Circular
Economy

Ilustrační obrázek

„Waste production of households and companies in Prague increases every year. We want to reverse this trend with the help of the circular economy concept. We envision a city where waste is turned into a resource, and where we focus on how to prevent waste and then make the most of it.“
FotoPetr Hlubuček, Deputy Mayor for the Environment

Waste has a great potential - whether for reuse, recycling, or meeting environmental objectives. Each of us is a producer, and the so-called circular economy works with this idea. The baseline is minimising the production of waste and, when waste is generated, converting it into resources. The city can take inspiration from natural processes. There is no waste in nature - all raw materials circulate in endless cycles, without a loss of quality.

Graph: Introducing the principles of the circular economy (in comparison to the current linear economy) Infographic 1 Infographic 1

Prague ranks among the pioneers of the circular economy within its geographic region, as well as among European metropolises. Prague already has a vision of how to be a circular city and has implemented a number of systematic measures and projects since 2019. Currently, the metropolis is one of the first cities in the world to initiate the Circular Strategy 2030, which is also supported by the European Union and the United Nations.

However, it is necessary for the circular economy to be adopted by the residents themselves. The proposed measures are therefore primarily intended to create favourable conditions for citizens so that everyone can get involved.

Prague boasts a number of projects that have been successfully implemented - from being the first city in the Czech Republic to collect organic kitchen waste from residents and preparing the construction of a biogas plant, to REUSE points at collection yards, as well as the construction of a modern sorting line for plastic and other packaging.

Although the projects are ultimately aimed at reducing CO2 production, the main objective is to improve the quality of life in the city. These activities help to create jobs and new business opportunities. The circular economy can thus contribute to accelerating economic growth while also supporting environmental policy.

What are our main goals in the circular economy?

„The circular economy is not just about waste and sorting - the best waste is waste that is not generated at all. And if we do generate waste, we should try to keep the raw materials in circulation for as long as possible without losing their quality. It is a way of thinking and living, a change in the prevailing mentality. So, let's consume less and better together.“
FotoVojtěch Vosecký, Head of the Circular Economy Working Group

A condition for the success of the circular economy is an awareness of the changes that society is currently undergoing. It is often the case that the circular economy is discussed only in the context of waste sorting and recycling. But this is not the entirety of its scope. We are not only trying to change what we do, but above all we try to change how we think about our lives.

The basic principles of the circular economy are very simple - minimise waste production and keep raw materials in circulation for as long as possible. No more, no less. After all, there is virtually no waste in nature either. The lack of creativity in discovering ways in which waste can continue to be useful to us is a product of our society. The resulting devastation of our environment is only one of the many negative co-occurrences that go hand in hand with it.

The mantra of the circular economy is therefore the prevention of waste generation and its retention in the city or in its immediate surroundings, which promises further opportunities for reuse. Let us recall a few trends - first, the production of general household waste has been steadily increasing year after year. The sorting rate of municipal waste has not kept pace with this increase so far, hovering around 31%, which is very far from the proclaimed target of 65% in 2030. The Waste Act makes it clear who is responsible for this agenda - it is the Prague City Council.

With all this in mind, we have been able to articulate a key set of four directions that we plan to pursue by 2030. These are:

 

List of specific measures

Considering the above, the Committee recommends that the Prague City Council adopts the following measures to aid in making the most of the raw materials and energy contained in products and thus reducing the city's carbon footprint; where possible, the costs and expected benefits are also quantified. In doing so, Prague will meet its legal obligations under the forthcoming waste legislation. Particularly the commitment to halving the amount of mixed (residual) household waste by 2030 and increasing the separation of household and small business waste up to 65%.

