Circular Economy in the Construction Sector – at the Focus of Discussions from Various Stakeholders

The topic “Circular economy in the construction sector – trends in EU and Bulgaria” was the main focus of the discussions during the conference, which took place on 12 December 2023 at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). The event was organized by the Economic Policy Institute, Glavbolgarstroy Holding and the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy as part of the Consortium of the MOBICCON-PRO project in cooperation with BCCI.

The event brought together representatives of state institutions and local authorities, experts from the construction industry, representatives of the business and academia, industry associations and non-governmental organizations. The discussions during the conference focused on the opportunities for effective construction and demolition waste management at national and local level and the production of high quality recycled building materials and products  that can be returned at the market and used into the construction process.

The conference was officially opened by Albena Angelova, Executive Director of Glavbolgarstroy Holding and authorized representative of the MOBICCON-PRO Consortium, who welcomed the audience and pointed out that for achieving a circular economy in the construction are required targeted and constant efforts from all stakeholders in the sector. “We need to work in a more effective way that allows buildings and facilities to be demolished selectively – to sort the construction waste at the construction site, to transport it to the recycling plants and to go through the whole process that brings the recycled products back to the market” said Ms Angelova in her opening remarks. The Deputy Minister of Environment and Water Reneta Koleva, who also took part in the opening of the conference, stated that the construction and demolition waste has been identified as a priority area in the National Strategy for Circular Economy and pointed out that the construction industry has a leading role in the transition to a circular economy through the development and implementation of resource-efficient solutions that will reduce the environmental and climate footprint of its activities. As host of the event, Vladimir Tomov, President of the BCCI Investment Council, also welcomed the guests and congratulated the Bulgarian construction industry for developing effective projects and solutions in the field of the circular economy.

The first panel of the conference was attended by representatives of the local authorities. Nadezhda Bobcheva, Deputy Mayor of Sofia Municipality for ,,Green System, Ecology and Land Use; Trayko Mladenov, Mayor of Kostinbrod Municipality; Diman Georgiev, Deputy Mayor of Montana Municipality; Radostin Yalamov, Deputy Mayor of Slivnica Municipality; Boyan Pesic, a representative of the City of Pirot and Kiril Popoviansky, Director of the Municipal Enterprise “Regional Centre for Waste Management” of the municipalities Samokov, Dolna Banya, Kostenets and Ihtiman shared experience for the construction and demolition waste management at local level. The mayors and deputy mayors agreed that the local authorities have a leading role for fostering the circular economy in the construction sector and expressed confidence that the municipal support and providing opportunities for testing recycling plants are particularly important in the implementation of projects such as MOBBICON-PRO. The Director of RIEW-Sofia Irena Petkova, who also participated in the conference, expressed confidence that the MOBBICON-PRO project will demonstrate the urgent need for the effective implementation of the principles of circular economy in relation to the collection and recovery of construction and demolition waste.

During the second panel various topics related to the development of circular construction at European and national level were discussed. Lilia Angelova-Koleva, Director of Directorate “Planning and Waste Management” at Sofia Municipality, presented the green policies and solutions for sustainable construction and demolition waste management in Sofia. Presenting the vision for sustainability in the circular construction, Dimitar Koparov, Director “Organizational Policy” in KSB, shared that circular economy in construction involves designing, building and operating the facilities with a focus on minimizing waste, reusing materials and maximizing the life of the buildings. Assoc. Prof. Roumiana Zaharieva, Head of Department “Building Materials and Insulations” at the  University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy shared her belief that the products from recycled construction and building materials are the core elements of the circular economy in the construction sector. The topic of circular construction was also addressed from the point of view of the statistics with the contribution of Dr. Eng. Gergana Cheshmedjieva, Head of Environmental and Energy Accounts Department at NSI,  who presented the successful implemented by NSI project aimimg to improve the data on circular economy and expressed the willingness for closer cooperation between all concerned stakeholders. At the end of the panel,  Jerome Radtka, Policy Officer Technical & Environmental Affairs at the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) joined online from Brussels to share that the circular construction is actively developing, but the transition to a fully-fledged circular economy in the EU is still hampered by many barriers, such as the lack of regulatory requirements that can drive demand for circular approaches or the lack of standards for secondary materials.

During the third panel of the conference Plamena Nenkova, Deputy Executive Director “Strategies, Communications and International Affairs” at Glavbolgarstroy Holding presented the progress achieved within the international research project “MOBICCON-PRO”, funded by the EU Horizon Europe Program and aiming at developing innovative solutions for the production of high-quality recycled building materials. The best practices for circular construction from Belgium and Denmark were presented by Federico Bley, Consultant on Innovation, Competitiveness and Sustainability at IDEA Consult, Brussels and Dr. Stefania Butera, Senior Specialist for Construction and Demolition Waste, LCA and Circular Economy at the Danish Technological Institute. The audience also had the opportunity to learn about the sustainability needs recycling in assured quality presented by Martin Car, General Manager of the European Quality Association for Recycling in his video address.

In the afternoon panel devoted to the green funding opportunities,  Vladimir Tomov made a brief overview of the circular economy investments in Bulgaria;  Sylvia Goranova, Monitoring expert at ELMEN EEIG presented the opportunities for financing circular economy projects within LIFE Programme and Dr. Kiril Velichkov, Director “European Projects and Financial Instruments” of UBB presented the the role of the EU financial instruments for fostering the green and circularity business models.

The conference was concluded with a panel aimed at seeking synergy cross-checks with other European innovative circular construction projects. Todor Mladenov, Executive Director of Sofia Tech Park, presented a project that provides an opportunity for adopting best practices from South Korea in the field of digital transformation in the construction industry in Bulgaria. The objectives and activities of the REDOL project, funded by the EU Horizon Europe Program, were presented online by Nikita Gula, Project Engineer in the Concrete Technology Department of VDZ, Germany. 

The topics presented at the conference provoked the interest of the audience and led to fruitful discussions. The speakers and participants agreed that the effective transition to a circular economy in the construction sector requires close cooperation and partnership between all concerned stakeholders.

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