ECOLE Partnership Meeting in Ljubljana successfully conceives new steps to introduce circular principles in 10 industrial zones in Europe
On 4 and 5 July 2023, the Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region hosted over 25 participants from five countries of the Alpine region as project partner for the first international partner meeting of the project “ECOLE: Network of Eco-Industrial Zones for the Strengthening of the Smart and Circular Economy in the Alpine Regions” in Ljubljana. The visit was organised in a series of presentations, workshops and activities that allowed the partners to exchange views, experiences and knowledge.
The first day was entirely dedicated to a plenary meeting and intensive work on the current dimensions of the project, with a focus on the presentation of the pilot activities that the partners intend to implement in ten selected industrial zones (parks) in Italy, Austria, Germany, France and Slovenia. The activities range from setting up an association of company representatives for a strategic sustainable management of industrial parks and the creation of a platform for the inventory of waste materials that may present raw materials for a nearby company, to the establishment of different industrial symbioses between companies within each park, e.g. through waste heat recovery technology. In the light of the pilot activities, two different “expert laboratories” were formed to further intesify the exchange of knowledge and good practices either on advanced technologies related to energy production or processes involving different stakeholders to create supply and value chains. We have also further defined the tasks of the so-called Systemic Thinking Communities, in which the partners bring together different stakeholders to facilitate the implementation of selected circular processes.
On the second day of the meeting, we visited the Zalog economic zone, where Koto d.o.o. is situated as an advanced sustainable waste processing company, committed to pursuing the highest environmental and veterinary requirements in all areas of its operations, living the slogan “For a clean and safe future”. An immensly interesting visit to the plant, with demonstrations of a number of circular economy technologies, provided an in-depth understanding of the processes and advantages of, among others, biogas production and green electricity production, the use of waste heat and the application of waste water and waste air treatment technologies. Additionaly, a presentation was given on innovative EU development projects already carried out, such as exploring algae-related technologies for salt water treatment and soil quality improvement and the potential of biomethane production and insect technology. As part of the project, Koto is intending to work with RRA LUR and VO-KA Snaga Ljubljana to explore the possibility of setting up a supply chain to collect waste oils from households in the nearby neighbourhood, which could then be used to produce biodiesel and
We continued our visit in Škofja Loka, where the other Slovenian project partner, the Development Agency Sora, first escorted us through the Trata Industrial Zone in a sustainable way – with bicycles from the eKOLOka rental system. Later they presented their planned project activity of waste heat analysis in the industrial zones of the Škofja Loka region (Škofja Loka, Železniki, Žiri and Gorenja vas – Poljane). Together with external experts, they will collect data on the potential of waste heat in industry, identify potential users and uses, and propose steps to reduce the release of heat into the atmosphere. Anton Merc from the Local Energy Agency of Gorenjska presented how they deal with energy analysis and energy accounting, while Andrej Godec from Knauf Insulation presented good practice in the use of waste heat for heating commercial premises in the winter with a webinar.
The ECOLE project aims to help industrial parks facing a negative image as polluters and rising energy costs to make the transition to circular and resource-efficient industry in the Alpine region. The partnership is professionally profund, the visit additionaly significantly strengthening the social ties for an improved cooperation.