Group of Environmental Biotechnology

Universidade de Santiago de Compostela

Universidade de Santiago de Compostela Campus Vida Cretus

Group of Environmental Biotechnology

Universidade de Santiago de Compostela

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2.1.2 Circular Economy: Ecodesign, Ecoefficiency, Responsible Consumption

The exorbitant use of fossil resources is causing an important environmental issue, the traditional linear production and consumption entails a high rate of non-renewable resources consumption, which also leads to significant pollution problems. In this regard, the development of more circular process schemes is encouraged, aiming to allow an integral use of resources and to advocate for the recovery of all the compounds, thus reducing the number of residual streams. In this regard, circular economy is a model of manufacture and consumption based on the reduction on the resources consumption and the waste production and pollution by the re-use of the products and materials. To this end, the integration of the concepts of “eco-design” (ISO 14006:2020. Environmental management systems – Guidelines for incorporating ecodesign), “eco-efficiency” (ISO 14045:2012. Environmental management — Eco-efficiency assessment of product systems — Principles, requirements and guidelines) and “Responsible Consumption” (Goal 12. Sustainable Development Goals) can be considered as key aspects to achieve circularity on the process schemes.

In recent years the research team has been involved in several research projects and contracts based on circular economy, ecodesing, ecoefficiency and responsible consumption: “Sustainability transition assessment and research of bio-based products (STAR-ProBio) (European Union’s Horizion 2020 727740 Work Programme BB-01-2016)”, “Ecological Footprint and eco-efficiency analysis as a tool to assess sustainability in targeted sectors from a smart concept strategy (2016-PN004)”, “Integration of Circular Economy strategies and urban metabolism in Spanish cities (Galician Government, ED431F 2016/001)”, among others. At the moment, two European projects are under development in this strategic research line: BIORECER (Biological Resources Certification Schemes) and STAR4BBS (Sustainability Transition Assessment Rules for Bio-Based Systems).

On the other hand, this strategic line has been extended to the following areas:

  1. Agri-food sector
  2. Forest and timber sector
  3. Fisheries sector
  4. Solid waste treatment
  5. Wastewater treatment
  6. Development of methodological criteria for assess the circularity with specific indicators and certification schemes


· Biological Resources Certifications Schemes (BIORECER)
European Commission. HORIZON-CL6-2021-ZEROPOLLUTION-01 (2022-2024)

· Sustainability Transition Assessment Rules for Bio-Based Systems (STAR4BBS)
European Commission. HORIZON-CL6-2021-ZEROPOLLUTION-01 (2022-2024)

· Transition to sustainable agri-food sector bundling life cycle assessment and ecosystem services approaches (ALISE). NextGeneration EU, Strategic Projects Oriented to the Ecological and Digital Transition (01.12.2022-30.11-2024)

The project involves a series of tasks in the framework of water treatment and different valorization strategies. It includes a diagnosis of the circular economy opportunities in this sector, including energy production through anaerobic co-digestion of sludge and waste from Galician WWTPs, as well as the selective production of volatile fatty acids, which are valorized to produce bioplastics, as well as other strategies to maximize the use of organic matter from the sludge line.
On the other hand, another important aspect to analyze when it comes to evaluating the circularity of WWTPs is to carry out a diagnosis from the environmental, social and economic perspectives regarding their adequacy within the framework of the circular economy. That is why the INNOVAGUAS project includes an evaluation of eco-efficiency through the development of circularity indicators in the water cycle. Furthermore, a study of the perception and acceptance of the uses of recycled water and of the resources valorized from treatment waste flows is also assessed.

Completed Projects

Participants: Unitelma Sapienza Universita (Italy), Unvi. of York (UK), Technische Universitaet Berlin (Germany), Agricultural University of Athens (Greece), DBFZ Deutsches Biomassforschungszentrum GmbH (Germany), SQ Consult (The Netherlands), Univ. Di Bologna (Italy), Uniwersytet Warminsko Mazurski (Poland), ChemProf Doradztwo Chemiczne sc Maciej Góra i Michał Łuczyński (Poland), QUANTIS SARL (Switzerland), Novamont (Italy), Naturvardsverket (Sweden), USC, European Environmental Citizens Organisation (Belgium), agroVet GmbH (Austria)
STAR-ProBio constitutes a multidisciplinary and multi-actor collaborative project that will meet environmental, social and economic challenges, paving the way for a much-needed sustainability transition towards a bio-based economy.
The overall objective of the project is to promote a more efficient and harmonized policy regulation framework, needed to promote the market-pull of bio-based products. This will be achieved by developing a fit-for-purpose sustainability scheme, including standards, labels and certifications for bio-based products. To this aim, an integral part of STAR-ProBio will be the adoption of life-cycle methodologies to assess the roll-out of bio-based products. Environmental assessment will be performed, through LCA, in a circular economy framework (with a focus on end-of-life analysis) looking at issues which emerge upstream and downstream the value chain. This will be complemented by a techno-economic assessment and by a social impact assessment conducted through stakeholder analysis, SLCA, surveys and field experiments. Indirect land use change issues (ILUC) will also be addressed from an environmental, economic and social perspective. Moreover, the analysis of selected case studies on (1) construction materials, (2) bio-based polymers, and (3) fine chemicals, will ensure that the approach is not too broad and theoretic, allowing the benchmarking against non bio-based products. Hence, STAR-ProBio will integrate scientific and engineering approaches with social sciences and humanities-based approaches in order to formulate guidelines for a common framework promoting the development of regulations and standards to support the adoption of business innovation models in the bio-based products sector.

Doctoral Thesis