- A circular economy aims to maintain the value of products, materials and resources for as long as possible by returning them into the product cycle at the end of their use, thereby minimising the generation of waste.48 Three main words can be associated with this concept: reduce, reuse and recycle. In a scarce resource world, light is shed on mechanisms to recycle and re-use material that elsewhere would find its end of lifecycle in a waste disposal. Waste recycling embraces a large share in the pillar ‚circular economy‘, not only with regard to the collection itself but also to the valorisation of waste. In March 2020, the European Commission adopted a new circular economy action plan, one of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal.
- The valorisation of waste is achieved by transforming waste into energy, mostly electricity and/or heating. Electricity generation from municipal renewable waste has increased more than ninefold within the last thirty years (see figure 1).
- Circularity as such does not always indicate an activity with no emissions. The focus lies on a reutilisation of products and resources, and by this circularity, a reduction in the consumption of rare resources is achieved.
- Not only the vessels, but also inland ports, play an essential role in the circular economy on the supply side. As an example for an already existing market where inland navigation and inland ports are integrated into circular economy supply chains, the use of scrap steel, iron waste and metal waste for steel production can be mentioned.
- In 2019, 41.3% of crude steel production in the EU took place via electric arc furnaces, in which iron residues or metal waste are smelted with the help of electricity and converted again into new steel. Inland ports and inland navigation are heavily involved in the transport of scrap steel, metal waste and iron waste. An important example is the Rhine Port of Kehl, which will be discussed further below.
- As ports are mainly located close to city centres, industries or terminals, they provide a fruitful ground for the recycling industry. Indeed, the high concentration of raw materials and residual flows from numerous industrial and logistic activities which can be found in ports, and the proximity to large urban agglomerations, make them ideal places for circular economy activities. The vicinity of circular economy activities near inland ports is certainly an opportunity that inland navigation transport can seize. The European Federation of Inland Ports (EFIP) expects that the implementation of the circular economy strategy by inland ports will trigger new transport flows.49
- EFIP identified some barriers to the development of circular economy activities within inland ports as follows:50
– The lack of space for the installation of collection and treatment units,
– The dependence of inland ports on the final market uptake for circular economy activities and the initiatives of individual companies,
– Reaching critical mass in a circular economy business model for certain waste in order to gain economic profitability,
– Negative public opinion about waste and waste recycling,
– Long transition process towards circular economy,
– Increased cooperation between various stakeholders involved in the circular economy transition is required,
– Multi-stage process of certain types of waste.
- So that the circular economy becomes a reality for inland ports, several levers are also described by EFIP, to name but a few: an increased knowledge about the value-added applications of waste resources, standardisation and a quality scheme for secondary raw materials, as well as stable and long-term climate investment. A few examples as to how inland navigation integrates into the circular economy logistics is described in this chapter.
FIGURE 1: ELECTRICITY GENERATION FROM WASTE IN THE EUROPEAN UNION 28 (1,000 GWH)
Source: International Energy Agency, Data and Statistics (https://www.iea.org/fuels-and-technologies/renewables)
WASTE RECYCLING BY INLAND VESSELS IN CITIES
- The recycling and energy recovery company Cory Environmental51 collects, sorts and segregates dry waste such as plastics and other types of dry mixed recyclables as well as non-recyclable waste and transforms it into electricity.
- Waste is collected from four riverside stations in London (Wandsworth, Battersea, City of London, Tower Hamlets). Barges pulled by tugs from these stations deliver non-recyclable waste to an ’energy from waste’ (EfW) facility. In this EfW facility, an incineration of waste takes place, and the steam resulting during this process drives a turbine that generates baseload electricity.
- The company reports in its annual review, published in 2021,52 that in 2020 it transported 731,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste to its EfW facility. The amount of electricity generated (501 GWh) is the equivalent of the electricity needed to supply 155,000 homes in the region of London. The EfW facility, situated in Belvedere – a district in south-east London – is located directly on the Thames. It is the only EfW facility in the UK with river infrastructure to receive waste. In total, Cory Environmental transports 1 million tonnes of waste on the Thames per year, thereby avoiding the movement of 100,000 trucks on the streets of London. It owns a fleet of 52 barges and 5 tugs and has its own repair yard for the vessels.
- In the area of Paris on the Seine, various segments of household waste (see table 1) to be recycled or reused are transported on inland waterways.
- Table 1 shows the waste volumes transported by the public service company SYCTOM in Paris, as one major example of urban river transport of waste in France. SYCTOM provides a public service for the treatment and collection of household waste for 85 municipalities in the Paris region. According to their activity report in 2020, SYCTOM transported 189.7 thousand tonnes of waste on inland waterways from which they have recycled in various ways 92.4% of all waste collected. Various methods of waste recycling embrace methanisation, energy recovery (electricity and steam) or reuse of recycled material.54
- For the incineration of waste, filters are used that reduce the emissions. These filters are also transported by inland vessels. In June 2021, 24 new bag filters weighing 24 tonnes each were transported between Rouen and Ivry Paris XIII via the Seine. The new unit in Ivry is destined for the energy recovery from household waste through an incineration process. Ivry represents the most important recycling centre for the region of Paris.56
- In 2023, the new energy recovery unit will be commissioned and will handle an annual quantity of 350,000 tonnes of residual household waste by incineration. This amounts to the collected waste volume of around 1.4 million households from the agglomeration of Paris.57 SYCTOM operates around ten recycling and sorting centres in the region Île de France.
