Eco-park of the Mediterranean – Barcelona Waste Management Facility

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Barcelona (área metropolitana)

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Main actors

City Government, Public Utility

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Project area

Inner City

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Ongoing since 1975/01

Eco-park of the Mediterranean is an integrated treatment facility for municipal waste in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB). The project is part of an urban renewal plan developed for the district of Sant Adrià de Besòs.

Eco-park of the Mediterranean is a Waste Recovery Plant (PIVR) that includes two facilities with different, but complementary, treatment processes. One is mechanical and refers to the biological treatment that separates recoverable materials from organic matter for the production of biogas. The other process corresponds to energy recovery, where non-recyclable waste is incinerated to generate electricity and heat. Due to this twofold system, no waste is excluded from the energy recovery process.

The Eco-park of the Mediterranean is located in Sant Adrià de Besòs, a developing district situated on the Mediterranean coast at the mouth of the river Besòs and is close to high income areas. The plant is located a short distance from the resource (household waste) which reduces transport costs. This strategic location showcases that the clean technologies used at this facility do not have a negative impact on the immediate environment.

This case study was contributed from the UCLG Learning Team (

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Barcelona (área metropolitana), Spain

Size and population development
1991: 3,048,479; 2014: 3,214,211; 2031: 3,210,000 / Growth 2010-2014: -0.34% - Source: IDESCAT - Statistical Institute of Catalonia

Population composition
15.61% non-native in 2013 (504,140) - Source: IDESCAT - Statistical Institute of Catalonia

Main functions
regional capital city, harbour city, industrial city, international event city

Main industries / business
tourism, food industry, automotive industry, chemicals and metallurgy

Sources for city budget
BIP Barcelona Metropolitan Area in 2010: 61,915,200,000€ (9.18% BIP Spain)

Political structure
The metropolitan council is the highest governing body of the AMB. Its members are metropolitan councilors, also elected as mayors or councillors in the 36 municipalities.

Administrative structure
BMA is an urban conurbation made up with 36 municipalities

The Barcelona Metropolitan area has more than 3,300,000 inhabitants, which represents 42.8% of the population of Catalonia. Each resident of Barcelona produces 1.2 kg of solid waste every day, which means a total of 1,410,731 tons of waste every year. Prior to the economic crisis, the amount of waste produced was even greater, demonstrating the relationship between waste production and economic growth.

The instalment of the Eco-park of the Mediterranean was part of the City of Barcelona’s 22@ project that was launched in 2000 as a way to transform the industrial area of Poblenou, located in the south-eastern part of Barcelona, into a quality, innovative urban environment. In an attempt to mitigate climate change and conserve natural resources, the concept of turning waste into resources gained popularity amongst residents. The waste management facility was designed as an integral part of the urban development plan for the district.  Moreover, the Eco-park was also integrated to the overall urban planning to allow an effective transfer of energy gains for heating and cooling of local buildings.

The waste treatment process begins with the selection of waste. The facility separates the organic waste and recovers the reusable materials from the waste collected. Then, the organic waste is processed to generate biogas and compost. The Mechanical-Biological Treatment Plant (PTMB) commenced operation in 2006. Here, materials and energy are recovered from the mixed municipal solid waste deposited in street bins. After the selection, residues goes to the incineration plant which generates steam and heat.  The Waste-to-Energy (PVE) Plant, which commenced operation in 1975, recovers energy from residues obtained from the Mechanical-Biological Treatment Plant and from other metropolitan treatment plants. The steam produced by the plant provides air conditioning and heating for the 22@ district.

Technical Specifications of the Waste to Energy (PVE) Plant are as follows:

- Maximum number of hours per furnace: 8,400 hours (95.9% of the year)

- Incineration: 3 lines

- Incineration capacity per line: 14.5 tons/hour

- Average combustion temperature: 900°C

- Combustion LCV: 2,800 Kcal/kg

- Type of condenser: seawater cooled pipes

- Reactor: acid gas phase –Ca(OH)2

- NOx reduction system: SNCR –ammonia dosage diluted to 45%

- Gas cleaning system: semi-dry scrubber

In 2015, the annual budget for waste treatment in the AMB was € 155 million. The fee for waste management is collected by the AMB through a water tax paid by residents. 

The PIVR in Sant Adrià de Besòs is operated by TERSA, the public company created by Barcelona Serveis Municipals (BSM, 59%) and the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB, 41%).

The PVE plant has 3 furnaces with a capacity of 15mT/h and treats about 360,000 tons of waste per year: the equivalent of 1,000 tons per day. This amount corresponds to 30% of the total waste production of the metropolitan area, or the waste quantity produced by 780,000 inhabitants. The plant generates about 180,000 MWh per year, which is twice the amount of electricity needed for street lighting in Barcelona annually and provides enough electricity for 52,000 inhabitants. It produces 75,822 tons of steam for the heating and cooling of 80 urban buildings for residents and companies of the Forum and 22@ districts.

There has been a significant change in the publics’ perception of the waste management facility. Technology and management improvements have enabled the treatment of waste to be no longer viewed as a hub of pollution and insight conflict, but as progressive plan for the future of the city.

The project did not encounter any major social or political barriers. There was general consensus that the area needed both an economic and infrastructure boost. Population growth in the metropolitan area of Barcelona was accompanied by a great increase in organic waste production and reusable materials, creating an ideal context for the improvement of the Waste-to-Energy Plant (PVE) and the construction of a new facility that would allow better exploitation of the resulting products (materials and biogas).

The Eco-park had to address two issues: improving municipal waste treatment and recovery, and exploiting the resulting energy in order to enhance the transformation of a traditional industrial neighbourhood into a viable modern one, under the 22@ initiative. Eco-part contributes to modernize the industrial neighbourhood, as well as to convert it into a smart city

In order to solve these problems, consultaiton and planning were needed. The infrastructure upgrade and building of new facilities were forecast and included in the transformation of the 22@ neighbourhood. Consequently, the connections to conduct biogas, electricity and heat were designed to maximise efficiency and reduce the costs of their creation and maintenance. In this regard, distance was a major factor: the closer the generation of products and their consumption, the better.

The transformation and economic impulse of the adjacent neighbourhood was also taken into consideration when rethinking the exploitation of materials coming from the recycling process. Efforts were made to encourage the creation of small and medium enterprises in the 22@ area with the support and guidance of the City Council.

During the peer review process organized by UCLG in October 2016, Brazilian mayors visited the Eco-park and shared their experience on urban waste management with Barcelona representatives. Brazilian mayors underlined the different perspective on job creation. While the City of Barcelona sees recycling as a niche for the creation of jobs through start-ups involved in materials recycling (ashes, gas, selected material), the Brazilian representatives stated that collecting and separating waste can create a substantial number of jobs. In Barcelona, the separation process is automated, while in Brazilian cities waste is still collected by members of vulnerable communities who by doing so earn the minimum wage. As such, the waste industry offers an opportunity to employ the most vulnerable sectors of the population.

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UCLG Learning
Barcelona (área metropolitana), Spain

UCLG Learning

Institution | Local and Regional Government Network

Juan Carlos Fernandez Valles
Barcelona (ciudad), Spain

Juan Carlos Fernandez Valles

Individual | Head of department

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