Facilitating the Process of Establishing a Flemish Energy Community

A recurring issue we keep hearing about regards the corrosive effect that our collective ecological footprint has on our planet. This all has to do with how our way of living lacks a focus on recycling/upcycling the products we consume and sustainability as a whole. The term ‘circular economy’ has thus in this respect been gaining traction around the globe – it sets forth the model for an economy that simultaneously respects our society’s needs and the planet’s boundaries.

Transitioning to a circular economy is becoming a priority and it has recently become one of the aims of the European Union. Within this framework, steps are being taken to transition towards a more sustainable way of living. Such an example is making our energy-use more circular and renewable. Projects are being funded and developed to test distinct types of solutions that could be implemented across multiple levels (individual, regional, national and European).

STORY: a European project demonstrating and evaluating innovative approaches for energy storage systems in residential and industrial environments, with a specific focus on their benefits in distribution systems aims at doing just that. This 5-year project started in May 2015, brings together 18 partners from 8 European countries and involves 6 demonstrations in 4 countries. Oud-Heverlee is one of the residential demonstrators – it is set at the individual level which thereby allows locals to take on a pioneering role in how the (circular) future of energy consumption could look like.

The project’s implementation and success are dependent on the involvement of the Oud-Heverlee residents themselves. Bringing them together as a community and enabling them to take on a role of co-creators is key. To facilitate this, STORY along with the projects MUSE GRIDS, Interconnect and Rolecs, organised a workshop with the residents of Oud-Heverlee on March 14th, aimed at exposing residents to what these energy projects mean, what an ‘energy community’ is, how they can become such a community, what it would entail for them, and what their participation in the project would look like. The residents displayed positive reactions and remained open to continuing on the path towards transforming Oud-Heverlee into an energy community. 

Citizen participation in the Middle East

Facilitating dialogue between stakeholders and empowering citizens to have their say in decision-making processes is a key mission for Prospex Institute. On 18 February 2018, we invited Mr Dirk Tieleman, Belgian journalist specialised in the Middle East, for a public talk about his experience in the region and recent evolutions regarding citizens’ participation in civic life.

In an informal setting, Mr Tieleman briefly presented his understanding of the contemporary history of the region based on his own experience as a journalist, to set the basis for an informed discussion on the contrasted situation in the area and the role of citizen engagement in future socio-political developments of the region. The talk was then followed by a session of questions where participants reflected on the state of peacebuilding and democracy in the Middle-East.

Among the many questions that came up, the participants tried to understand the reasons that had led citizens to the streets during the Arab spring in 2011. Participants also attempted to put the regional unrest in context, discussing the role of European countries in the crisis. Finally, the discussion focused on how citizens’ participation could transform the political and social landscape in the coming years.

First Citizen Lab in Ellesmere Port

As part of the SecREEts Public engagement strategy, Prospex Institute will facilitate Citizen Labs in different locations where SecREEts industrial plants are set up. These consultations are designed to engage a dialogue between local communities and SecREEts industrial partners. This will highlight local challenges and opportunities related to SecREEts, and help incorporate local stakeholders’ feedback in future evolutions

On 14th of January 2019, Prospex Institute inaugurated the first round of Citizen Labs with a consultation in Ellesmere Port, where our partner Less Common Metals is based. Together with LCM and our project coordinator SINTEF, we introduced the project to a group of local actors for the first time.

Prospex Institute organised interactive exercises based on presentations by LCM and SINTEF to help participants understand the challenges related to Rare Earth Elements supply in Europe, and the impact of SecREEts both at European and local levels. Stakeholders were given the opportunity to ask for clarifications, express their concerns and suggest further forms of public engagement.

This first round of Citizen Lab will allow SecREEts to co-design a citizen engagement strategy based on local residents feedback. Ultimately, these consultations will help SecREEts co-develop a level of social acceptance of the project through continuous dialogue.

Credit for the Pictures: Adrian Waine – Photography for Industry

Closing the loop: PI presents work on textile circularity to the recycling industry

What is next for the textile and fibre recycling industries? While the circular economy thinking is gaining strength, new technologies are being developed with the ambition to transform waste fibres into secondary resources. But how can we collaboratively take the next steps to adopt and promote recycling technologies? 


At the World Recycling Convention in Barcelona, organised by the Bureau of International Recycling, we presented our project Resyntex and engaged with industry stakeholders on the prospects of textile recycling and reuse in the near future. We presented findings from our stakeholder engagement along the value chain as well as the inputs given by young consumers across the EU. More information about the project can be found here: www.resyntex.eu

How can civil society in South Eastern Europe participate more actively in the decision-making processes?

How can civil society in South Eastern Europe participate more actively in the decision-making processes?

This was the central topic of discussion at the Prospex institute on 22 June with guest speaker and new Board Member Dr. Fedor Černe, Secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure of Slovenia.

Dr. Černe shared his views on the historical challenges and the future opportunities for active stakeholder engagement on the political and economic issues of the region. In his presentation, Dr. Černe drew comparisons between the historical developments of the countries in the region and the different roles civil society organisations played in shaping them. He emphasised the ongoing democratisation process in South Eastern Europe and the efforts made by governments to build fruitful cooperation with NGOs. Dr. Černe also explored the challenges caused by a decline in the motivation of citizens to participate in decision-making largely due to a reduced trust in public institutions and the low priority given to regular public consultations.

