce measurable improvements in waste management. Without additional waste prevention policies in the EU, waste generation is expected to increase by 7% between 2008 and 2020, which calls for maximizing the opportunities for improved waste management (EC, 2011). REPAiR offers a concrete response to this call and contributes to the European Commission’s ambitions (EC, 2014b) to boost reuse and recycling of municipal waste to a minimum of 70% by 2030; increase the recycling rate for packaging waste to 80% by 2030, and ensure that EU Member States virtually eliminate landfill by 2030. This will be achieved through the application of the GDSE for strategically identifying, matching and harvesting potentials for a circular economy in six concrete locations representative of peri-urban areas across Europe.
Second, REPAiR will entail operationalization of urban metabolism to support sustainable urban development and reduce negative environmental impacts. REPAiR will integrate a dynamic model of resource flow performance assessment with parametric support for spatial quality, regional planning and design in an effectively implementable and administrable geodesign decision-support environment. This will allow not only for reducing harmful environment impacts on metropolitan areas, but also for generating positive effects in terms of spatial quality and justice, sustainability, resilience and prosperity.
Third, REPAiR will promote research and innovation leadership in a number of ways throughout the project and after its completion. REPAiR will thus establish an innovative WM/CE knowledge network comprising academic, policy and industry partners both within the study areas (where the consortium members already collaborate with a wide range of organisations in academia, industry and public authorities) and across Europe. This network will serve as a breeding ground for further research and innovation in the areas of waste management, circular economy and sustainable urban development. This will be supported by the cooperation of the consortium with AMS Institute (Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions), a joint initiative of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, TUD and Wageningen University. Moreover, the application of the GDSE in the case study regions and its promotion in other European peri-urban areas will support generating eco-innovative solutions addressing the need to reuse waste as a resource and hence improve the innovation capacity of those urban regions. Promoted and supported by the consortium members, and the AMS institute, the teaching activities as part of REPAiR will allow for engaging the waste management and urban professionals and the future leaders of the circular economy in the research and equip them with knowledge and skills to carry out further scientific work on this topic.
Specific short-term impacts
REPAiR is expected to generate three kinds of short-term impacts.
First and foremost, it will establish a participatory and science-based tool for informed decision-making and planning in urban development and waste management. Stakeholder participation and the inclusion of a user board play a crucial role in the iterative development and validation of the GDSE for the two key WM problem typologies. The GDSE will be developed and implemented in six study areas. Subsequently, being a fully customisable toolkit, the GDSE will be promoted more widely and made available on an open source platform to be used by sub-national authorities and stakeholders in peri-urban areas across Europe and beyond. The customisability and flexibility of GDSE (see long term impacts below) are the core advantages of this toolkit, which, supported by well-defined and high-impact dissemination and assistance by the AMS institute, are expected to ensure its wide uptake, facilitated by the project’s exploitation strategy.
Second, REPAiR will benefit the case study areas by producing collectively-built and gender-sensitive solutions for urban development and re-naturing of cities, and peri-urban areas in particular, measurable by indicators and sensitive to the issue of social inclusion. REPAiR entails designing a variety of solutions to place-based challenges for the development of a circular economy and of assessment models allowing for quantification and validation of alternative solution paths. Therefore, REPAiR uses an enhanced urban metabolism approach to promote sustainable urban development built upon near-field reciprocities and synergies between the built and the natural environments.
Third, REPAiR will contribute to the increased competitiveness of soil-ecology construction-waste treatment related industries in the case study regions. This will be achieved through the set-up of six PULLs in each of those regions that will enable the relevant industries to present, test and assess newly developed technologies in a ‘real world’ environment. This will decrease laboratory-to-implementation time, providing shorter development paths towards more applicable and effective solutions, subsequently transferable to other areas. The eco-innovative waste management solutions and strategies generated in PULLs will be selectively and strategically transferred to other case study areas, according to knowledge transfer methodology (WP7).
In the long-term, REPAiR is also expected to enhance environmental resilience and quality of life both in the case study areas and in other regions across Europe.
The GDSE addresses the increasing double complexity of urban environments, particularly in peri-urban areas. By integrating principles from landscape ecology, environmental sciences and industrial ecology, complexity science and urbanism, it provides a strong resource management and spatial development framework towards resilient metropolitan areas. The application of eco-innovative solutions developed, tested and assessed in REPAiR will improve the capacity of urban environments to deal with future resource management challenges, by promoting an understanding of metropolitan areas as combined urban-natural systems based upon reciprocities in a circular economy and dynamic equilibrium. These solutions involve breakthrough transformations that radically influence spatial qualities, sustainability, comfort, liveability and the essential (sometimes called crucial) flows of the urban metabolism, which in turn will ensure better quality of life. Beyond that, the participatory, science based decision making tool GDSE, can be used in other thematic areas within the urban metabolism to achieve and secure lasting (resilient) sustainable urban development (e.g. air quality management, renewable energy production).
