Valuable metals and raw materials are scarce in Europe. As import gets more expensive, the focus shifts to recovery and reuse. Flanders plays a leading role there, with its long-standing experience on wastecollection and -processing.


For 30 years, Flanders has had an ambitious waste and materials policy and it is one of the leading regions in the world in terms of circular economy. In 2016, OVAM (the Public Waste Agency of Flanders) received the Circular Economy Award at the annual World Economic Forum. Waste processing is a fully fledged branch of industry in our region. The processing of the 10 largest waste streams alone represents 21,000 jobs and a turnover of 16.6 million euros.

Vlaanderen Circulair

VITO is a loyal partner to OVAM and is part of Vlaanderen Circulair (Flanders Circular), the Flemish centre for the circular economy. The movement brings citizens, policymakers, researchers and entrepreneurs together and supports them through circular purchasing projects, tools for policymakers and innovations for companies. VITO lent its support to the initiative and seconded two employees to the offices of Vlaanderen Circulair.

VITO is also part of the Circular Economy Support Point, which was set up within Vlaanderen Circulair to streamline the policy-relevant research regarding the circular economy in Flanders.

Flanders Recycling Hub

Flemish expertise may attract even more valuable waste streams in the future. This is the goal of the Flanders Recycling Hub, a partnership between VIL, OVAM, VITO and 24 companies. Together we want to develop Flanders into an international recycling hub. Our region not only has the necessary expertise, but thanks to a number of major ports it also has an excellent logistical position for processing large streams of materials.

Sharing knowledge and expertise in Europe

Flemish expertise regarding waste processing is also valuable in the rest of Europe. Together we can reduce our dependence on imported raw materials. EIT Raw Materials, of which VITO also forms part, is a European platform that shares knowledge and expertise in the fields of recycling, green mining and substitution of critical materials. The co-location centre for Western Europe is in Leuven and is led by VITO expert Karl Vrancken.

One of the sections we manage at EIT Raw Materials is the PreFlex network, a European database that maps out knowledge and infrastructure for the pre-treatment or physical separation of waste. The network gives its partners quick access to research infrastructure such as labs, pilot plants and tools for creating models.

In addition, VITO is a member of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Raw Materials and acts as coordinator for the European Topic Centre for Waste and Materials in a Green Economy (ETC/WMGE) of the European Environment Agency.