25 June 2014

Conference on how waste can become a resource

Waste is a valuable resource. This is the idea underlying Mistra’s Closing the Loop programme. After two years’ work, the researchers are now ready to start presenting their ideas about how waste disposal can be transformed into sustainable resource management.

In 2012, when Mistra started its Closing the Loop programme, expressions alluding to gold that glimmers were common. The belief that waste is a valuable resource is nothing new; the problem is that methods of making sustainable use of these riches have been lacking.

The programme has now reached the midway point and the first partial results from the research can be presented. This will be done at the conference entitled ‘A New Focus on Waste in 2014’ (Avfall i nytt fokus 2014) in Gothenburg on 17–18 September. This conference, which is held every other year, is arranged jointly by SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, the Swedish Recycling Industries’ Association and Swedish Waste Management.

Some of the themes to be dealt with during the two-day conference are:

  • a circular economy and resource efficiency
  • industrial waste
  • the role and challenge of energy recovery
  • scope for increased biogas production
  • food and waste
  • purchasers’ influence
  • plastics and textiles in society.

Wide range of stakeholders taking part

The conference will also have a focus on sustainable waste management, biological and thermal recovery from waste, and systems analysis. The invitees are decision-makers, entrepreneurs, public agencies, county administrative boards, municipalities, purchasers, engineers, interest organisations, consultants and researchers in the area of waste and recycling.

Mistra’s Closing the Loop is an interdisciplinary programme with the aim of generating new knowledge concerning waste, especially about how industrial by-products and residual products should be returned to society as valuable resources. The researchers involved are active in widely varying disciplines, in seven different projects. The groups are working on questions ranging from how green, biobased plastics could be recycled to how we can get better at making use of phosphorus in chemical industrial processes. The researchers will also be seeking answers to the questions of how new, attractive products from waste can be designed or how much of a vehicle can be recycled.

‘Just as important as the results from the individual products is to create synergies among them. Our role as programme host is to synthesise the findings and present and analyse them in a larger context than will be done in the individual projects,’ thinks Lena Smuk, a researcher at SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and programme coordinator for Mistra’s Closing the Loop.

Text: Per Westergård, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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