Do you want to meet the faces of CEOMED? Last episode: IDENER

Dr Santiago Rodríguez Pérez developed his doctoral research in the field of the wastewater treatment, waste and by-products valorisation at the University of Sevilla in 2014 obtaining the Ph.D. in Chemical and Environmental engineering. He was participating in several projects linked to the topic of CEOMED, and he accumulates more than 20 technical papers in this field. Nowadays, he is the Project coordinator of the CEOMED project. Do you want to meet the face of the coordinator?

Dr. Rodriguez-Perez, talk to us about the main improvements of CEOMED as a process to substitute the conventional treatments of residues.

Nowadays, the conventional treatments and waste management are one of the critical points of discussion on research, political, educative, social and economic fields. It is well known that the model of economic development has to change into a circular economy approach, and this change englobes the waste management i.e., collection, treatment and disposal. CEOMED is focused on the following improvements:

- To develop solutions for the separated collection and valorisation of the organic component waste that are specifically tailored to the needs of open-markets in the Mediterranean region.

- Establish an inter-institutional dialogue and knowledge-exchange platforms on waste management best practices toward the harmonised development of relevant institutional capacities within the Program Area. Enhance institutional capacities to plan, implement and control effective waste management.

- Increase the use of biological treatment to reduce the waste amount to be landfilled. This entails source-separated-collection and effective sorting of mixed waste streams. Raise public awareness on the importance of sound management of wastes. Eliminate the unsound disposal of waste progressively.

- Assess the market absorption capacity for compost and recycled products in order to define realistic targets for biological treatment spreading. Increase awareness regarding waste management processes and the life cycle of waste materials, in order to improve valorisation of materials.

The reinforcement of technical and operational capacities of public administrators and relevant stakeholders in terms of municipal waste management and planning is extremally important for CEOMED. Thus, CEOMED will promote a waste management plan for the open-markets of each involved city, i.e. Sfax and Amman which show a great deal due to the daily amount of waste produced, i.e. 3-5 and 10-12 tons/day, respectively. CEOMED will contribute to the reduction of municipal waste generation by means of the selective collection and treatment of the organic fraction in both open-markets. This organic fraction will be treated by a biological process i.e. anaerobic digestion (AD) which contributes to increasing the use of the biological treatments on waste management, energy recovery and close the loop using the digestate as a fertiliser on the farms that provide the open-markets.

IDENER is leading CEOMED project as coordinator. The aim of the project (at the technical point) is the construction of two pilot plants in the open-local market. What is the critical point in the project? The technological or economic environments are monitored as well as the project will address different results, but what is about the social framework (in markets, about women involvement…)?

One of the critical points of the project is the different administrative requirements on the procurement processes and local permissions related to the construction of the pilot plants. CEOMED will design, construct and deploy two pilot plants in two local markets in two different cities from two different countries (Tunisia and Jordan). However, the cross-collaboration of CEOMED partners and the schedule of our activities, as well as the interdependence of the technical progress and the pilot plants development, force us to set the same timeline in the project implementation. This is our critical point. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic situation doesn’t help us to keep the same timeline between us, but we are making our best effort, and with the help of the Managing Authority and the Joint Technical Secretariat of the ENI CBC Med programme, CEOMED consortium is keeping constantly working on achieving the goals of the project.

CEOMED has since the beginning of the proposal submission the commitment on women involvement, young people and local stakeholders in the markets. CEOMED approach on closing the loop of the organic matter, improving the competitivity of the local stakeholders contemplate the engagement of young people and women. CEOMED contemplates, in the second year of the project implementation period,  to contact with different Mediterranean projects focused on the empowerment of women in rural areas in order to collaborate with them with some of our outputs and maximise the impact of CEOMED approach.

Dr. Rodriguez-Perez, this is your first project as coordinator. In your opinion, what are the strengths of your consortium?

I would like to thank all CEOMED partners for giving me your support in this project as a coordinator. One of the strengths is that CEOMED partners have a deep background in the development of international research projects. The main researcher of each institution has a consolidate career with highly active involvement in different international projects. I had the luck to met most of CEOMED partners in the previous COST action ES1302 “European Network on Ecological Functions of Trace Metals in Anaerobic Biotechnologies”, as a postdoc researcher, in which many young researchers were involved and empowered. This collaboration between most of CEOMED partners supposed a closed knowledge between us and better understanding which made possible our alignment in the work methodologies. The commitment of CEOMED partners in sharing knowledge and empower young people is the most strength of the consortium.

The wellbeing improvement of the citizens in Amman and Sfax was commented by the two institutions of CEOMED placed in these countries. Do you think that this model of recycling will work in European countries?

Both European Union Mediterranean Countries (EUMCs) and Mediterranean Partners Countries (MCPs) must still reduce landfilling. The cross-border cooperation between involved partners is highly beneficial. Involved partners in the CEOMED consortium agree that the municipal waste management should be addressed following a holistic approach, focusing on two aspects: (1) to generate less waste to be landfilled; (2) to promote the source-separated collection and biological treatment of its organic fraction. The background of EUMCs could accelerate the optimisation of the implementation technology in the MCPs stakeholders. Data from the pilot demonstration could help the EUMCs to develop further the technology and strategy of its exploitation and dissemination under the decentralised approach. This way, each partner contributes with a key aspect required in CEOMED not only for its implementation but also for its future exploitation and replication. CEOMED approach could work both in European countries and other Mediterranean countries and not only in open markets but also in other areas such as municipalities or large producers associations. The interest in this kind of model on waste management is present in other H2020 projects e.g., CityLoops (H2020.- 821033) in which 7 different European cities are developing different tools to close the loop of organic waste throughout the separate collection and different valorisation methodologies. So, CEOMED project could contribute to change waste management under a circular economy approach specifically in Mediterranean countries European or not.