CIRCULAR BIOCARBON; the flagship project for the construction of Europe’s first biorefinery for municipal solid waste and sewage sludge 

17 june 2021, editorial web staff

Urbaser and Socamex are the coordinators of the European flagship project CIRCULAR BIOCARBON, whose kick-off meeting took place this week, and which has been endowed with a budget of 23 million euros. The aim of the project is to develop a pioneering biorefinery in Europe, designed to convert the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (coming from the fifth container) and sewage sludge into high added value products, which can be used in mechanical moving parts, night vision cameras or devices for 5G telecommunications and beyond, among others. 

Urbaser coordinates this European project  

The project, which was awarded the highest score by the European Commission, includes 11 partners from five European countries (Spain, Italy, Denmark, France and Germany) and is a milestone for the whole of Europe due to its implementation scale (industrial level) and also its high replication potential. 

The biorefinery is a unique and integrated model with process lines for the joint treatment of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste and sewage sludge in two locations: Zaragoza (Spain) and Sesto San Giovanni (Italy).  

The biorefinery process lines to be implemented in Spain will begin construction in 2022 at Urbaser’s “Alfonso Maíllo” R&D&I Centre and at the Zaragoza Urban Waste Treatment Complex (CTRUZ) that Urbaser manages within the Recycling Technology Park (RTP).  

At the end of the project, a commercial-scale biorefinery will be fully operational, capable of treating all the organic waste produced by a medium-sized city. 

Urbaser, a global environmental management company, and Socamex, the water division of Urbaser, will coordinate this five-year project. “It’s a circular economy project in which the first biorefinery for municipal solid waste and sewage sludge will be built and operated on an industrial scale, with the aim of valorising the organic fraction of urban solid waste and WWTP sludge through high added-value products”, says Eduardo Fernández, Urbaser’s Director of Innovation, in relation to the unique nature of the project. 


A step towards sustainable bioeconomy  

CIRCULAR BIOCARBON will provide the basis for the commercial demonstration of the viability of biorefinery as a new waste treatment model for cities. The project will open the market to new products and business frameworks based on a new circular vision regarding the treatment of waste generated in the city, towards a sustainable bioeconomy.   

A major socio-economic impact is expected to be generated with the creation of more than 7,000 jobs by 2030, thanks to the new markets that will open up around the biorefinery, with the potential for generating more than 20 patents. 

The project has received funding through the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), which was established in 2014 to implement the Strategic Innovation & Research Agenda (SIRA), developed by the industry in partnership with the European Union as part of the Circular Economy Plan for Europe, aiming to make an approach to bioeconomy a reality.