April 29, 2021

Sparking a circular transition in Spain’s B30 region: Agri-food, packaging, metal and chemical sectors found to hold the most potential for impact

Launch of the Circular Àmbit B30 report, including the potential circular economy strategies to implement in the B30 territory

This report captures the circular vision of the region and its industrial network. It identifies the economic sectors with the highest potential for implementing circular strategies, honing in on the 16 most impactful strategies. This document is the result of collaboration between different agents and entities, led by the Association Àmbit B30, and with the input of Fundació Fòrum Ambiental, inèdit and Circle Economy.


As a frontrunner in the circular economy, the study sets the B30 region next to other European cities and regions that have taken part in a Circle City Scan—such as Bilbao, Amsterdam or Prague. Representing the circular vision for the B30 region, it presents a visual roadmap that identifies the opportunities and starting points for fostering the transition to a circular economy. The document prioritises the economic sectors with the greatest potential for circularity and proposes 16 circular strategies in these areas—the greatest potential emerging in the agri-food, packaging, metal and chemical sectors. As the Spanish government looks to invest in the circular economy—designating close to €4 billion to circular initiatives leading up to 2023—the outcomes of this Scan provide crucial insights for other regions and nations across Europe kick starting their own circular journeys. With €70 billion in EU recovery funds to be spent across Europe, governments can look towards the experiences of the B30 region to catalyse their own structural transitions in industrial territories. 


The president of the Association Àmbit B30, Josep Monràs, has emphasized that 'one of our main objectives is to decisively support the circular economy as a means for change and economic and social progress, and must especially play a role in post-pandemic recovery'. In this sense, he has added that 'the transversal work and synergies catalysed by the Xarxa d’Acció Circular de l’Àmbit B30 will be key in enhancing the economic reactivation of the industrial network'. 


The B30: a region with high potential for the promotion of circular economy strategies

Despite the outstanding challenges, the B30 region carries great potential for the promotion of circular economy strategies, due to its business and industrial congregation, as well as the innovative capacity of nearby research centres and universities. It groups 23 municipalities that together hold a significant concentration of high-tech industrial activities, and host a large number of first-level educational, research and technology centres. It is the first industrial conglomerate in Spain, accounting for 17% of Catalan GDP, and 23% of Catalan industrial GDP. 


The diagnosis of the territory's political, economic, environmental and social reality, as well as the overarching strategy for the development of the region, have allowed us to pinpoint the four sectors with the highest potential for circularity: agri-food, packaging, metal and chemicals. Combined, they provide more than 58.000 (14% of the region’s jobs) jobs and add €5 billion (17%) to the local economy, while also ranking top in terms of circularity potential.


Qualitative data from expert interviews has been used to delve into each of these sectors, searching for the areas where there may be more opportunities to catalyse the circular economy, retain value and create impact. A sectorial MFA (Material Flow Analysis)—a diagram displaying resource inflows and waste outflows—complemented this field research, strengthening the identification of potential strategies and prioritising the flows with the strongest economic and environmental impact.


Finally, a wide-ranging exploration of circular opportunities—based on international examples and experiences and complemented with a multisectoral workshop—has allowed us to identify new needs and challenges and connect key actors. This analysis pinpointed the 16 priority circular strategies for the four economic sectors relevant to the B30 region.


With quantitative and qualitative information, synergies between the key sectors were identified, focusing, and framing the different challenges and opportunities, both sector-specific and cross sectoral. The dispersion of products makes it necessary to improve the traceability, recovery and refining of metals, in order to reintroduce them into the economy. Several opportunities were identified for improvement in the efficiency of processes in the chemical sector. Another set of strategies revolves around preserving the value of food resources to avoid waste, biorefineries and revalued food products. This is closely connected to new solutions for packaging, bioplastics and new materials for the agri-food sector. The study also reveals the potential contribution of the region's chemistry industry to the circularity of the economy. Finally, several opportunities were identified for new business models and solutions as product-service systems.


This document is the result of collaboration between different agents and entities

This publication is the result of the work carried out by the circular economy working group of Àmbit B30, an entity whose mission is to consolidate and promote the growth of the B-30 region as a main economic and industrial driver both within the country and throughout Southern Europe. 

The technical lead of the project was Fundació Fòrum Ambiental, an organisation that has worked in sustainability and taken part in public-private collaboration for over 20 years, with the support of the strategic eco-innovation study inèdit, an expert in driving circular territory projects and accompanying companies in their circular transition. Circle Economy—a Dutch non-profit impact organisation pioneering projects on the transition towards the circular economy that has worked with over 20 cities in different geographieshas also participated in the project. The participation of various associations, local bodies and companies in interviews, group meetings and workshops has also been essential in providing knowledge about the region and setting proposals. 


Strengthening partnerships 

Work towards the region's circular vision for 2020–2021 will be based on the roadmap and lessons presented by the publication, under the brand XACB30 (Xarxa d’Acció Circular a l’Àmbit B30: Circular Action Network at the B30 region). The aim is to strengthen partnerships between the agents of change that are already working on boosting the circular economy within the B30 region. These actors are currently offering training, qualifications, and external support, scaling up experiences and creating a space that brings together news and resources on the circular economy within the area.


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