In just over three years of interregional cooperation, the Interreg Europe CONDEREFF project has managed to gather an invaluable amount of knowledge and experiences that can inspire many EU cities and regions to prioritise resource efficiency in their policy frameworks and to improve the management of construction and demolition waste (hereinafter ‘C&D waste’) at territorial level.

Having in place ambitious policy frameworks putting a strong accent on resource efficiency is indeed the enabling condition for the roll-out of adequate infrastructures and the proliferation of viable methods to reuse and recycle C&D waste in line with the goals of the new Circular Economy Action Plan and EU waste rules.

While waiting to find out what CONDEREFF has in store for the next two years, it is worth taking a close look at some of the lessons learnt so far to successfully influence regional policy instruments and implement good practices in very challenging urban settings.

The new Waste Management Plan of the Valencian Community

Making sure that relevant policies recognise better C&D waste management as a priority is still a big challenge in many European regions, but the participation of the Polytechnic University of Valencia in the CONDEREFF project made this task easier on the occasion of updating the Integral Plan of Waste Management of the Valencian Community in 2019.

The wealth of knowledge and practices shared by all project partners could indeed be translated into targeted policy advice and technical norms: the updated plan now foresees rules on the management of C&D waste and provisions for the establishment of treatment facilities that comply with the proximity and self-sufficiency principles. Additionally, it mandates that permits for public construction works can only be granted at municipal level subject to the submission of a C&D waste management study that ensures the traceability of foreseen waste streams.

Concerning hazardous waste, it finally specifies that it is mandatory to confer such waste to authorised management sites in all cases with the exception of hazardous waste that may come form minor home renovation works, which can always be delivered to the closest civic amenity site ('ecopark').

Elisa Peñalvo López and Javier Cárcel-Carrasco, Assistant Professors of Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, are enthusiastic about the added value of interregional cooperation happening within CONDEREFF and confirmed how it helped shaping the novelties on C&D waste management included in the updated plan:

«For us the CONDEREFF project has been a great opportunity to learn from other regions sharing good practices and continuously enhacing the sustainability of C&D waste management. Regional authorities taking part in CONDEREFF are putting extra efforts to increase transparency of C&D waste operations and learning how to rely more on public procurement as a way to foster the reuse of C&D waste materials in line with circular economy priorities, which is also what the Valencian Community intends to do with its updated waste management plan».

Renewed efforts on C&D waste in the Eternal City

Like they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And the same holds true for building systems to ensure the proper management of C&D waste and encourage recycling and reuse of C&D waste materials. But it is exactly the City of Rome that is now taking concrete steps to improve resource efficiency in the construction sector, which the Interreg Europe community has the chance to discover precisely thanks to the CONDEREFF project.

Backed by a very ambitious national policy framework – since Italy is the only EU country that made Green Public Procurement criteria on reuse of C&D waste material mandatory for the construction of public buildings – the City of Rome as well as its municipal company AMA S.p.A are trying to maintain a comprehensive approach on the issue, as it appears from a number of measures adopted in recent years. These include requiring all companies that want to undertake construction works in private buildings in Rome to carry out pre-demolition audits and to submit a ‘waste production declaration’, which works as a deterrent against illegal waste dumping practices. In parallel, AMA S.p.A. also started to act against such practices by setting up accessible collection points that citizens are encouraged to use for disposing off small quantities of C&D waste from home renovation works so that it can in turn be recycled by authorised operators.

Alessandro Drago, Project Manger and EU Policies Expert at Regione Lazio, retains that:

«The steps taken and reported here as good practices bode well in terms of better C&D waste management in Rome».

On CONDEREFF itself, he added:

«This is an ambitious project, aiming to translate the provisions of the EU Protocol for the sustainable Management of C&D waste at local and regional level. Though not legally binding for the Member States, the Protocol represents a key tool for the transition towards circular economy. Two main points have emerged so far from cooperation within CONDEREFF as areas where work is further reauired to enable the shift to a more circular management of C&D waste: increased confidence in the overall C&D waste management process needs to be created by policymakers and highest possible quality of C&D recycled materials needs to ensure in parallel by operators, thereby generating a virtual spiral. This is all the more crucial as many countries in Europe are passing 'End of Waste' legislation that will lead to new markets of secondary raw materials for the construction sector».

CONDEREFF: what’s next?

As a project, CONDEREFF is halfway through, as the cooperation among its partners will continue until 2023. Its future looks bright and its agenda very busy, as recalled by Elisa Peñalvo López:

«The next years are going to be very exciting as we will go full speed with the implementation of activities under  regional action plans. This will be done with many regional stakeholders and the support of the Interreg Europe programme will be essential. We are sure the fruitful collaboration among all partner regions will continue in the next two years!».

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Heading photo credit: from Twenty20photos on Envato Elements.