Making Flanders and the Flemish ports a centre for material flows and recycling activities. That is the goal of Flanders Recycling Hub, an initiative of the Flemish Institute for Logistics (VIL), in collaboration with the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) and VITO. For the project, 27 Flemish companies joined forces to position Flanders as a global player in the processing of waste and material flows.

Flanders among world leaders in waste collection and processing

Thanks to more than 30 years of ambitious waste and materials policy, Flanders is among the world leaders in waste collection and processing. Waste activities represent a full-fledged industry, making waste an important raw material for our region. Dirk Nelen of VITO: "With over 21,000 jobs and 16.6 million euros in annual revenue from the 10 most important waste streams, the recycling and waste management business in Flanders already has significant economic value. In terms of logistics, the sector accounts for 6.3 million tonnes of imports and 6.1 million tonnes of exports per year. To accomplish the large-scale transformation of the economy to a circular economy, we must attract more and larger waste streams. At the same time we need to obtain more value from the waste produced here that is still being shipped for processing abroad." How can we realise these ambitions? That is the task of VIL, OVAM, VITO and a group of companies in the Flanders Recycling Hub. The project partners aim to have their roadmap ready by the end of 2017.

Logistics hub

Steve Sel of VIL: "We are looking for ways to develop Flanders into an international recycling hub where materials are brought in, recuperated and re-exported. The unique and central location of our ports make them ideal logistics hubs. Moreover, they have the infrastructure and grounds for recycling activities. By attracting streams through the ports, we not only give our own materials sector a boost, but this will give momentum to true industrial materials logistics at the ports, internationally as well as locally and regionally."


No less than 27 companies have committed themselves to the project and are helping to find promising new waste streams for the recycling and waste management industry. Steve Sel: "An interesting mix of sectors have signed up: these include logistics providers, shippers, recycling companies, port operators, infrastructure managers, a provincial development company and even a sheltered workshop. This cross-fertilisation is an added value on the path to a fully developed recycling hub."

Five pilot projects

Three workshops with the participating companies resulted in 29 interesting proposals from which value can be derived from the processing of Flemish and imported waste streams into valuable raw materials. Peter Stouthuysen of VITO: "In a first phase, our circular economy experts analysed in depth the most promising streams. Then the proposals of the companies were clustered into eight potential business cases. From these, the 27 companies together selected the five best cases. A detailed cost-benefit analysis and logistics plan are now being developed for these cases. Of course, the environmental aspect is also considered. The project also foresees the implementation of pilot projects to explore the practical aspects."

"The findings of the pilot projects should help Flanders to decide on investments, infrastructure projects and possible impediments to the further growth of our economy without increasing the consumption of raw materials," concludes Peter Stouthuysen.