WASTE FAB LAB: Cities are great undiscovered mines of waste materials and local economic networks (circular economy).

Ferrara, ItalyFerrara
Project Stage:
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The project aims to create a social infrastructure, the Waste Fab Lab, to be implemented in the urban context. It will be a place where new jobs will be created in order to manage, repair, prepare for reuse and transform local waste, offering innovative and co-designed services and new products to the local community. The Waste Fab Lab will cover also a role of enabler, as an activator of opportunities, connecting citizens, companies, makers.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Through the definition of a specific format, mixing the elements of different innovative practices, we want to define a replicable model of new local-based sustainable economy: the Waste Fab Lab is a social infrastructure that will create new jobs, incrementing social cohesion and social inclusion, and that will face the environmental problem related to waste. It will also represent the instrument for an ecosystem seeding process, providing the basis for an adaptive network of interacting initiatives related to waste in the city of Ferrara. Waste Fab Lab will be the final step of a specific process based on the model we already activated through our project LOWaste ( http://www.lowaste.it ).

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Through the implementation of the Wast Fab Lab model, we intend to demonstrate how a waste management based on the principles of circular economy and industrial symbiosis will represent an optimal solution. Therefore, it will be the way to create new forms of jobs, defining innovative production processes, by searching and distilling local fractions of waste that still have value. Every EU citizen produces an average of more than 500 kg of municipal waste each year. Managing this issue there will be a huge impact on the environment because we would avoid the disposal in landfills also generating new value since it has been estimated that the materials disposed could have an annual market value of around 5.25 billion Euros.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Waste Fab Lab will be a smart and low cost infrastructure with an attractive design, where different activities will be carried out. In the Waste Fab Lab 4 different type of activities will be carried out: 1. Preparation for the reuse of different objects and related activities. 2. Preparation and co-design for the transformation of secondary raw materials. 3. Promotion of an ecosystem seeding for new productions and up-cycling through the involvement of the community and the stakeholders in a circular economic model. 4. Generation of a specific know how in terms of waste management and innovation within the Waste Fab Lab, also using and disseminating open data tools, high tech solutions and (new) technologies such as 3D printers.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Thanks to our partners and our local authorities’ networks, we will be able to disseminate the new model and replicate it in other cities. We will create an on-line platform where all the technical informations related to the format will be available in an open source format. Our ambition would be to represent a best practice for EU cities: connecting the different experiences, the on line platform will be useful for the sharing of ideas, and the creation of a market for spare parts, second life products and secondary raw materials. In this way we will boost the process through which Europe will be able to develop "a systemic change in the use and recovery of resources in the economy" as advocated by the EU Commission in the document Manifesto for a Resource Efficient Europe published in transposition to the directive 2008/98/EC, which lays down the principles for the end-of-waste.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our idea differs from traditional donation networks as Emmaus, because we focus on waste (identifying high value materials) in terms of preparation for the reuse as secondary raw material for the community of makers that we previously identified and in terms of transformation by local makers. Our idea, also, differs from traditional recycling processes because we generate an innovative format, involving the local community and makers, and connecting them with the industrial waste producers. In these terms, we look for specific waste streams that until now have been ignored by the conventional recycle industry, and through an industrial symbiosis, we want to define a model developed at the local level, which will face in a more efficient way the needs of the local community. Only the Waste Fab Lab will be more than just a reuse center mixing both social innovation and circular economy.


At first, Impronta Etica had an important role for accessing the information related to the waste streams of the local companies and in order to understand the potential of the partner Servizi Ospedalieri and others. Servizi Ospedalieri demonstrated how a private company could approach the waste management issue in a different way, becoming an example of how a business organization can produce a win-win strategy in economic and environmental terms. La Città Verde gave its expertise in terms of waste management within the all process and it will be a precious resource for the implementation of the Waste Fab Lab in terms of social inclusion for disadvantaged workers. Indica guaranteed the expertise for the design of the new governance process related to the LOWaste project and co-created with the other partners the idea for the implementation of the Waste Fab Lab in Ferrara.
About the Lead Co-Creation Partners
Servizi ospedalieri Spa
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Type of organization (e.g. NGO, association, not-for-profit, foundation, social enterprise)

Social cooperative / Consortium of social cooperatives

Total Number of Full-Time Employees


Lead Contact First Name


Lead Contact Last Name



General manager



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Organization Name

Servizi ospedalieri Spa

Total Number of Full-Time Employees

Over 1.400

Lead Contact First Name


Lead Contact Last Name



Research&Development and Innovative and Development of Special Health Projects Manager



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Basic Info
Project Starting Year


Primary European Country where this Project is creating social impact

, FE, Ferrara

Additional European countries where this Project is creating social impact

In future any European country

Select the category that best fits the type of your project:

New products & services: Entries in this category develop and offer essentials product and services that address needs currently unmet, Inclusive supply chains: Entries in this category implement efficient, sustainable and inclusive supply chains, Job Creation: Entries in this category create new jobs for people away from the labor market.

What awards or honors has the project received?