  • Create a Strategy for transition to a circular economy and ensure its ongoing implementation: Using other European cities as an example, the City Council assigned the preparation of a strategy for circular economy which is to search for further ways of preventing unnecessary losses in materials and energy in all areas of economic activity, e.g., in construction, forest and field management, water sources, or waste management. The implementation of all accessible measures could bring a reduction of 2.5-5 % of all city produced emission.
  • Less waste produced by the city hall and from events supported by the city. Prague has accepted regulations which will limit the use of single use packaging and products during city organised or supported events. This will gradually be implemented in public procurement in other sectors.
  • Biogas from bio-waste as car fuel. Prague plans to extend its pilot project for sorting bio-waste from “non plant-based” sources (Prague 5, 6, and 7) for the entire city. To ensure its meaningful implementation is supported by the construction of a new biogas station. From 50,000 tonnes of collected biodegradable waste, it produced 5 million m3 of biomethane a year which will be compressed into the existing natural gas infrastructure. The waste from these biogas stations – digestate – may be used as organic fertiliser after appropriate treatment. Prague sources more biomethane from waste water treatment sludges produced by the Prague Central Water Treatment Plant. Following the intensification project and increase in capacity, and the installation of more effective technologies, its production is likely to slightly increase and will be partially fed into the natural gas infrastructure (it is currently used solely in energy). Biomethane sourced from bio-waste and wastewater treatment will become a part of natural gas, renewable energy will therefore replace a portion of fossil fuels. Natural gas with additional biomethane will be used to power Prague’s vehicles, for example the Prague Services fleet.
  • Introduce multimodal sorting of plastic, metal, and beverage cartons. Evaluating the results of the pilot project from the city district of Štěrboholy, the common collection of plastic, metal and beverage cartons into a single recycling bin will be applied to other city districts. This will increase the quality and quantity of sorted materials, reduce the costs of collections, and free up space in the streets. A condition for the implementation of multicommodity sorting is the opening of a new sorting facility in Chřášťany u Prahy.
  • Move most recycling from the streets into courtyards (door to door). The expansion of pilot projects would bring about smaller collection bins moved to building courtyards and common spaces which will lead to higher rates of recycling and free up public space, as well as prevent littering in the vicinity of collection points.
  • Build a modern sorting line for plastics, metals, and beverage cartons. The sorting line, which will be finalised in 2022 in Chřášťany will allow more efficient sorting of plastic, ferrous and non-ferrous metals and beverage cartons. The facility will allow the city to exercise more control over the recycling of problematic materials (plastics).
  • Support a second life for furniture and other goods. Prague has expanded its two collection facilities to incorporate re-use points where residents are allowed to leave still functional things to find new use. A construction of a central re-use centre is also planned, which should have a major educational, inspirational, and environmental impact. It represents a space for innovative projects of sustainable character which will be organised with a participative approach.
  • Introduce principles of circularity into Prague’s construction and demolition sector. The key tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions outside of the energy mix is to change building and demolition principles. To fulfil Prague’s climate pledge, it will be necessary to form a strategy, regulations and projects which will apply the principles of a circular economy into new building methods, demolitions, and reconstructions in Prague.
  • Establish the Circular Prague platform. The aim of the platform is to allow companies to participate in the transition of Prague to a circular economy and utilise their potential and participation in volunteering activities.
  • Introduce ecological and circular public procurement policies. Public procurement is an important tool for a successful transition to a low-carbon and circular city. Prague should set an example in the application of the circular economy into its internal processes. The city should therefore create effective and favourable conditions for services, products, and solutions integrating principles of circular economy when drafting documents for outsourcing principles.
  • Capacity building for circular economy in the internal structures of the Prague City Hall. The city is limited by the lack of an expert who could uniformly coordinate and evaluate topics relating to the circular economy across the different organisational units of the city. For this reason, it is crucial to allow for the necessary staffing positions to be created within the PCH with competencies which allow for a continual introduction of circular economy into the city’s operations.
  1. Effectively preventing the production of household waste and waste across sectors
  2. Sorting, recycling, and reusing the maximum percentage of waste, if possible, near its place of origin
  3. Introducing principles of the circular economy into the building and demolition sector
  4. Cooperating with ministries and other sections of government administration, industry, experts, and the public

With what projects do we want to achieve these goals?

The list of proposed measures may seem somewhat diverse at first glance. However, it follows a single unifying line - all measures try to find additional meaning in the reuse of waste and present arguments as to why this is the right way forward. Some of them will undoubtedly have a purely practical impact. On the other hand, we also want to be educational, at least to a certain extent. These are two sides of the same coin and if we prioritise only one of them, we fall at risk of missing the mark. In terms of fully embracing the principles of the circular economy, we consider the following projects to be particularly important.

Strategy for a Circular Prague

„The Strategy for Circular Prague considers all the emerging trends in the field of circular economy. While Prague has already launched some projects, this document will enable us to take a coherent and focused approach. This will be reflected, for example, in the potential for recycling waste, both in terms of its use as a source of energy, but also in reducing the clutter around waste collection sites in street spaces.“
FotoMartin Bursík, Chair of the Committee on Sustainable Energy and Climate

Every successful project starts with clearly delineating its goals and setting up processes and ways to effectively evaluate them. This is exactly what we are aiming for in the process of producing the Strategy for Circular Prague, which is to become a reservoir of core ideas and resources for further implementation of projects in this field. Even though the expert debate on the circular economy is not new, similar processes of implementation in other world cities are only just beginning. With this project, Prague ranks among the real pioneers, especially when taking into account the specific geopolitical region it is part of.

