To close the loop_Working man

To close the loop, existing business models need to be questioned

Interview with Brigitte Mouligneau, Transition Manager Circular Economy


“Circular economy is of fundamental importance for the future. Circular Flanders translates the ambitions of our region into specific actions. We are looking at six working agendas: circular construction, the bioeconomy, circular chemistry and plastics, the manufacturing industry, food chain and water cycles.”

To  Companies, midfield organisations and knowledge institutions combine their knowledge, expertise and commitment to tackle the bottlenecks related to circular entrepreneurship and production. Major steps will be taken in the coming years to close sustainable cycles via the node and inspirer, Circular Flanders.

Brigitte Mouligneau

Brigitte Mouligneau, Circular Flanders

Welcome to the world's largest chemical cluster

“Our region has a lot to offer. Not only are we the frontrunner in terms of chemistry, we’ve also come a long way in circular construction. Two aspects will receive extra attention in the coming years: how to maximise the reuse of materials from demolished buildings, how to recycle high-quality materials, and how to ensure that buildings last longer and can change their function more easily. Certainly the latter requires a different understanding of how we develop and design buildings. Companies such as Facadeclick, which developed a fast-build system for seamless circular façades, or Juunoo, which creates circular partition walls with which office buildings can be quickly divided differently, are good examples of this.”

Flanders is home to one of the largest chemical clusters in the world. Brigitte Mouligneau:

“Currently, chemistry still mainly works with primary raw materials, but more and more work is being done on high-quality recycling, a second life of raw materials and how these materials can then be reused in the manufacturing industry.

Our Flemish research centres, such as the universities and VITO, have an important role to play in this sector, investigating which recyclates are suitable for safe reuse and how we can reprocess them. For this, close cooperation with foreign companies is essential: we can recycle the raw materials and bring them back into the economy via an international sales market.”

Flanders has a lot to offer in terms of circular economy.

Circular Economy

Challenge current business models

“Reuse and high-quality recycling are also high on the agenda in the manufacturing industry. We will focus on two sectors in the coming years: textiles and electronics. Producing, maintaining and recycling high-quality textiles can ensure the re-emergence of a strong textile industry in Flanders. Good ecodesign, a longer life span and recoverability could also close the loop there.

We should not only look at the products themselves, but also question the current business models. Can a product be repaired? Or does the manufacturer ensure that the consumer has to buy a new product? We are already doing well here in Belgium, and there are still many opportunities in a lot of sectors. Think about batteries: how can we design them better, make them last longer or use them for other projects and give them a second life.

Speaking of this second life, the second-hand shops in our country are a unique concept. There we buy and sell used clothes, electrical goods, furniture and other items that are still in good condition, and you can also go to some of those stores for household electronics repairs. In this way, we ensure that people, through the social economy develop skills that are important in a circular economy.

To truly design and produce in a circular way, we need support from Europe. We must pursue product standardisation and ecodesign. The right to repair is extremely important. This requires a legal framework, across national borders, soon.”

Food waste as raw material for the construction sector

“Our food production must be more sustainable, with the short chain as standard. Are the current business models still sustainable? Can we use the parts of the food we don’t eat in a different way? Consider maize: the small cobs require a giant plant. Can’t we use those stems for anything else? Or hemp, which has a highly insulating function. That can offer opportunities to build more sustainably.

In the coming years, Flanders is investing a great deal in the bioeconomy. Demand for sustainable products is rising, especially in the construction sector. The research is ongoing at the moment, we need to test these results further in practice. The Scientific and Technical Centre for the Construction Industry (WTCB) and VITO play an important role in this.

The water cycle also deserves attention. Take a look at our breweries, for example: should we be cleaning the plants on the outside with potable water? Or can we use purified water? We also want to close water cycles for the construction sector, so that drainage water, for example, goes to a good destination and does not just flow away into the sewer system. We can also appeal to strong partners such as Aquafin and Waterl’eau for this.”

We can use the parts of the food we don't eat in a different way.


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