The circular economy is not only the key to a sustainable materials policy, it also creates jobs and stimulates prosperity. According to a study by the Centre for Sustainable Materials Management conducted in 2014, the circular economy can deliver 27 000 jobs in Flanders. As a key partner of Circular Flanders, VITO supports companies and governments in the transition to a circular business model.

The circular economy offers a solution to the increasing scarcity of raw materials and will also create more jobs. No wonder that promotion of the circular economy is one of the seven transition priorities that the Flemish Government presented in its Vision 2050. And Europe too, in its ambitious action plan for the circular economy, is striving for more competitive industry through the smarter management of material cycles. VITO is contributing to the transition to a circular economy by providing companies with innovative solutions for high-quality recycling, reuse and remanufacturing. VITO is playing a key role in Circular Flanders (Vlaanderen Circulair), the new public-private partnership for a circular economy in Flanders.

Working together creates win-win

Circular Flanders is the successor to the Flemish Materials Programme, Plan C and the Centre for Sustainable Materials Management, and is embedded in public waste agency OVAM. Circular Flanders is the hub and the inspiration for the circular economy in Flanders. It undertakes practical actions to stimulate its partners to invest in circular solutions. VITO experts Karen Vanderstraeten and Philip Marynissen strengthen the multidisciplinary team of Circular Flanders. “In this way, VITO connects with all actors working on the circular economy. And Circular Flanders teaches us more about our innovative solutions and technologies,” says Philip Marynissen. A clear win-win situation.

Easy transition

Circular Flanders works aroundthree pillars: the circular city, circular purchases and circular business. Karen Vanderstraeten and Philip Marynissen are responsible for the last theme. “We assist companies that want to close their material cycles by seeking a match with other companies and partners within and outside the existing value chain. We also give advice on the various financing options,” explains Karen Vanderstraeten. Philip Marynissen: “Many companies are familiar with the term ‘circular economy’, but are often unaware of the specific opportunities for their company. These opportunities sometimes lie in new collaborations with organisations or in yet unknown financing channels. We apply our broad perspective, our network, our experience and our knowledge to help companies along their way. This saves them a lot of time and helps them to find opportunities faster. A tailor-made approach is essential to move successfully from ‘planning’ to ‘action’ when implementing an innovation such as a circular business. Our approach in the first place is designed to make it easier. We use for example VITO’s Risk & Race board game. This teaches customers how the circular economy can offer an answer to their challenges.” Companies that are a step further and are looking for more specific inspiration are referred to The Circulator, a publicly accessible online database with inspiring practical examples developed by VITO in collaboration with Plan C. “The Circulator is being enthusiastically received by companies. We will be expanding the database in the future with new cases and extra information.”

136 project proposals

 Using targeted calls for project proposals, Circular Flanders aims to activate and inspire the business community to focus more on the circular economy. In 2017, for example, there was already a fi rst call for projects in the context of the Green Deal Circular Purchasing programme and a call for the circular city and/or circular business. Karen Vanderstraeten: “Local governments, companies, research institutions, organisations and individuals – together or on their own – were able to submit experimental, dissemination and demonstration projects. No fewer than 136 project proposals were received. In mid- December 2017, 63 projects received support. The circular economy is clearly alive in Flanders!”