Processing invasive alien plants into useful products and input material for industry



Policy areas

Organisation name The city of Ljubljana

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Contact person: Zala Strojin Božič, Circular Economy Manager

Third prize winner in category Green in EPSA 2021:

In Slovenia, about 150 alien plant species can be found in nature, of which at least a third are invasive or potentially invasive. These are the so-called invasive alien plant species (IAPS), which have been recognised for several decades as one of the most important reasons for the decline of biodiversity. They can also cause economic and environmental damage, and some are even harmful to human health. Around 20% of land in the city of Ljubljana is protected with natural environment status, so it is vital that citizens know how to recognise and eradicate IAPS but at the same time, these plants can be taken into account for their potential without encouraging their systematic cultivation.

In this regard, the city of Ljubljana decided to address the issue in an innovative way and introduced a citizen involvement participative model. This is based on education and cooperation, and built on three levels of engagement according to citizens’ interests and motivations. The residents of Ljubljana are encouraged to recognise and process IAPS on their own, or they can access four locations where they can be educated and trained on how to do it. They can also simply hand over the biomass at the collection points. The project objectives are raising awareness and helping citizens on the identification, collection and use of IAPS. They include the development of new tools for the identification and inventory of IAPS sites, the analysis of biomass suitability and development of new IAPS products, and the establishment of a public information platform for the identification and control of IAPS.

In contrast to the past, the main objective of the new IAPS management system in the city of Ljubljana is to bring a paradigm shift to the specific IAPS management. It also introduces a more general conservation management approach. Therefore, the new management system recognises the potential of setting up a systematic participatory model which uses IAPS biomass to develop new sustainable products. Instead of burning the collected IAPS in incinerators or composting, the new approach focuses on controlling the IAPS population by developing a circular production process. In this way, it reduces CO2 emissions in the city and increases the resilience of local economies and ecologies.

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