Wednesday 8 June 2022

Zero waste railway workshop and UIC Sustainability Platform Plenary meeting held on 1 and 2 June in Berlin

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On 1 June 2022, the first Zero Waste Railways workshop of the UIC Circular Economy Sector was held in Berlin in hybrid form.

The event opened on an inspiring keynote by Dr Arndt Pechstein, Phi360, who introduced biomimicry, a nature-based innovation concept mimicking nature’s complex and adaptive systems to help redesign and rethink our systems.

This presentation led the way to a discussion on best practices related to specific material “passports” or tools designed to measure the circularity of under rail pads, trains and sleepers, either developed or in use by UIC members. These best practices were shared by Bénédicte Gourmandin (SNCF Réseau), Ilse de Vos van Eekeren (NS) and Katy Beardsworth (Network Rail), who each presented how circularity has been integrated into their respective corporate strategies.

The next session was dedicated to circular successes illustrated by the benefits of adopting a circular economy design. Joris van de Sande presented how NS was able to reduce the CO2 footprint of wheel sets.

Dr Fabiano Piccino’s (SBB) presentation highlighted that CE measures are critical to achieve scope 3 goals stating that “through CE measures […] alone, SBB has a potential to reduce its GHG emissions by […] 66%”. This is however only possible when proper inventories and measuring methods are put in place, requiring the appropriate skills and competences from the staff. This was made possible with the setting up of SBB’s Circular Economy Center of Competence as a cross-functional team to implement the strategy.

Peter Miller presented the High Speed 2 Ltd (HS2) Circular Economy Strategy for cleaning up their construction sites towards efficient use of resources. Embedding circular economy at the very early design stage allowed some of the HS2 projects to receive very high sustainability ratings.

The workshop closed on a presentation on Wabtec’s rolling stock and circular practices by Marty Thomas who stated that roughly 296 million pounds of end-of-life material are brought back into their global facilities annually. This is made possible by embedding a circularity intent in the design phase, building product specifications with customers, and ensuring staff master the skills required to requalify-repair-reassemble, all while relying on installed bases and enablers such as digital, 3D, solutions, technology and logistics with the aim of improving customer and environment outcomes.

This focus on the inflow and the effort to achieve circular inflows is an important KPI when trying to “close the loop”, and addressing the challenge of products’ life cycle assessment and the overall aim of circular economy. Indeed, by embedding closed loops in procurement processes, supply chains can become more resilient while at the same time becoming more cost efficient.

The next edition of the Zero Waste Railways public workshops will be held next Autumn on circular outflows.

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