Circular economy companies
in the Basque Country
The Basque Country is a privileged land. The proximity of the ocean, the mountains and the forests have always inspired us to respect nature. As proof, our coastline has managed to preserve its authenticity in the face of the tourist success of our region. We are therefore entitled to encourage the emergence of projects related to renewable energies, recycling, marine energies and eco-design in our region.
This research work concerns various sectors, from waste management to energy, whether it be producing it (methanisation, marine farms), saving it (eco-design) or limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
We are fortunate in the Basque Country to host many projects in favor of the circular economy: blue economy, eco-construction, reduction of environmental impacts or transformation of our resources, we tell you more about this sector in the Basque Country.
The sea economy – or blue economy – concerns all activities linked to the sea: industry, logistics, innovation, agri-food, etc. The Basque Country is a prime location and a privileged land for this sector. The surfing industry, for example, which combines surfing, high tech and sustainable development, represents 4,000 jobs in New Aquitaine and an annual turnover of around 2 billion euros (source: EuroSIMA). The blue economy in New Aquitaine (coastal and maritime economy) represents 49,000 jobs, including 4,000 in the Basque Country, spread over 950 companies (source: Technopole Pays Basque)
Located at equal distance from the ports of Bordeaux and Bilbao, the port of Bayonne benefits from a privileged geographical situation. A strategic point for European trade, it offers a first-rate logistics platform. Located at the intersection of two motorways (North/South and East/West), the port is directly linked to the European rail network. It also benefits from the proximity of Biarritz international airport. The port is capable of handling all types of traffic (solid and liquid bulk, general cargo, metal products, containers, roll on/roll off, coastal shipping, special parcels, etc.).
The New Aquitaine Regional Council owns the Port of Bayonne and has entrusted its management to the BBC CCI (Bayonne Basque Country Chamber of Commerce and Industry). It offers the largest land reserve for companies in the Basque Country with 22 hectares available in the form of a temporary occupation permit (AOT) for industrial production activities linked to maritime traffic. An OFP (Local Railway Operator) is available to offer alternative solutions to multimodal transport (rail, road, ship).
According to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, an OFP is a “local railway SME providing local freight transport and managing the infrastructure in a delegated manner”. This makes possible to meet transport needs for short distances and to offer more ecological alternatives. For example, piggybacking makes it possible to reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles on the roads and thus reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but also transport costs linked to the cost of fuel.
From this blue economy sector, some clusters and projects are emerging to develop this sector, notably:
The Croissance Bleue cluster by the Nouvelle Aquitaine region: it enables the development of important marine resources, by mobilizing new technologies and drawing inspiration from the models that nature has created (biomimicry, bio sourced materials), in the service of a much more circular economy. Industrial activities must coexist with tourism to enable coastal employment. The aim is to increase the reputation of the region and the players involved on a national and international scale
ID Ocean, by the Technopole Pays Basque: taking its name from “Sustainable Innovation for the Ocean”, this project aims to make the Basque Country a laboratory for innovations for the coast and the ocean. This technopole will provide researchers and companies in the blue economy with cutting-edge scientific tools, and benefit from the region’s expertise in terms of marine biomimicry and eco-innovation. Biomimicry is a promising approach in which the players in the circular economy in France, and particularly in the Basque Country, are interested in developing innovative solutions inspired by nature. ID Océan can take advantage of the Créaluz incubator and prototyping workshop in Saint-Jean-de-Luz to develop its projects.
Our territory has resources to produce renewable energies: waves (marine energies), sun, agricultural waste that can be used for energy (heat, electricity, gas). There are many initiatives to make the most of these resources, while of course limiting the environmental impact.
The ESTIA (Ecole Supérieure des Technologies Industrielles Avancées), one of the best engineering schools in France based in the Basque Country, has developed a research platform (ENERGEA) which works on renewable energies (optimisation of electrical networks). Initially a real teaching tool, the platform has become a support for responding to orders from companies, but also as an aid to a more responsible construction of the new ESTIA building (ESTIA 3) aimed at welcoming more engineering students to the Basque Country.
The ocean can also be a renewable energy in its own right: this is what ID Océan is working on, in partnership with the New Aquitaine region and supported by the Technopole Pays Basque. Indeed, the technology park is experimenting with the feasibility of producing energy from waves, via a pilot wave farm.
