Together with VITO, among others, Port of Antwerp investigated how to meet the needs of circular enterprise.

Flanders is aiming to be an international leader in the field of circular economy. The Port of Antwerp wants to play an important role in this.  

The port has a great many assets for the transition to a circular economy. These include the extensive chemical cluster, the presence of waste processing companies, logistical facilities and ample storage space, which together offer opportunities for joint use of transport and land and for the (re-) use of by-products and waste products from one company by another. As an active partner of the symbiosis platform, Port of Antwerp organises workshops where buyers and sellers of valuable materials can find each other and companies can collaborate on closing water cycles. 

Port of Antwerp is aiming to develop the port into a cluster of circular logistics chains that organise the return logistics of waste and end-of-life products, to then be recycled into new materials and feedstock for the chemical cluster.  

VITO as a knowledge partner 

In order to make the right strategic decisions for the future and to further develop the port in this direction, Port of Antwerp is relying upon VITO, among other partners.  

For several years, VITO has been a permanent knowledge partner for Port of Antwerp in the field of circular economy and sustainable chemistry. Along with several other partners, VITO is investigating how the port area can best be developed to meet the needs of companies in their transition to a circular economy.  

Through research, VITO collected data and looked at what circular enterprise could mean for Port of Antwerp in practice. VITO initially examined which waste flows pass through the port and for which of these it would be beneficial to develop additional activities. Plastic waste emerged from the analysis as a promising flow for developing chemical recycling activities. The amount of space required for this was also considered. 

NextGen District 

Pilot projects on “Waste-to-Fuel” and “Waste-to-Chemicals” in the wider environment were then mapped out. VITO explored what is already happening and what is in the pipeline in major port areas and the hinterland in the region of Rotterdam, Dunkirk, Zeebrugge and Hamburg. VITO not only focused on the gaps that Port of Antwerp could fill in the future here, but also mapped out the existing fabrics in which Antwerp could play a strengthening role. VITO went in search of complementarity to strengthen these fabrics. The port wanted to deepen its knowledge of these activities in order to make better-informed choices for the development of, for example, NextGen District (the former General Motors site). Port of Antwerp is aiming to develop NextGen District into the circular hotspot of Europe, where recycling activities produce renewable raw materials, circular carbon solutions are researched and experiments on renewable energy are carried out. NextGen District fits in with Port of Antwerp's ambitions for sustainability, in which energy transition and the transition to a circular economy are top priorities. 

Chemical recycling 

At the same time, studies were being carried out in order to draw up an inventory of technologies for sustainable chemistry and the port, under the direction of Möbius (and with the support of VITO), started a ‘knowledge-driven dialogue’ with a number of players at the port to find out what their ideas were on chemical recycling. Other stakeholders, such as essenscia, Denuo and OVAM, were also involved. 

Finally, an investigation was conducted into the availability of material sources for chemical recycling. Thanks to the collaboration with VITO, the port has strengthened its knowledge of the plastic recycling chain. 

VITO's research results provide Port of Antwerp with the tools it needs to make the right, well-founded decisions for the future. Port of Antwerp will now put these into practice, along with the in-house knowledge they already have and the input from players already present at the port, by looking for those companies that can contribute to the Port of Antwerp's sustainability objectives. Do you see an opportunity to work with Port of Antwerp on circular economy issues? Please contact Jessica Gerritsen or – especially for closing water cycles – Cynthia Pauwels

Do you want to make the transition to a circular economy, like Port of Antwerp? Do you think VITO can help you? Please don't hesitate to ask for our help. We help companies and governments make the transition to greater circularity through research and advice.