Semifinalist @ European Social Innovation Competition

Project Summary
Co-Creation Model: Tell us about your main strategic partners and how the partnership truly create value. For each Partner please include its type (business/social/public), its name, a short description, its key motivation to participate in the co-creation project, and the key contributions it is making in the co-creation project. Please follow the format displayed below:

- Indica Srl
- Business
- SME engaged in research and advisory services for public administrations, businesses and third sector organizations. It designs and experiments new governance and management tools for environmental, social and economic sustainability, for products and services quality, for wellness in general.
- It will guarantee the expertise and the know how for the implementation of the Waste Fab Lab thanks to the experience gained through the implementation of the Life+ project LOWaste.

- Impronta Etica
- Non-profit association
- Consortium of companies for the promotion and development of sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
- It will guarantee a direct dialogue with the industry and CSR network.

- Coordinamento Agenda 21
- Non-profit association
- Composed by 500 Italian local authorities has the aim to improve the management of the environment and to boost the process for the creation of sustainable and smart cities.
- It will guarantee the possibility to have a direct interaction with the Public Administration and the utilities. In the future, thanks to its network, it will give us the possibility to make the project scalable favoring the knowledge sharing.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact. Please specify using qualitative and quantitative data (e.g. # of indirect and direct beneficiaries); help us understand how this solution truly makes a difference.

We will create several economic, social and environmental local benefits:
• The direct creation of new jobs and activities within the social infrastructure.
• The improvement of social inclusion and social cohesion through job placement for people in need
• The indirect creation of new jobs boosted by the related activities of the new value chain
• The development of the market for the “hacked” waste (considered as a resource) definable in terms of created value
• The dissemination of knowledge and information on prevention, reuse and recycling definable in terms of avoided waste
• The increase of the connections between consumers, retailers, manufacturers and local authorities about the possibility of sharing ideas to create jobs and to reduce waste by reusing or buying green green products definable in terms of avoided waste and the new services and products available

Funding: How is your project financial supported? [select all that apply]


Sustainability Plan: Has your project already reached financial sustainability? If not, what is this solutio’s plan to ensure financial sustainability? Do the main partners have enough stake to sustain the solution? If this project requires limited budget, how will other resources be secured to maintain or grow this work?

In order to have a long-term impact, the Waste Fab Lab has to be recognized as a social infrastructure that has a crucial function for the community. This is the reason way we think that the ecosystem seeding carried through different activities (training, education, co-design of new products and services), will create the common background necessary for the society to internalize the idea of circular economy boosted through social innovation. In the long-run the Waste Fab Lab will survive on his own feet, without any public financing, because the local community will access the different services available in the infrastructure. Through selling second life products, secondary raw materials and services related to the use of the scanner and the 3D printer it will be possible to have constant cash flows.

Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the Partners to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

During a meeting between the partners La Città Verde, Impronta Etica and Indica we decided to make a focus on the waste streams generated by the companies that are members of Impronta Etica.
It came out that one of them, Servizi Ospedalieri Spa, had a precious type of waste: a Reusable Technical Textiles utilized in hospitals that, in compliance with UNI EN 13795, after being used 70 times had to be considered as waste and therefore was disposed.
It has been immediately clear that the precious waste should be considered as something else than just waste! Through LOWaste for action (http://www.lowaste.it/lowaste-for-action/) we defined all the ingredients of the LOWaste recipe: services, products, co-designer, community, experts.
The idea for the creation of the Waste Fab Lab in Ferrara came out spontaneously as the natural consequence of the LOWaste project.

About the Co-Creation
Barriers: What main barriers may you have encountered to co-create during the creation and implementation of the project and how did you try to overcome them?

The Waste Fab Lab have two types of problems: one related to the Italian legislation, the other with the Italian culture.
Considering the normative issue, the Italian law guarantee much easier conditions for the industrial waste producers that consider the materials as waste instead of secondary raw materials.
From the cultural point of view the Waste Fab Lab represent a first experiment of social infrastructure for the management of reuse and recycle of waste also taking into account the industrial processes and mixing them with social innovation.
The way to overcome the legislative barriers had been a call on waste legislation to be submitted by the representatives of national institutions that identified critical limits on waste regulation in order to make a concrete proposal.
About the cultural issue we already started a process of sensitization of all partners of Impronta Etica

Governance: What is the type of the relationship between the partners? (e.g. joint venture, contractual relationship, joint project...)

For the implementation of the Waste Fab Lab project we have signed a collaboration portocoll with local authorities as guarantee: inside the contract are defined the roles and the commitments of each partner.

Interaction model: How is the project a transformative partnership? How is the interaction transforming the partnering organizations and their employees/ leadership in terms of creating a new vision, new management practices, new skills and new organizational structures? Please provide for concrete examples

The collaboration between large companies, cooperatives, individuals, communities and institutions is a real chance for local sustainable development. A clear and innovative process of defining common objectives leads to the transformation of local economic processes, overcomes the limitations of traditional hierarchical programming in favor of a collaborative economy and horizontal subsidiarity. Needs, evidence, efficiency of resources, design thinking and accountability and the internet of things are characteristics of this new economy.
Competences: the material is not only waste but it’s possible to acquire expertise about its features and its functions. The collaboration allows a large enterprise to recognize new needs and discover innovation and open innovation. The PA becomes faster and more efficient.

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