Other important impacts
The project is also expected to generate other positive impacts beyond those outlined in the call, namely in terms of (1) education, skills development and awareness building; (2) institutional capacity and governance; as well as (3) economic growth, employment, competitiveness and reduced carbon footprint of European industry.
Education, skills development and awareness
REPAiR entails integration of its outcomes into teaching activities of four leading European universities, and the AMS institute, meaning that within the lifetime of the project more than one hundred industrial ecology, spatial planning, architecture and urbanism students and, via the planned AMS MOOCs, tens of thousands of urban professionals (and/or interested students worldwide), will be educated to promote and implement the shift to a stronger circular economy (one of the three main themes of AMS) and will become its advocates. This ensures that the impact of REPAiR will outlive the project’s duration. Moreover, by providing teaching tools and materials on an open access basis, teaching on circular economy will be offered freely to other higher education institutions, educating and sensitising a far larger group of students across Europe.
Better governance through participation
By encouraging the relevant circular economy stakeholders to work together within the GDSE, REPAiR will not only allow for exchange of (often tacit) knowledge between them, but also will contribute to better governance and administrative capacity in European regions, a pre-condition for effective implementation of EU’s waste or regional and urban policies (see EC, 2014e). REPAiR’s participatory approach will thus strengthen two of the ‘pillars’ of the regional quality of government (Charron et al, 2014): (1) voice and accountability; and (2) the effectiveness of the regional and local authorities.
Positive impacts on the local economies, competitiveness and carbon footprint of the European industry
REPAiR is expected to generate positive effects for the local economies. Thus, through the application of GDSE and the collaboration between relevant industry, knowledge and societal partners within the living labs, and knowledge transfer across the cases, REPAiR will stimulate innovation potential, competitiveness and growth, particularly of the local SMEs dealing with waste management. GDSE will facilitate innovations that will meet existing or new demands in the local, European and possibly global markets. By achieving this, REPAiR will add the European Commission’s call for stepped up efforts to remove barriers to eco innovation, and to unlock the full potential of Europe’s eco-industries (EC, 2014). Furthermore, improved waste management through REPAiR is expected to generate benefits for green jobs and growth (see EC, 2014). It is estimated that reaching a recycling rate of 70% at the European level would generate roughly half a million jobs (EC, 2010c), while resource efficiency improvements all along the value chains could represent an overall yearly savings potential of 630 billion euros for European industry (EC, 2014). Other studies indicate that circular economy approaches could offer potential to boost EU GDP by up to 3.9% by creating new markets, products and value for business (EMF, 2012). Moreover, previous research (Dubois & Christis, 2014) has shown that more recycling generates new economic activities and creates new jobs: for example, in Flanders, 27,000 extra jobs would be created and 2.3 billion euros worth of added value would be generated if the region moved to a genuine circular economy. Employment created would then concern not only the field of recycling, but also entail creation of new repair, refurbishment and remanufacturing jobs. Additionally, by enhancing the quality of life and liveability in the case study regions, the project would indirectly help to attract talents and skilled employees.
In addition, by including a focus on promoting the recycling of waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), REPAiR’s results will also contribute to the specific goals on recycling of raw materials by European industry. Research (Huisman et al. 2015) has shown that EU countries in 2012 only managed to properly recycle 35% (3,3 million tonnes) of all electronic waste. The EU goals to remedy this situation are outlined in DG GROW’s action on Critical Raw Materials (EC, 2011f) and the Raw Materials Initiative (EC, 2014e). One of the three pillars of this initiative is resource efficiency and supply of ‘secondary raw materials’ through recycling. Thus, the recycling of WEEE, to be promoted by REPAiR, will contribute to the Commission’s efforts to cope with critical raw materials supply problems.
Last but not least, REPAiR’s positive economic impacts from improved waste management will also generate beneficial second order effects in terms of reduction of green house gases emissions, in line with the EU’s climate objectives for 2020. In fact, boosting the circular economy through measures such as recycling and reuse of materials is estimated to not only bring net savings of 600 billion euros, equivalent of 8% of annual turnover of EU businesses, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2-4% per year (EC, 2014e).