Work on the finalisation of the Strategy for Circular Prague is already in progress, coordinated by the Prague Innovation Institute. The objectives, tools, and measures to best implement the principles of the circular economy into the everyday life of the city are being formulated in cooperation with the City Hall staff, various organisations, representatives of municipalities, universities, the private sector, and NGOs. According to preliminary estimates, it is possible to reduce CO2 emissions within the city area by 2.5-5 %. However, this will require interventions in all areas of the city's economic life –that is exactly where we must find all kinds of opportunities to maximise savings in raw materials and energy. The strategy will focus particularly on waste management, construction, water and agriculture and food production sectors. The strategy will be presented to the Prague City Council for evaluation. For up-to-date information on its progress of and opportunities to get involved, please visit the Prague Innovation Institute website (prazskyinovacniinstitut.cz).

Graph: Distribution of waste produced within the City of Prague classified by its origin, 2018 (PCH, EPD) Infographic 2 Infographic 2 *The methodology used underwent changes in 2013

The construction and demolition sector in Prague is crucial in terms of its environmental impact, waste production, and material consumption. In 2018, the construction and demolition waste accounted for 78.3% of all waste generated in Prague. It is therefore self-evident that we must continue to strive to apply the principles of the circular economy in this particular segment of economic activity. In this respect, we cannot do without further strategic, conceptual, and planning activities.

This is also relates to ways in which public procurement should be conducted in the future; appeal and motivation to respect circular principles should become their inherent part. The city will thus be able to choose how every penny spent on services and products contributes to environmental protection and the search for potential savings, rather than continuing with the status quo.

Multi-commodity and door to door waste sorting

„We need to increase waste sorting rates by hundreds of thousands of tonnes over the next several years. That's why we will work on a door-to-door waste collection system where people will be able to sort multiple commodities in a singular bin. This will be especially applied to plastics, beverage cartons, and metals. In the future, we are also planning to offer people the opportunity to recycle their food waste right outside their house.“
FotoVojtěch Vosecký, Head of the Circular Economy Working Group

This is because the closer people are to the recycling bins, the more and the better they recycle. But door-to-door collection also has other benefits - moving bins from outdoor locations to courtyards can free up and significantly improve public spaces.

However, we cannot overwhelm our courtyards and backyards with numbers of bins for every type of recycled waste. Therefore, the practical solution is the concept of so-called multi-modal waste sorting. To put it simply - instead of traditional containers for plastics, beverage cartons, and metals, you just throw your waste into one. This not only removes the worry about whether milk cartons belong in the plastic or the paper bin, but also significantly reduces space requirements, resulting in added capacity for trees, benches, or new parking spaces. However, the success of such systems requires advanced technology to sort the waste left behind by residents after its collection.

Graph: Waste management hierarchy Infographic 4 Infographic 4

Prague is therefore planning to invest in a sorting line that will be able to separate the individual commodities from each other. The city has already issued a tender for the operator of such a solution, and the implementation is expected to begin the second half of 2022 on the premises of an existing sorting line in Chrášt'any. This line should serve as a tool for multi-modal sorting of plastics, metals, and beverage cartons. Thanks to the advanced EddyCurrent technology, ferrous and non-ferrous metals will be sorted, while NIR sensors will be able to identify plastics suitable for recycling.

Graph: impact of distance on the levels of recycling Infographic 5 Infographic 5 Graph: levels of recycling based on the system of collection Infographic 6 Infographic 6 DtD = door to door, i.e. the placement of recycling bins in residential courtyards; PAYT = Pay as you throw, i.e. paying for the collection of municipal waste based on the quantity produced; BRW = biodegradable municipal waste

We are also interested in the management of the so-called discards. This term refers to problematic material which, even after sorting, has no value on the secondary raw material market. Such waste is currently landfilled or used as a solid alternative fuel throughout the country. After the construction of a modern sorting line, we will be able to convert all discards into energy at the ZEVO Malešice. At the same time, we will look for further ways to make use of such materials.

Collection of food and organic waste, and the construction of a biogas plant

„The fact that Prague will have its own biogas plant is a turning point for the city’s further development. It will be capable of processing all of the organic waste produced by Prague’s residents into biofuel and organic fertiliser. In the future, the Prague Services vehicle fleet will be able to run on bioCNG, which we will produce from the city’s waste rather than purchasing CNG from Russia. In this way, we are working to improve the quality of life in the city in the long term, which will be felt not only by us but also by future generations.“
FotoPetr Hlubuček, Deputy Mayor for the Environment

There is a growing motivation among Prague residents to focus their attention on the collection of food and organic waste. It currently accounts for about 40% of the weight of black (or general waste) bins. The potential for further recovery is considerable - it is estimated that a biogas plant could process up to 50,000 tonnes of food waste on an annual basis and produce more than 3 million m3 of bioCNG.

Food waste produced by households and restaurants could, for example, provide fuel for the entire Prague Services fleet. This is due to the potential of converting leftover food into biomethane. Pilot projects to test the viability of such a plan are already underway in the Prague 5, 6, and 7 districts. A significant producer of biomethane is also the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant in Prague, which processes wastewater originating from the majority of the city area.