- It can also be observed that new types of waste transport are emerging in ïle-de-France, in particular through the development of container transport, which makes it possible to collect a wider variety of waste. An example is the transport of waste from Gennevilliers near Paris to Rouen. On the way to Rouen professional furniture waste is transported in containers whereas on the way to Gennevilliers containers are filled with paper waste.
- The waste disposal centre in Lille, in northern France, with its two recycling centres58 in Sequedin and Halluin which are located in the northern and southern part of the city, accounts for an estimated 220,000 tonnes of household waste transported by inland vessel per year.
- Urbanisation and waste disposal is a known challenge. As populations tend to grow and space becomes scarce, waste disposal centres in densely populated areas switch to innovative solutions due to lack of space. The city of Lyon shows how waterways can help overcome space scarcity by floating boats acting as waste disposal centres.
- River’Tri in Lyon is Europe’s first floating waste disposal centre. Every year, an inland vessel collects 300 tonnes of waste from 5,000 people in the city centre of Lyon. River’Tri began in 2016 as an experimental project for two years with a budget of 1.8 million euros, 37% of which was financed by the European cohesion policy (ERDF). Since that time the Lyon metropolitan area has financed this operation (approximately 500,000 euros/year) via a service provider (SITA-Suez).
- River’Tri is not only an urban river logistics project, but also a project of the circular economy, as 90% of the waste collected by inland vessel is recycled and transformed into new products (see table 2):
- The waterborne waste disposal centre in Lyon is open every Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, when it docks along the Quai Fulchiron on the right bank of the river Saône. The city of Lyon and VNF aim to extend the availability of this inland vessel by one more day per week.
- VNF reports that there is interest from private companies to introduce more river logistics services in Lyon. New services could concern the delivery of parcels or food products.59
- Several quays are available in Lyon. On the Rhône, these quays are below the bridges, in hidden areas. On the Saône, the quays are visible and public, but the quayside on this river is often affected by floods in winter and spring. In addition, the historical architecture of the city centre limits the full implementation of urban river logistics infrastructure on the Saône.
WASTE TRANSPORT ON THE THAMES AND ENERGY GENERATION IN LONDON
Source: Adobe Stock, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, London, UK
RIVER TRANSPORT OF WASTE IN PARIS AND LILLE53
TABLE 1: EXAMPLE OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY SYCTOM55 IN THE REGION OF PARIS – TRANSPORT OF WASTE BY IWT 2019-2020
|Type of waste||Volume in tonnes 2019||Volume in tonnes 2020|
|Household packing and paper||198,081||181,065|
Source: SYCTOM Activity Report 2020
RIVER’TRI IN LYON
Source: Euronews (2021)
TABLE 2: WASTE COLLECTED BY THE RIVER’TRI INLAND VESSEL IN LYON AND NEW PRODUCTS MADE FROM THE WASTE
|Waste collected by River’Tri|
|Bulky waste such as furniture and carpets|
|Paper and cardboard|
|Metals and wood|
|Electric and electronic equipment|
|Household hazardous waste such as paint and batteries|
|Products made from the waste|
|Wood chips (from wood of inferior quality) used as alternative fuel|
Source: Euronews (2021)
KEY ROLE OF INLAND PORTS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CIRCULAR ECONOMY ACTIVITIES AND RELATED CARGO FLOWS
- Ports are an essential player in the transition to a circular economy. They are deeply interconnected with different supply chains. Three ports will be mentioned in this section:
- Port of Kehl
The Rhine Port of Kehl is one of the ten largest Rhine ports and is located near the French Port of Strasbourg, on the German side of the river Rhine. It hosts the largest German electric arc furnace steel plant. This steel production technology reutilises scrap steel and iron waste for producing new steel.
As figure 2 shows, iron waste accounted for 51% of all waterside cargo transport in the Port of Kehl (2020). The end products resulting from the circular production process of the steel plant are mainly steel bars and shapes. Total inland waterside cargo transport amounted to over 4.4 million tonnes of cargo in the Port of Kehl in 2020.
- Port of Moerdijk
The Port of Moerdijk focuses on embracing circularity in the port’s vision.60 One of the most important circular activities is the energy plant. It transforms animal waste into electricity and is quite unique in Europe.61 Further, the eco park of the Port of Moerdijk attracts biobased and circular projects. One of the most advanced programmes is the testing ground for pyrolysis, i. e. heating waste to high temperatures above 400°C without the supply of oxygen to generate fuel. Pyrolysis is a chemical process to gain substances out of waste such as pallets, plastic foil or sewage sludge.62
- Port of Amsterdam
The Port of Amsterdam remains the frontrunner in the circular activities among all European ports. This lies within its circular economy ecosystem.63 Three companies that are engaged in different kinds of waste recycling shall be mentioned.
– Bio Energy Netherlands recycles wood chips and treats them in a gasification plant to gain syngas from which heat, electricity and hydrogen can be retrieved.64
– AEB Amsterdam processes residual waste to energy. With an incineration process that burns the waste, heat and electricity for up to 30,000 households in the north of Amsterdam are produced.65
– SUEZ Group focuses on hazardous waste. Different kinds of hazardous waste, liquid or solid, are treated to be reintroduced into the lifecycle as raw materials.66
FIGURE 2: STRUCTURE OF INLAND WATERWAY TRANSPORT IN THE RHINE PORT OF KEHL (IN %)*
Source: Port of Kehl, CCNR analysis
* % values are based on port figures for 2020