06 May 2021

Circular economy in the port sector

Ports are strategic infrastructures for international trade and play a key role in goods traffic. They are at the crossroads of different kinds of waste and industrial flows, logistical hubs for the export and import of waste materials, and many industries active in the treatment, collection and shipment of waste are located in the port area. Ports can therefore play a crucial role as facilitators of the transition to the circular economy, through various synergies with industries in the port area, neighbouring cities and waste management companies. Fundación Valenciaport coordinates a new project called LOOP-Ports to facilitate this transition in ports through the creation of an innovative Circular Economy Network. Three main areas of intervention in ports (see below) were identified to encourage circular economy initiatives in European ports.

Circular assets and equipment

Through maintenance and smarter use, ports can optimise the capacity and lifetime of existing port equipment and infrastructure. For instance, the Port of Haminakotka (Finland) focuses its efforts on digitalisation and 3D operating systems to optimise port operations and maintenance of port facilities, while the Port of Valencia (Spain) has enlarged its cranes to enable their use for bigger vessels. The Port of Ramsgate (UK) developed new buoys to allow for easier maintenance by smaller ships.

Circular flows within ports

Waste generated by port activities is another area where ports can facilitate the transition to the circular economy. Examples include the Port of Aalborg (Denmark), which uses sand from dredging to make cement; the Port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer (France), which repurposes fish by-products as raw materials for the nutraceutical, functional goods, cosmetics and animal nutrition markets; and the Ports of Goro and Garibaldi (Italy), which concentrate on limiting lost nets, and recycling and developing biodegradable nets to ensure sustainable production of seafood.

Ports and circular markets

Ports can also enable other industries to become more circular by developing new activities connecting supply and demand for resources and material moving through the port. For instance, the Port of Frederikshavn (Denmark) is building a dedicated quay with facilities to repurpose decommissioned ships and rigs; the Port of Antwerp’s (Belgium) Carloop project enables to extend the life of car parts and raw materials by providing logistical services linking where the products are used with where specialist knowledge is available; and the Port of Moerdijk (Netherlands) aims to valorise waste tires through pyrolysis to replace incineration to obtain gas, oil and biochar. 

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