The circular economy offers challenges and opportunities for Flanders. For thirty years now, Flanders has been pursuing an ambitious waste and materials policy and it is one of the world's leading regions 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 ten largest waste streams alone provides 21,000 jobs and a turnover of 16.6 million euros. Yet so much more is possible.

Research manager Sustainable Materials
+32 14 33 58 92

Where are the circular opportunities in Flanders?

We are already successful in recycling non-ferrous materials in Flanders. But where is there scope for improvement? We need to improve the collection circuits and boost the associated industrial activity.

Recycling hub for metals

In order to support this transition, VITO is working on projects relating to waste characterisation and recovery of valuable metals from waste and residual flows.

Foto characterise-to-sort

VITO's 'Characterise-to-Sort' technology uses artificial intelligence to determine the physical and chemical properties, composition and value of complex material flows. Work is under way to scale up this technology as part of the Charamba project.

Sustainable recovery of precious metals
photo precious metals

Many precious metals are lost as waste or by-products of industrial and mining activities.  VITO is looking for solutions to sustainably recover valuable metals and make them available to industry as part of various research projects such as Tarantula, Platirus and Nemo

From fossil fuels to renewable raw materials for chemistry

There are already many developments under way in relation to the switch from petrochemical to renewable basic raw materials such as biomass or captured CO2. The big challenge is plastics:  an interesting and light packaging material that reduces food waste. However, plastics are made from fossil fuels and tonnes of plastics are incinerated instead of recycled. How do we switch to a plastics loop? We recycle plastics into basic raw materials of plastics and high value chemicals, also known as chemical recycling


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VITO is working on the circular use of CO2, plastics and water as part of the CAPTURE research platform.

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VITO is researching how the chemical industry can obtain its raw materials in a sustainable way from renewable bio-based sources within the shared research centre Biorizon.

Circular construction

In the construction sector, there is still a great deal of potential for high-quality recycling and reuse of building materials. How can we work towards closing the loops? For example, how can we make concrete from recycled concrete? And with 70 to 90% recycled material?

VITO is involved in the Green Deal for Circular Construction. Together with OVAM, we have initiated a partnership relating to an experimental and learning environment, in which experiences are shared.

In addition, VITO is working on two testing grounds:

  • Urban Mining: opportunities and obstacles in current construction and demolition practices to improve valorisation of waste and material streams
  • Change-orientated (re)construction: This way of designing, building, cooperating and creating value allows us to consider buildings as material banks in the future and avoids the creation of construction and demolition waste while creating added value.

Read more about our projects

Looking for deeper analysis, indicators and reports

Visit the website of the Circular Economy Policy Research Centre