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Following the path of Circular Economy in Barcelona

By Alexandra Baixinho 

Circular Economy is about taking action on the whole lifecycle of products – from production and consumption to waste management. It’s about “closing the loop”, as stated in the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm), through waste reduction, recycling and re-use, bringing “benefits for both the environment and the economy”.

In Barcelona, one of the axes of the PMES – Programa Metropolità d’Educació per a la Sostenibilitat http://www.amb.cat/web/medi-ambient/sostenibilitat/educacio-per-a-la-sostenibilitat/dades-del-programa#  (Metropolitan Programme of Education Towards Sustainability) – bets on Re-use.

Millor que nou! (http://www.millorquenou.cat/   Better than New) is a free Repair Service provided by the AMB http://www.amb.cat/en/web/medi-ambient/residus/prevencio/reutilitzacio (Metropolitan Area of Barcelona).

The underlying philosophy is that of waste prevention, by extending the life of everyday objects (from bicycles to furniture, from clothes to domestic/electronic appliances, etc.).

This service provides the physical space, tools and expertise (technical support) so that any ordinary citizen can take time to bring their old/damaged things back to life (Do It Yourself repair interventions with the help of a specialist).

 

This is an inspiring example of Circular Economy in practice: it not only helps the environment through the re-use of objects, it also helps people to save money (you do not pay for the repair itself, only for the required components, if needed), while teaching them new skills (hands-on maintenance). This place gets around 1200 visits per month. Dealing with nearly one ton of materials per year (as all objects are weighted and catalogued when they get into the Repair Shop), they succeed in repairing around 70% of them.

Furthermore it contributes to stimulate the surrounding local businesses, since Sant Antoni is traditionally a neighbourhood with shops selling supplies for repair and maintenance.

 

At Millor que nou there is also an Exchange Centre (CIDOP), where you can delivery and/or collect used objects (almost anything, from toys to books, clothes or furniture).

Every object is exchanged by points (according to its condition, utility, etc.), which can then be “spent” on picking up something else (like the baby bottle on the picture), available at the warehouse.

On other scale, the pilot-initiative Club EMAS (http://clubemas.cat/es/), also based at Millor que nou, aims at giving new value to discarded industrial materials, re-using what some consider as waste but others might consider as a raw materials/resources. However, when dealing with high quantities of residuals/resources, it is still to figure out who will take charge on the logistics of exchange between interested parties (like transportation issues).

The picture above shows the example of a refrigeration bag, that a given company had in large amounts and wanted to give away (treated as waste for them), which is something sports clubs and athletes need, and usually have to buy, and which is used (as ice) in certain medical and rehabilitation purposes.

Group exercise – sharing insights from fieldwork on the previous day.

More information on similar Collaborative/Circular Economy initiatives in Barcelona:

http://directori.p2pvalue.eu/

Note: This post draws on information and materials gathered along the Intrepid – Collaborative & Circular Economy Walking Tour (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1I0bwP1FFHtAEykOFbXwkTis2i3GTClpk2-ClILJSaU8/edit), part of the Barcelona Training School on Inter and Transdisciplinary Urban Research (http://intrepid-cost.ics.ulisboa.pt/training-school-barcelona/)

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