Urbaser is one of the world’s leading references in innovation applied to the environmental sector and waste management. This firm commitment to research, development and innovation is the driving force behind its leadership, a DNA that is manifested across the board in all areas of the company. In 2021, Urbaser spent more than 10 million euros to finance R&D&i projects and 40,000 hours to innovation projects.

Innovating to close the cycle of waste management

The Innovation Department’s priority mission is to provide support to all the business areas of the Urbaser Group in order to promote and strengthen R&D&i in all areas, services and production processes.

A fundamental element of this innovation strategy is the policy developed by the R&D&i Committee, in which all the company’s business areas participate.

Urbaser’s R&D&i policy and its priority lines are set out in the Multiannual Strategic Innovation Plan.

We understand Innovation as a constant process of continuous searching for new ways to move from waste to resource. All rejects and by-products have a potential value that brings us closer to the idea of a Circular Economy.

The main actions taken by the Urbaser Group to close the waste management cycle are as follows:

  • Transforming rejects into resources, contributing to the maximum materialisation of the circular economy idea.
  • Applying the results of innovation in waste treatment plants and the Group’s urban services.
  • Minimising the environmental impacts of the organisation’s activities and processes.
  • Implementing digitalization to improve the provision of services and production processes.
  • Promoting Technological Surveillance and Knowledge Management tools.

The nerve centre for innovation in the field of waste treatment at Urbaser is the Alfonso Maíllo Technological Innovation Centre (CIAM), located in Zaragoza, one of the most important facilities in Spain for research applied to waste management. At CIAM, the critical stages of waste treatment are reproduced on a pilot scale. A multidisciplinary team of thermal and biological process technicians works in a laboratory performing solid, liquid and gas tests.

The centre has more than 5,000 square meters of dedicated laboratory space to give shape to the 43  R&D&i projects that are then incorporated into Urbaser’s services. CIAM scientists work every day to obtain value-added raw materials and thus close the so-called Circular Economy cycle.

“Alfonso Maíllo” Innovation Centre, Zaragoza


Some of CIAM’s current research lines include how to obtain diesel from plastic waste or biogas from organic waste. In the latter case, Urbaser has patented an organic waste “digester”, the only one of its kind in the world, which allows an “anaerobic digestion” process to transform organic waste into biogas.

The Urbaser Group has a Technology Surveillance and Knowledge Management System that allows the capture, analysis, dissemination and exploitation of internal and external knowledge that is useful for the continuous improvement of business processes.

Public-private collaboration is, among others, a key factor in the development of R&D&i actions in all business areas of the Urbaser Group, where it is necessary to articulate an intense collaboration between government agencies, suppliers, research organisations and citizens to achieve effective smart city models.

In order to be increasingly competitive, the Urbaser Group offers innovative solutions in the provision of all services offered. To this end, it develops a multi-annual strategic innovation plan that reflects the organisation’s commitment to innovation.

A major milestone in relation to collaborations was the signing in 2015 of an agreement with the University of Zaragoza for the creation of the “Urbaser Chair in Innovative Technologies”, the aim of which is to promote and encourage research and development actions related to new technologies in waste management and urban sustainability.

The Urbaser Group performs pilot tests in urban areas (Urban Labs) involving new technologies applied to urban cleaning, municipal waste collection and the maintenance of parks and gardens, as well as in the management of the integral water cycle, with the fundamental goal of improving citizens’ quality of life.

For the sustainability of urban services, the Urbaser Group carries out innovative actions to, among other aspects, evolve towards the sustainable mobility of its vehicle fleets by means of the implementation of vehicles with alternative propulsion to those powered by polluting fossil fuels, favouring the improvement of the environmental quality of our cities.

Major innovation projects

Challenges-Collaboration Call

  • FARM
    Recycling of strategic metals from waste generated in the waste-to-energy processes of MSW.
    Recovery of the urban waste organic section for its use as Biochar.
    Comprehensive water management platform for a real-time analysis of water quality, including bacteriological pollutants, and energy balance optimization through an energy-efficiency management system.

Strategic Program for National Business Research Consortiums (CIEN)



From waste to resource through recycling.

  • Getting raw chemical materials through the application of biological and biorefinery techniques to digest and biogas.
  • Getting metallurgical sought-after metals from industrial and incineration waste.
  • Thermochemical assessment of film-type plastic waste to liquid fuels.
  • Getting fertilizers from struvite and ammonium sulphate salts generated by sewage sludge absorbed via wet and dry means
    Metal Recovery from Low Grade Ores and Wastes Plus.
    Scale-up of low-carbon footprint material recovery techniques in existing wastewater treatment plants.
    Improving energy efficiency in water treatment processes through benchmarking and benchlearning tools in Europe manufacturing industry.
    This project seeks to obtain chemical products from heterogeneous mixes of plastics found in sold urban waste with high degree of added value, through a combined process of pyrolysis, catalytic treatment, membrane separation, and oxy-combustion separation. In addition to producing raw materials (aromatics, alkylaromatics, etc.) that are reusable in the industry, the process will allow the hydrocarbon-rich flows of liquids and gases generated, including CO2 and solid sub-products (coal), to be recovered and used with the goal of maximising energy balance, minimising the environmental footprint, and guaranteeing economic sustainability.
    Budget: €7,919,307.50
    H2020 Subsidy: €6,507,043.25


iCAREPLAST Newsletter

  • LIFE Lo2x
    Supercritical water co-oxidation (SCWcO) of urban sewage sludge and wastes.


State Program for Talent Promotion and its Employability

    for PhDs hiring.
    SteppiNg towards CIrcular EConomy: REcycling bio-waste into heavy TRansport BIOFUELS. Future biofuel development Project. PLEC2021-008086 project financed by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and European Union “NextGenerationEU”/PRTR.

Other RDTI performances

    Development of vermicomposting for municipal organic waste.
    Comprehensive management solution of Urban Services.
    Development of alternative propelling vehicles to those driven by polluting fossil fuels.