Project summary

Reuse Centres are usually managed by SMEs, often social enterprises, that receive, prepare for reuse and distribute goods extending their product lifetimes with important social and environmental impacts, promoting a circular economy vision. They are a powerful vehicle to promote qualitative growth, help develop human capital and strengthen social cohesion. To fulfil this mission reuse centres need to have an economically sustainable business model, an issue that will be at the centre of the project. SUBTRACT will concentrate on the post start-up and scaling-up phases to render reuse centres effective and durable, i.e. to have a steady flow of incoming and outgoing goods well prepared for reuse, a professional management, a suitable financial strategy and an attractive image for the users.

The project will research knowledge, exchange experiences, develop guidelines on how to develop the full potentials of reuse centres and render them competitive and will provide guidance to the ERDF managing authorities and other policy makers on how to assess and govern reuse centres in their territory. It will strengthen them in their capacity to enact efficient policies of sustaining reuse centres in becoming self-sustaining, evaluating their management, their investment and innovation readiness, measuring their impact. The elaboration of business principles and models will help actors along the reuse chain (regional and local governments, waste management authorities, NGOs, social enterprises) to collaborate effectively and strengthen networks. Measures will be identified and rendered operational that enforce waste prevention and preparation for reuse activities and favour citizens’ contributions. Efficient awareness strategies, campaign models and other suitable measures will be developed and tested to stimulate the supply and demand of reusable goods and render them attractive and desirable.


from 1 Aug 2019
to 31 Jan 2023

SME competitiveness

What policy instruments does the project address?

TO3 - Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, (24% of total ERDF resources) investment priority 3c), Specific objective 3.5) Dissemination and strengthening of economic activities with a social content.

Umbria has a strong sector of social enterprises that accounts for 7.9% of total employment. The ERDF OP Umbria points at enterprises that provide goods and services not guaranteed by the market, to improve their qualification and give work particularly to young people and women. The objective is to increase the jobs in the sector by 5.46%, also strengthening the Europe 2020 strategy (reduction of emissions).

SUBTRACT can improve this policy instrument by furnishing concrete and praxis oriented know-how on how to make re-use centres lighthouse projects in this sector through business models that point at augmenting self sustainment as a precondition for being future proof. What is true for re-use centres applies to a large part of the SMEs in this sector: the support through public money will diminish or dry up. An important criterion for assigning EDF funds must be a business model that points towards an increase of self-sustainment. On this basis occupation can be increased by scaling-up and combining in an organic way the economic and social objectives of inclusive growth and social cohesion with contributing to the transformation towards a circular economy and the reduction of waste and emissions.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Umbrian Regional Waste and Water Agency

Selected Thematic Objective: (3) “Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs, of the agricultural sector (for the EAFRD) and of the fishery and aquaculture sector (for the EMFF)”


Selected Investment Priority: Promoting entrepreneurship, in particular by facilitating the economic exploitation of new ideas and fostering the creation of new firms, including through business incubators


One of the key obstacles to growth and development of enterprises in Slovenia is a sustainable financial strategy for SMEs to not risk over-indebtedness and the deterioration in their asset quality. The present focus is on easing SMEs access to sources of finance on favorable terms, with the aim of stimulating growth and development of SMEs, in line with the orientations of the Small Businesses Act. The NRP 2013–2014 envisages the creation of a comprehensive set of actions to create better conditions for the growth and development of SMEs.

SUBTRACT should widen the perspective of the policy makers in the field of competitiveness of SME’s policies to deal with post-start up and scaling up issues and it should deliver know-how and guidelines on how to monitor, assess and evaluate the 2014-2020 policies.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Regional Development Agency of Northern Primorska ltd. Nova Gorica

Among the investment priorities of the Government of Catalonia, the project will address TO 3 - to improve the competitiveness of SMEs, bringing together the priority to improve the competitiveness of social enterprises with the implementation of circular economy measures in a green economy perspective as indicated in the OP (2.A.6.1 p. 109 f).

The main goal of SUBTRACT is to help partners to better address the competitiveness of SMEs. It will be focused on how to increase feasibility of sustainable business on second hand goods through eco-innovative solutions, defining and sharing best practices, under good business models and circular economy criteria. The current generation of waste flows in Catalonia that can easily be reused directly or prepared for re-use, as well as the increasing number of private or public initiatives around reuse centres, highlight the need to promote innovative actions and to establish more strategic action plans and guidelines.

The Government of Catalonia considers that green economy and efficient use of resources go together for the competitiveness of business sector and for people's quality of life and wellbeing. Even though the project is focused on SMEs’ competitiveness, it will also have impact on priority 6 – “To conserve and protect the environment and promote resource efficiency”.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Waste Agency of Catalonia

The overall purpose of the Operational Programme is to contribute to a long-term sustainable economic growth by strengthening regional competitiveness and reinforcing the region's position as an innovative and successful area within Europe. The project refers to TO 3d, “Supporting the capacity of SMEs to grow”. OP mentions the support of social enterprise (p.14) and the increase of resource efficiency in all sectors (p. 15) and underlines a “green shift” for SMEs in Upper Norrland (74).

The project will provide for policy makers specific and conrete know-how and guidelines in the sector of re-use centres on how to strenthen the SMEs there in their development, increasing at the same time resouce efficiency and strengthening circular economy. It will “contribute to capacity building, to strengthen the involvment of small and medium.sized enterprises in the EU-programmes for innovation, research and sustainable growth” (83). It will thus contribute to evaluate and assess the present OP “Investment for Growth and Jobs” as to it SMEs’ policies and provide valuable indications on how to strengthen the SMEs’ policies in the field of re-use centres in terms of development and growth giving also indications for the next period.

Which partners are working on this?
  • VAKIN (Water and waste competence in the north)

In view of a stagnating recession and slow-motion economic decline in Finland in the last years the Finnish OP is meant to contribute to turn the economy around on the path of sustainable growth and job creation. SMEs play a central role in in putting the economy on a path of sustained growth and while ICT and Fishery are Finland’s key industries the service sector is crucial for sustainable change and better economic performance. Improving the competitiveness of SMEs receives about 20% of the total OP allocations and SUBTRACT aiming at TO 3, specific objective is 2.1, supporting SMEs in all stages of their life cycle to develop and achieve growth and engage in innovation contributes to improving the policies in this field by concentrating on re-use centers as central actors in a transition towards a circular economy. The project will define the conditions for operating with solid new business models in this sector and at the same time create a bridge towards a low carbon economy, which is a high priority in Finland.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Center ltd

The Policy Instrument that was being considered at the time of the project application, the Investment in Growth and Employment Operational Programme Austria 2014-2020, can no longer be addressed, as the funding period of the programme has expired, and no budgetary funds are available.

Therefore, the project partner Styria is now addressing another Policy Instrument over which it has significant influence: the Waste Management Plan of Styria.

This plan, which is regularly revised based on the Styrian Provincial Waste Management Act and which, after a decision by the Styrian Provincial Government, represents the guidelines for the implementation of waste management in the federal state, is drawn up by the same department that is a project partner in the SUBTRACT project.

Reuse is a central component of the plan and in the course of the Subtract project essential proposals and measures are developed, which in turn have a high influence on the revision of the existing plan.

In the meantime, the Action plan within SUBTRACT of the Region of Styria is available, which contains measures, which will be implemented in the next year and will also be a basic part - apart from other learnings coming from SUBTRACT - for the revision of the Waste Management Plan of Styria in 2023.

Which partners are working on this?
  • Office of the Regional Government of Styria, Directorate 14 – Water Management, Resources and Sustainability