CVR - Centre for Waste Valorisation
Fibrenamics and the Centre for Waste Valorisation (CVR) made official, on June 6th, when the new platform was presented, a partnership that already linked the two entities for some time. In this edition of the newsletter, regarding the waste valorization, we were talking with Professor Cândida Vilarinho - Chairman of the Board of Directors of CVR - and with Engineer Jorge Araújo - Executive Director - to learn more about the only national institution, belonging to the Technological System National that develops its activity in this field.
13 years ago, the Centre for Waste Valorisation was created by four constituent associates. Located in Guimarães, on the Azurém Campus of the University of Minho (UM), “we value the environment” was the motto that gave rise to the institution that today is an international reference. University of Minho, Portuguese Foundry Association, TecMinho and Industrial Association of Minho were the institutions that, in 2002, came together to create a response to a sector that, at that time, assumed high importance. Currently, CVR already has 80 associates, which includes companies from different sectors of industrial activity (foundries, paper industry, ceramics, metalworking), waste management companies, technological centers, among others. “We have a very wide range of associates, which makes available to us or allows access to waste of different types and challenges us to find solutions and alternatives to real problems and adjusted to different scenarios, enabling CVR to be at the forefront of best practices/expertise in the field of waste recovery, ”explained Cândida Vilarinho, who, however, underlined that CVR,“despite the proximity to all its associates, has long since broadened its horizons, making its spectrum of performance and activity not confined only to them”. “CVR is at the disposal of any company, entity or organization that wishes to request a service, participate in a project or obtain technical/consultancy support, within the range of competencies existing at the Center”, clarified the Chairman of the Board of Directors, and even, showed great openness for any entity or organization that sees itself at the object of CVR's existence to join the list of associates, through the acquisition of participation units.
Regardless of the number of members, the manager notes that there is a growing concern about meeting the goals and all the legal requirements that exist in terms of the environment, which has resulted in an increasing number of contracting services to the Center, and in a way it has been determining that the portfolio of services provided is increasingly broadened. If CVR was initially linked to mechanical engineering (one of the UM departments that originated it, alongside biological engineering and civil engineering), today it already has national and even international implementation, always working to provide answers to the needs that arise. “The wide experience of the team members, with particular emphasis on the needs diagnosis phase is the guarantee of the success of the projects in which CVR is involved”, stated Jorge Araújo, adding that the wide knowledge of the financing opportunities and its use has allowed CVR to endow and reinforce its laboratory and research capacities, so that they can “be at the forefront of knowledge and respond to requests”, added the President of the Board of Directors.
CVR has four laboratories and a research and technological development department (IDT). The waste characterization laboratory and the gas emissions laboratory - both accredited according to the normative reference NP EN ISO 17025 by the Portuguese Institute of Accreditation (IPAC) - and also the noise assessment laboratory and the materials and geotechnics laboratory.
Whenever possible, we validate the projects industrially.
CVR's laboratory capacity is an asset, and it is one of the reasons why the Center has taken so many projects to a successful conclusion. Since it was born, CVR has produced more than 7500 technical reports and assessments, has held more than two dozen workshops, co-organized two international conferences and chaired the organizing committee for three other international conferences [Fibrenamics was present at the last WASTES, find out more here]. This dynamism, in Jorge Araújo's belief, "is a reflection of what is the need, the will, and the opportunity to value waste". In fact, the close connection with the companies also translates into numbers: more than 60 projects have been approved and implemented, of the QREN Vale Simplified typology. This typology aims to provide concrete solutions applicable to problems that are posed by an activity sector, and CVR, given its versatility and flexibility, presents a wide range of contributions in the most diverse sectors, from footwear to electronics, through textiles, civil construction, agrifood, among others.
Admitting that, a decade ago, she would not have imagined these figures, Cândida Vilarinho attributes the growth of the Center to the fact that they sought opportunities based on the know-how of their employees, as well as a very strong bet on internationalization. “There is no doubt that many doors have opened and broadened horizons, despite the strong investment that is associated with this process”, she told us, also sharing that, from her point of view, CVR stands out from other technological innovation centers because “whenever possible we validate projects industrially”, in addition to laboratory validation, from a technical and environmental point of view.
Partnerships are a strategic vector
As previously mentioned, internationalization is one of CVR's strategic vectors. In addition to this, the Center wants to continue investing in training, supported by the skills of its technical staff, and the establishment of partnerships, especially with national and foreign RTD institutions, as is the case of Fibrenamics. “The protocol with Fibrenamics is extremely important,” said Professor Cândida Vilarinho, explaining that there is no overlap in areas, but rather complementarity, identification of synergies and an expansion of areas of activity, “the fact that we combine synergies both the platform and the center, will allow our journey to be more fruitful and more lasting ”. Jorge Araújo corroborates the words of the chairman of the board of directors: "this exchange, this space for dialogue, is complementary and enhances the expansion of the activities of both institutions".
The two entities have already been working together, within the scope of the SWS platform (Shared Waste Solutions), co-promoted by TecMinho, ITeCons and the University of Aveiro, in which Fibrenamics, through its connection with TecMInho, has collaborated in promoting the project, with the workshop “From Waste to Market” held at the Center's facilities. At that time - on May 27th of the current year - the participants had the opportunity to visit the Fibrenamics Composites Laboratory, located at CVR, where some demonstrations of the work carried out with fiber residues were made.
Waste is a resource that needs to be harnessed, says CVR and the EU
Although the waste sector is a sector that will be a lever for the competitiveness of our companies in the near future, the two heads of the Centre for Waste Valorisation recognize that there are some obstacles to a greater valorisation of waste, namely in the legal framework. However, they believe that this is a promising sector, which should be seen as an opportunity and not as an obstacle, even because the European Union itself has been working in this direction. While initially the emphasis was on recovery rather than elimination, the hierarchy of waste management, etc., today the concern is based on the scarcity of natural resources, in which waste is considered a resource that needs to be valued. In fact, this is precisely the motto of CVR, since the celebrations of its 10th anniversary: ‘waste is a resource that must be used’. The document on critical raw materials for the European Union, which dates from 2010, supports this strategy, since it condemns the strategy of extracting-transforming-selling-discarding (linear economy) and emphasizes the concept of circular economy with which the CVR is aligned with. So much so that Horizon 2020 has an entire topic dedicated to the theme “WASTES”, something that is applauded by Cândida Vilarinho: “finally, waste is being valued!”.
Interviewed: Jorge Araújo, Executive Director - CVR