C-VORR: Complex-Value Optimisation for Resource Recovery

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

Traditionally, we think of industrial manufacturing processes as producing useful output that have economic value - products - and unwanted outputs with disposal costs - wastes. It is often more useful to think in terms of the 'total value' of the process and its products and co-products, for two reasons. First, adjusting the manufacturing process can often make the 'waste' material into a something useful for another product (e.g. iron and steel manufacture can be adapted so that the main waste, blast-furnace slag, can be added to concrete to make it cheaper and more resistant to corrosion). This can increase the total value of the process. Secondly, if we only take in to account the economic value of the products and coproducts, we overlook other important aspects of the total value. For example, adding economic value to the blast-furnace slag has the added benefit of diverting it from landfill; thus, the evnvironmental damage is reduced, or, put another way, the environmental value is also increased. Iron and steel manufacture may also have a social value, by providing jobs for a region. By looking at how all three aspects of total value - economic, environmental and social - vary as the manufacturing process is adjusted, we can move away from a 'product + waste' model to one where we can optimise the total value to society of the whole manufacturing process.

To do this, we need to build a completely new model for analysing manufacturing processes. This will combine a number of modelling approaches used in environmental science (life cycle assessment), environmental economics (materials flow analysis), social science (social cost/benefit analysis) and mathematical modelling (stochastic multi-criteria decision analysis). It wil also create a new concept of 'value' - total complex value - that considers and combines the economic, social and environmental impacts of industrial processes. It will strive to optimise value from 'cradle to cradle' and allow us to measure the true value of e.g. designing for dismantling, upstream de-pollution, optimising closed-loop recycling and upvs. down-cycling. Because it will allow us to analyse the effect of interventions in the process on total value, we can then use it to adjust existing processes or design new processes, ensuring they are installed in the right place at the right time to maximise the benefit to society. Ultimately, we want the new model to move us away from old thinking about waste, and help us build a sustainable society with circular materials flow.

A very broad range of expertise is required to develop the model. We can bring together experts from the necessary fields (e.g. civil engineering, environmental engineering, economics, mathematics, industrial ecology, social science, materials science, product design, geography, water management, process engineering) because Leeds University is unique in that several interdisciplinary consortia with a range of the necessary expertise already exist (e.g. water@leeds, EPSRC Undermining Infrastructure, FP7 FESSUD - see Track Record). This grant will help these consortia collaborate across projects through research challenge workshops. Initially, we will concentrate within the University of Leeds, leveraging our enormous range of disciplines to extract maximum value from the NERC resource by minimising transport expenditure, communication barriers and lag time. Later, where external expertise is identified as essential, collaborators from outside Leeds or academia will be sought; again, via extensive existing networks.

Planned Impact

The aim is to develop a novel valuation framework which will draw on LCA, material flow analysis, social cost-benefit analysis and multi-criteria decision analysis in order to create a greater understanding of the feedbacks to the environment, society and economy that result from resource recovery.

The Catalyst Grant project, C-VORR, has been designed to encourage research end-user and wider stakeholder engagement from the start of the project, albeit focused more on the former than the latter beneficiary. This engagement exercise will be crucial to the development of a Research Grant that will result in medium and long-term impacts for the commercial private sector and policy-makers. It is also essential to ensure that the framework developed will be functional - the focus of the project is to develop a tool that has a wide application beyond an academic audience. Companies from the water, manufacturing industries and waste management sectors, plus consultancies and other companies/industries as applicable, have been approached to participate in the project through involvement in the steering group and by attending the workshop and sandpit. Similarly, waste regulators and policy-makers have been approached to provide a full perspective of the issues to be examined in the review. The range of experience and expertise that these organisations will bring to the framework will ensure that all criteria, from process and waste factors to environmental, social, economic and health parameters, will be appropriately integrated into the development of the prototype framework; the data they can bring to the project will be essential to ensure real-world application. It will also allow case studies to be identified to further test and develop the framework in a Research Grant setting. Letters of Support have already been obtained from a number of organisations (e.g. Yorkshire Water, Viridor) but the Catalyst project will allow further development of the consortium with many more organisations approached for involvement.

