The Basque Circular Summit presents the circular economy as a key tool for decarbonising Basque industry

2022 November 23
  • The ZIRKULARRAK exhibition, with 175 eco-designed products manufactured in the Basque Country, has become the largest exhibition of circular products in Europe
  • The circular economy employs more than 18,000 people in the Basque Country and has a turnover of more than 800 million euros a year
  • The Basque Regional Minister for Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment, Arantxa Tapia, presided over the opening of the Basque Circular Summit 2022, at Ficoba (Irun), which is hosting the largest congress on circular economy in southern Europe until Friday 

Basque companies are flexing their muscles in the circular economy and are ahead of the curve in terms of the environmental requirements set by the European Commission. This was reflected today at the opening of the Basque Circular Summit 2022, which is one of the most important meetings in this field in Spain and southern Europe and has attracted more than 600 professionals from a range of industrial sectors to Irun to find out more about new, more sustainable and competitive business models. At the same time as this industrial summit, which lasts three days, there will be an exhibition of 175 circular products manufactured in the Basque Country.

In view of the disappointing outcomes at the recent Climate Summit in Egypt (COP27) and the lack of a global agreement on decarbonisation, Arantxa Tapia, Basque Regional Minister for Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment, highlighted the strong commitment of Basque industry towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and emphasised the strategic importance of applying a circular economy model in order to achieve the objectives set by Europe, “something that our companies are already doing”, she said.

“About 62% of global greenhouse gas emissions are released during the extraction, processing and manufacturing of goods and products to meet society's needs. That is why we believe that promoting the circular economy in the Basque business fabric is a key tool for decarbonising our economy”, the Minister concluded.

The Basque Circular Summit 2022 has been organised by the public company Ihobe, in collaboration with the SPRI group, and, between November 22 and 25, will establish the Basque Country as a European benchmark in the field of the circular economy and focus on its application in the business fabric. This forum will be attended by representatives from the European Commission, large Basque companies such as CIE Automotive, Eroski, Siemens Gamesa, Petronor, Orona, Sidenor, Vicinay Cadenas, Iberdrola, Uvesco, Kutxabank, various clusters, technology centres and universities.

This congress is intended to inform companies about the lines of work proposed by the European Commission, and the challenges that companies will have to face in the short term, such as the new eco-design regulations on sustainable products, the implementation of a digital product passport and the new European directive on corporate information on sustainability, approved a fortnight ago by the European Parliament. 

The circular economy in the Basque Country

At present, the circular economy in the Basque Country accounts for 1.12% of the Gross Domestic Product, with an annual gross income of 764 million euros. In terms of employment, there are 18,463 jobs related to the circular economy, which represents 2.08% of total employment in Basque Country. This is higher than jobs related to the circular economy in Spain and Germany, with 2.00% and 1.71% respectively.

The dependence of Basque industry on imported raw materials is 77%, but almost 45 million euros worth of materials are still discarded in Basque landfills every year. According to the “Diagnosis of Circular Economy in Basque Industry”, if more innovative circular solutions were implemented, it is estimated that there would be an average potential saving of 6% in the consumption of raw materials, which would mean savings of 2 billion euros for Basque industry. The metal (iron and steel, foundry, metal products) and mobility (automotive, aeronautics) sectors would account for half of the potential savings in Basque industry.

The Department of Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment of the Basque Government processed grants worth €33 m (€15 m from its own resources and €18 m from Next funds) for recovery and circular economy projects in 2021 and 2022, with the aim of reducing waste and promoting circularity.

Exhibition of 175 circular products

Prior to the institutional opening of the congress, Regional Minister Tapia, accompanied by Amaia Barredo, Deputy Regional Minister for Environmental Sustainability, Javier Aguirre, Director of Environmental Quality and Circular Economy, Alejandro Villanueva, Deputy Head of Circular Economy and Industrial Leadership of the European Commission, Alexander Boto and Aitor Urcelay, directors of Ihobe and the SPRI group, respectively, and José Antonio Santano, Chairman of Ficoba, inaugurated the ZIRKULARRAK exhibition, the largest exhibition of circular products in Europe. This is an exhibition of 175 eco-designed products manufactured in the Basque Country, in which a significant reduction in their environmental impact has been achieved thanks to applying eco-design and circular economy methodologies with a life cycle approach (from the extraction of raw materials to their end of life).

These products are related to the Basque Country's value chains, including machinery, metal, transport, furniture, the automotive sector, consumer goods, chemicals, food, the electrical-electronic sector and construction materials, and project a comprehensive vision of the potential of eco-design and the circular economy in all areas of Basque business activity.

The products on display include, among others:

  • The electricity sector: A floating photovoltaic solar structure which provides the advantages of solar photovoltaic generation, in addition to providing significant improvements due to the fact that it is floating, such as: no ground occupation, better cooling which increases production and reduces water evaporation.
  • The food sector: A sauce with the aroma of mature cheese made from sheep's milk in which whey has been used, a by-product resulting from the production of Idiazabal cheese, which would otherwise go to waste.
  • Consumer goods: Toothpaste in tablets, a totally new application system. Being in tablet form means that water consumption is reduced by 70%, and containers are refillable and fully reusable.
  • Construction materials: A drainage channel based on recycled PET that provides up to 4 times greater mechanical strength than using traditional concrete.
  • The mobility sector: Equipment for treating ballast water on merchant ships that has achieved a 33% reduction in the environmental footprint thanks to its lower energy consumption.

The exhibition will be open to the public at Ficoba until Friday, December 2.

105 Basque eco-innovation projects

Taking advantage of the Basque Circular Summit, Regional Minister Tapia announced the presentation of a guide containing around a hundred eco-innovative industrial projects developed in the Basque Country with successful circular solutions.

These projects have been carried out collaboratively between Basque companies thanks to funding from the Circular Eco-innovation Programme, managed by Ihobe, one of the Basque Government's commitments to promoting public and private collaboration in order to implement a circular economic model that fosters competitiveness and sustainability. 24% of the circular solutions resulting from the projects included in the guide are already operational or on the market. There are also more than 50 projects from the Circular Eco-Innovation Programme still underway.

 

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Politicians attending the event
Other guests
  • Alejandro Villanueva (jefe adjunto de Economía Circular y Liderazgo Industrial de la Comisión Europea); José Antonio Santano (presidente de Ficoba)