Looking to the future, Dr. Černe envisaged two main drivers that could bolster participatory mechanisms in the region. The process of building the European Union for both the current Member States and Candidate Countries encourages stakeholder engagement as does the growing awareness in the region that sustainable and long-lasting agreements require the engagement and commitment of a wide variety of different actors and opinions.

Dr. Černe and the participants then discussed the possible role of the Prospex Institute as a facilitator of increased stakeholder engagement in the policy-making, business and civil society discussions in Eastern European countries.

 

 

 

Talking Textiles: Engaging with young consumers on the life-cycle of our clothes

 

The global fashion and textiles industry is taking steps towards a circular economy system. In the process, it becomes increasingly clear that we need to understand the behaviour and perceptions of consumer groups, and engage closely with them in creating a more circular model of production, consumption and disposal.

Within the European-funded project Resyntex, which develops new recycling technologies for textile fibres, Prospex Institute organised a series of interactive “Citizen Labs” in four European countries. We met young consumers at their schools, universities and hobby centres in the UK, France, Italy and Slovenia. We ran an interactive workshop over their lunch breaks, with a blend of interactive activities (such as the sorting of a pile of textile waste) and online surveys covering behavioural patterns. The work was developed in close cooperation with researcher Sara Li-Chou Han from the Manchester Fashion Institute.

In our Citizen Labs, we found out more about the use phase of participants’ garments and the sort of services they use when they want to get rid of clothes (and why they throw them away in the first place). We also addressed the factors that affect shopping and purchasing behaviour, ranging from trends and peer pressure to sustainability as well as “made in…”-labels.

The results, which are currently being analysed in further depth by the Manchester Fashion Institute, show surprising consistency across the four locations. We found that price and quality are the most crucial factors driving purchases, outweighing aspects of sustainability, ethics and origin (fibre content, fair trade, local produce). Interestingly, quality considerations were found to be more important than pricing in three out of four case study results.

The most used disposal options are the bin, the charity and/or second-hand shop, and the textile bank. Consumers who have never or rarely brought their clothes to dedicated banks or used clothing shops, claim it is simply not convenient enough (due to the absence of close-by collection points in the neighbourhood), while others point to a lack of information and transparency on what subsequently happens to their clothes. Rather than giving away, young consumers also tend to sell items of clothing online, or exchange them through social media platforms.

Of crucial importance if we want to move to a regenerative system in which materials keep cascading in a loop, is that the assessment of potential reuse and recyclability is primarily done through the lens of the product in itself – consumers do not consider the material contained within it, and have limited awareness of the potential of material recycling, rather than product reuse.

 

The Value Chain Workshop, Second Edition

On 22nd and 23rd of March Prospex Institute organised the second Value-Chain Workshop in Lyon. Regrouping stakeholders from across the value-chain, the aim of this second edition was to look into the viability of industrial symbiosis approach. With a focus on PET and Polyamide fibres the participants shared their views and insights of the market with the Resyntex team.
Taking place in the beautiful apartment of MaPièce, the two-day event brought together people from different background with different focus and allowed for fruitful discussions and helpful observations to be taken on by the Resyntex team. The results of the workshop will be compiled in a comprehensive report and sent to the project team as well as to the participants.

STORY 7th General Meeting

On the 17th of April 2018, the STORY consortium got together in Finland for the 7th General Meeting of the project. These General Meetings are a very important part of every research projects, they offer the opportunity for all projects partners who are based all over Europe to get in the same room and discuss the progress of the project.

The three days meeting allowed partners to get a head start on designing business models as well as getting updates on the progress of the demonstration sites. Partners also got the opportunity of visiting VTT’s battery testing facility and taste some Finish salmon.

A stakeholder guide to textile circularity: Prospex Institute presents at the Fibre Recycling Symposium

On 7 and 8 June 2017, the Manchester Fashion Institute of the Manchester Metropolitan University hosted the International Fibre Recycling Symposium, with delegates from research, industry and retail. Prospex Institute, together with Sara Li-Chou Han from the Manchester Metropolitan University, took the floor to present the findings of our stakeholder consultations held in the context of Resyntex.

Examining textile waste routes and their corresponding mosaic of collectors, sorters and recyclers, we identified the key drivers and opportunities for textile waste collectors for a transition to more circular value chains. Through stakeholder engagement, our research proposes how conditions for collectors’ adoption of circular practices can be improved, while avoiding sectoral disruption and ensuring maximum effectiveness of the redesigned chain of secondary textiles.
Please find here the news article on the Symposium published in EcoTextile News.

STORY Second Advisory Board Meeting in Leuven

On the 27th and the 28th of April 2017, the STORY project hosted its second Advisory Board Meeting.

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20 participants from across Europe convened in Leuven to engage with the STORY team, to make sure that critical players can clearly articulate their interests and needs for storage and, at the same time, help guide STORY in addressing challenges and hurdles around adoption. The advisory board plays a strong role in integrating knowledge and innovation, picking up on the outcomes of the demonstrations and contributing to the market, policy and regulatory framework analysis.

The Advisory Board meeting gave the opportunity to all participants to get input and guidance on the ongoing work of STORY, especially about demonstration sites, business preconditions and how to better reach STORY’s target audiences with key messages.

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Furthermore, Mr. Ivan Pearson of DG Energy gave a keynote presentation on the Winter Package. This led to a facilitated, interactive and multifaceted discussion with the Advisory Board Members on customer issues.

The meeting was also combined with a field trip to the STORY industrial demo site in Olen.