All research end-users who engage with C-VORR will benefit from access to the prototype framework: the full framework will only be available through the Research Grant. The framework will ultimately help industry to better anticipate and hence take advantage of changing attitudes to and markets for "waste", helping to grow the UK resource and manufacturing base whilst also considering the costs and benefits to the environment and health. Utilising an ecosystem services approach, materials currently considered to be wastes can be more fully evaluated as resources with environmental, economic and social value. Training materials will be prepared on optimal utilisation of the framework and training workshops offered to all end-users. The greater connectivity that will be created across the life cycles of products will also help regulators and policy-makers to better understand the issues that will arise as wastes begin to gain greater recognition as resources. Involvement in the Catalyst project will begin this process and allow end-users to better engage with one another to fully realise the benefits from this step-change approach.

A key strength of the Catalyst project is its commitment to KE activity and the need to embed the needs of end-users at the centre of the framework development, and for users to help develop the framework through data and case study provision. A varied programme of activities will involve all research end-users with more activity planned in the Research Grant which will expand the project to a wider audience of stakeholders. Events planned include seminars, webinars, training workshops and materials, informative website, conference attendance and publications in varied media.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description We have:
* put together an international consortium of academics, industrialists and policy-makers that will work on reducing waste in our society;
* successfully applied for ~£1M of funding, backed up by a further ~£1M of industrial support to maximise value for the taxpayer;
* demonstrated that to reduce waste in our society (and thus reducing primary resource use, pollution and social impacts) we must consider not only the process that produces the waste, but all the technical, economic, social and environmental processes that are linked to it;
* developed an outline for an analysis method that links engineering, science, economics and social science to make sure that all the effects - both positive and negative - of a waste-producing process can be identified and adjusted to maximise the benefits to society;
* begun a discussion at the highest level that moves away from simple thinking about recycling (that often causes more damage than it prevents) towards a sophisticated approach that makes sure that recycling processes do not cause unintended environmental, economic or social damage in other communities or countries.
Exploitation Route The major output from this small project was a large new project, and the findings will be developed in this new piece of research. Nonetheless, the basic concepts of the original CVORR proposal - that value has more than one dimension; that impacts of waste treatment processes must be evaluated up- and down-stream as well as at the point of treatment; that this is a multidiscplinary issue, etc - are already being reflected in other projects, such as the iBUILD consortium looking at better infrastructure development. Other industries can also benefit from taking inspiration from the way in which CVORR has brought together people from across a very wide range of disciplines, both in academia and industry, to address a complex, tricky yet fundamental social, technical and environmental problem.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport
URL http://sure-infrastructure.leeds.ac.uk/c-vorr/
 
Description The purpose of this grant was to build an academic and stakeholder consortia to apply for the second-stage RRfW funding. This has been successfully achieved, and the 'systems' and 'complex value' concepts inherent in the CVORR approach have been accepted as radical but necessary changes to the way academic, industrial and policymakers must think about waste and the systems by which it is produced. Furthermore, the academic facet of this consortium includes engineers, waste experts, mathematicians, economists and environmental scientists that will become a major new multidisciplinary thinktank, not just for the waste management sector but for a range of complex infrastructure analysis problems.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Construction,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services
 
Description C-VORR Resource Recovery from Waste (Full RRfW)
Amount £934,059 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/L014149/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 08/2014 
End 07/2017
 
Description Waste Atlas Partnership 
Organisation D-Waste
Country Greece, Hellenic Republic 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Head of Scientific Committee of the Waste Atlas Partnership Set up MoU with D-Waste, for University of Leeds as academic partner of the overall partnership Co-author of 2 major annual reports International meetings of Scientific Comittee withe other international partners in Athens, Greece (24-4-2013) and Amman, Jordan (ISWA,WtERT, SweepNET, SWAPI) MSc thesis in support of reports - was main supervisor: e.g. (1) "Descriptive and Analytical Study of the World's 50 Biggest Dumpsites" by Pranay Chetan Kosambia; (2)"THE IMPACTS OF IMPROPER SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT PRACTICES ON HUMAN HEALTH" by Tshephang Tumoyagae
Collaborator Contribution Leading in the creation and day-to-day running of the Waste Atlas on-line tool and relevant apps: http://www.atlas.d-waste.com/ D-Waste contribution in the bidding of full phase resulting from the CVORR catalyst phase
Impact 2 major annual reports: http://www.atlas.d-waste.com/ TAB reports and presentations 2nd featured on Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/oct/06/smelly-contaminated-disease-worlds-open-dumps
Start Year 2013
 