In 2022, the Basque Country Agglomeration Community gave a boost to renewable energy by choosing Enargia (a local cooperative based in Ascain) to supply renewable energy to the 24 public and semi-public structures managed by its purchasing group. This allows the structures to benefit from local renewable energy at a satisfactory price. The Basque Country Agglomeration Community also allows its members to be supplied with biomethane, a 100% renewable natural gas, thanks to the supplier Gaz de Bordeaux.
In the Basque Country, 12% of energy needs are covered by local renewable energy. By 2030, the objective via the Climate Plan is to increase this share to 30%.
The circular economy in France is obviously marked by numerous waste management and recycling initiatives. The construction and public works sectors are particularly concerned by this need to limit their environmental impact, hence the birth of eco-construction.
In the Basque Country, an area is now dedicated to eco-construction: the Arkinova technopole. Located in Anglet and dedicated to sustainable construction, “part of the site is already occupied by the Nobatek technological resource center, the ISA BTP engineering school, laboratories at the University of Pau and the Pays de l’Adour, the Cantau High School and the Fédération Compagnonnique des Métiers du Bâtiment…” explains the Technopole Pays Basque.
Engineers and other specialists in sustainable development and construction work with the companies. Their mission: to integrate environmental criteria into real estate projects and the design of materials and construction processes.
An example of a company committed to the circular economy, and particularly eco-construction in the Basque Country is Patxa’ma. Created in 2019 under the status of an association, Patxa’ma started from the observation that 800,000 tonnes of waste are produced each year in the Basque Country by the construction sector (among the 228 million tonnes of waste produced in France). Despite the growing commitment of the Basque Country Community and local actors to the circular economy, it was necessary to act so that this waste could have a second life: this is what Patxa’ma has created. Working on building sites, they organize operations to recover materials destined to be thrown away and sell them at a fair price. “Since the start of Patxa’ma in 2019, we have diverted 100 tonnes of materials from the skip and put them back into the circuit,” explains Olivier Hirigoyen.
In terms of waste recycling, the Basque Country can count on other initiatives such as Resak or LookUp, companies that sell products made entirely from recycled plastic waste from the Basque region: the perfect example of the circular economy. Resak recycled 500 kg of waste in 2021, and has an ambition to manage 3000 kg in 2023, thanks to an increasingly important circular economy sector in our territory.
The textile industry is also a polluting industry in which certain efforts can be made to limit environmental impacts. HOPAAL, a 100% Basque brand, has understood this. HOPAAL is a responsible brand that protects and preserves the environment by re-inventing each stage of the value chain that is usually seen in the fashion system. Revaluing waste that will not end up in our garbage or in nature. Thanks to this innovative strategy, 88% of their materials were recycled by 2021. In addition, HOPAAL favors “made in France” with 88.5% of their weaving expenses and 52% of their clothing expenses going to French production workshops.
In the aeronautics sector, the challenge of developing the circular economy is a major one in this industry. This is the challenge taken up by Optima Aero, a Canadian company that set up its European headquarters in Anglet in 2022. Optima Aero is an innovator in its sector and specializes in helicopter recycling. Eventually, they will open a factory to dismantle helicopters, recycle and rehabilitate spare parts in order to resell them.
The Basque Country is a territory rich in resources, due to its natural elements such as the ocean, or the wealth of projects that have been or are being launched to promote a more circular economy in our region. On the whole, the Basque population wants to preserve its territory and is respectful of its environment, which is the envy of other regions. For this reason, the local authorities in the Basque Country are increasingly supporting and encouraging circular economy or blue economy projects, in order to continue this process of revaluing our resources. The clusters, technopoles and cooperatives demonstrate the dynamism of our region on the subject of the circular economy, and the very interesting synergies that can be generated with local engineering schools such as ESTIA, or even industrial sites.
Do you have a project in the circular economy? Do you want to implement an innovation for the benefit of the coastline and marine ecosystems? Do you have a solution to make our economy more sustainable, transform our waste management or develop a more responsible construction? Basque Invest can assist you in contacting the right people to help you with your project. The circular economy in France is a subject that concerns us all, and the Basque Country wishes to be an even more innovative and dynamic territory in this sector, and can benefit from numerous local support.