As a result, Prague has decided to support a project for the construction of its own biogas plant, which would ensure the production of biomethane and digestate with the potential to be used for city organisations, among which Prague Services belongs. The bioCNG from the biogas plant could cover the entire consumption of the Prague Services fleet with the leftover energy being able to be released into the network. One vehicle of the Prague Water and Sewerage Company is now already running on bioCNG as part of a pilot project.

Essentially, Prague could get its own biogas plant in two ways. The first would be the construction of a new production station within the ZEVO Malešice site. Preparations are already underway, and operation is expected to begin in 2028. In the meantime, however, the purchase of a pre-existing biogas plant in the near vicinity of Prague could be made. This would mean that Prague could have its own biogas plant in working order between 2022 and 2023.

A separate topic is the use of so-called digestate - organic fertiliser produced by biogas plants. In a way, it serves as a model example of what the circular economy represents - we can generate biofuel from organic waste that would normally end its life cycle in an incinerator, as well as produce organic fertiliser which we then return back to the soil. The digestate can be redirected to farmers who can use it as organic fertiliser after its necessary treatment. This also supports the idea of organic farming, which Prague has already joined. It calls for the strict use of organic fertilisers - which digestate undoubtedly is.

Second life for furniture, and the construction of a REUSE centre and a network for REUSE points

„Activities related to lending a second life to furniture are a nice example of what the circular economy looks like in practice. We want to give people the opportunity to buy second-hand furniture and other household furnishings, repair them, or just borrow, share them, or dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner. We want to offer an alternative to consumerism to those who are interested.“
FotoVojtěch Vosecký, Head of the Circular Economy Working Group

There are a total of 19 collection yards in Prague. They serve as the last stage in the life of waste that residents cannot dispose of elsewhere. However, this does not always include waste that is completely unusable. This applies to up to 40% of the furniture that is discarded. Prague therefore tries to make the option of reuse available to as wide a range of users as possible.

Ilustrační obrázek

This is the purpose of the so-called REUSE points, where the Prague’s residents can deposit unneeded things that may still be used by someone else for free. Several pilot projects are already underway and are very popular with the public. There are currently two municipal collection yards, and one city district has joined the project of its own volition. Their activities are covered by the Nevyhazuj.to online portal, and the city wants to advertise other collection sites in its ownership through this interface. The basic idea is to support the repair and replacement of furniture and other household equipment, such as children's toys, by organising swap events.

Ilustrační obrázek

The digitisation of the REUSE point system is intended to make it clearer what is available without the need for the interested party to visit the collection yard in person. REUSE points are operated by trained staff who keep the database up to date. In the first phase, available furniture is offered to non-profit organisations and charities. If they do not show interest within a fortnight, the wider public is then approached. We see this as a beneficial change for residents, showing how we should think about the circular economy.

Ilustrační obrázek

Another aim is to create one or more so-called REUSE centres. These are intended to unify the citywide efforts to prevent waste, as well as educate and inspire residents to live more sustainably. The REUSE centre (to be located at the Prague Market Hall in Holešovice) should be a place where people can learn how to repair, replace, or even take home practical second-hand household items for free.

However, the overall vision is to support every household in a more sustainable way of life. That is why Prague is already financially supporting a number of initiatives, such as libraries of things, SWAPs, or zero waste shops in many parts of the city. In the future, we can look forward to an online platform and map of all circular initiatives and projects.

The Circular Prague Platform

„The circular economy offers great synergies between the city and businesses. We want to work with companies and motivate them to adopt the principles of the circular economy as much as possible. In the end, it will be the residents and the city that will benefit from sustainable business behaviour. The Circular Prague platform intends to serve this purpose. “
FotoPetr Hlubuček, Deputy Mayor for the Environment

The establishment of the Circular Prague platform is a prerequisite for fulfilling our climate commitments through the involvement of the private sector. The vast majority of the measures we are working on are designed for Prague’s residents. However, we often fail to realise that quality of life is directly affected by the thousands of small and large companies based and operating in Prague.

On a voluntary basis, we intend to work together with the private sector to find common problems and solutions. We will offer the private sector direct involvement in the solutions we want to see around us - initially focusing on packaging and packaging waste, furniture and household furnishings, and the food and hospitality sector.

The platform strives to contribute to public-private cooperation. As such, Circular Prague should serve as a means for active involvement of businesses and companies in circular activities, and we intend to motivate them to do so, whether through investment incentives, inspiration, joint workshops, or exchange of know-how and valuable experience at local and international levels. It is in Prague's interest to actively highlight these opportunities and to help with the preparation of projects where appropriate.

The Climate Plan is based on the idea that we are all in this together. This is perhaps a little clearer in relation to the circular economy, but it is nevertheless a part of a bigger picture. We need to start by thinking locally - if we succeed in this, we will also contribute to change on a global scale and help to save our planet in the process.