Description Article on LAWR/edie.net 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited article to "Local Authority Waste and Recycling", part of the edie.net suite of pulications.

Several additions to the stakeholder team for the final CVORR proposal, plus enquiries regarding the project from other industry sources, raising the profile of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.edie.net/library/view_article.asp?id=6388
 
Description CVORR Catalyst - Stakeholder workshop 1 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 24 stakeholders attended a two-day event aimed at setting the scope for the full proposal, in particular focussing on the needs and wants of industry and policymakers.

The beginning of the formation of the extensive CVORR stakeholders network, who provide invaluable non-academic input and guidance to the full project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://sure-infrastructure.leeds.ac.uk/c-vorr/
 
Description CVORR Catalyst - stakeholder workshop 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 21 academic and industrial stakeholders from the waste sector attended a workshop to finalise the scope, narrative and detail of the NERC RRfW CVORR grant application and associated industrial support.

Successful application for ~£1M of NERC/ESRC funding, plus securing a further ~£1M in in-kind industrial support.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://sure-infrastructure.leeds.ac.uk/c-vorr/
 
Description Invited lecture - 8th ISWA Beacon Conference on Waste-to-Energy. Malmö, Sweden: 27-28 November 2013. ISWA and Avfall Sverige (Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk was enthusiastically received as an eye-opener, offering fresh insights into the high level waste and resource recovery agenda.

Interest generated for participation in the full bid of CVORR (NE/L014149/1). Ramboll participation confirmed during the conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.beacon-wte.net/
 
Description Invited lecture - ISWA European Group meeting - Brussels EESC HQ - 03-04/9/2014 - Does 'Zero Waste' for Plastics Waste in Europe Depend on Exports? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk was very well received and generated considerable debate on the systems evaluation of sustainability of recycling, in a globalized flows secondary materials world.

More invitations to deliver similar content lectures. ISWA participation as a partner with in-kind contribution with role in international dissemination in the full next phase CVORR project (NECR/ESCR RRfW) following this catalyst project: NE/L014149/1
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.iswa.org/iswa/iswa-groups/iswa-european-group/
 
Description Presentation 9/4/2013 - Overview of my research at seminar at DTU - discussing specifically two active NERC RRfW catalyst projects - also with TU Vienna delegation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Invited by Head of School at Department of Environmental Engineering at TU Denmark (DTU). Delivered seminar with overview of my research, discussed collaboration opportunities for the 2 at the time active NERC RRfW projects I was involved as Co-I (NE/K015834/; and NE/K015737/1) and had 2 days meetings with all academic staff and each of the relevant PhD students (over 20). Tour of laboratory facilities. particiaption in research meeting of DTU-TU Vienna-ETH with similar theme are the NERC projects.

Agreement of DTU and TU Vienna participation on the full project (output of catalyst project): Indeed they are international partners in the NERC/ESRC RRfW: NE/L014149/1 with considerable in-kind contribution and funds allocated for visiting researchers. Longer term collaboration plans established and email communication followed for collaboration themes prioritization. This led to additional Horizon 2020 successful collaboration with TU Vienna (Horizon 2020 call - WASTE-4b-2014; EWIT project).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Presentation to APSE Environmental Services Seminar 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Costas Velis presented on behalf of the CVORR Catalyst grant a talk entitled "Redefining our relationship with waste: is the waste management hierarchy an outdated concept?".

Inclusion of various stakeholders on the final CVORR RRfW proposal; raising the profile of the CVORR concept.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.apse.org.uk/apse/index.cfm/events/previous-seminars/2013-seminars/apse-environmental-serv...