Waste is 'out' in Antwerp
Flanders is a densely populated region with a longstanding industrial tradition. Strict environmental legislation, diversified waste disposal and an integrated approach: together with the continuous efforts of residents and companies, they have led to a circular economy in which industrial and household waste is kept to a minimum and energy and materials are recovered as much as possible.
Thanks to strong, integrated solutions the region of Antwerp has built itself a solid lead in waste management. At the table are KRISTEL MOULAERT of ISVAG (55 employees), the Antwerp inter-municipal waste management cooperation and PAUL DE BRUYCKER of Indaver (1700 employees) which offers Total Waste Management Solutions to the industry and society.
What's the link between the industry and society?
KRISTEL MOULAERT: "Household waste is reducing, but the population is growing: the challenge remains. Our capacity is not enough, 40,000 tonnes are processed by Indaver annually."
But this means that part of the municipal waste is outsourced to a hazardous industrial waste processor?
PAUL DE BRUYCKER: "It's important to nuance this statement. The surplus of ISVAG goes to the Indaver Waste-to-energy plant for commercial and household waste and sludge treatment - in line with the latest EU directives. Our core business is chemical processing, waste recycling and energy recovery; to the tune of around 5,000,000 tonnes per year. In the field of specialised hazardous waste management, Indaver has a market share of almost 20 percent in Europe.
The evolution is irreversible: from dumping to detoxification to recovery and energy recovery. By recycling minerals and metals, we are doing much-needed city mining in Flanders. We send high pressure steam to chemical companies through our ECLUSE heat network. Less than 1 percent of Antwerp's waste ends up in the landfill. We are rapidly evolving into a zero waste organisation, in the sense that no resources are wasted."
What more can be done to further strengthen the circular economy?
KRISTEL MOULAERT: "We've been producing electricity for many years and now we are also developing a district heating network. In the short term we will deliver heat to nearby companies, in the long term we want to be the catalyst for the deployment of a regional heat network. We'll stay close to the residential areas, after the Scandinavian example. Centralised, small energy hubs that work towards one another and cluster to form larger heat networks. Waste-to-energy
can be combined with water purification or electricity production. You can place a hydrogen fuel station alongside a traffic artery. This creates local participation."
PAUL DE BRUYCKER: "This allows you to cluster energy capacity on business sites and respond to energy demand. Our steam and hot water network is expanding. In Hamburg, a city with major climate targets, we are connected to the city heat network. The same as we want to realise in Antwerp. With ECLUSE we save 100,000 tonnes of CO² per annum in the Antwerp region."
Innovation and value creation require a good business model and strong synergies. In this, Flanders and Antwerp are an example.
PAUL DE BRUYCKER: "You need people who will take the lead as they believe in it, and political will in terms of environment, economy and technology. Waste processors play a major role in sustainability and value creation because, as enablers, we are at the centre of the chain. Especially our policy is exportable. Our system of reusing and separating at source through selective collection has been ripened over years and significantly reduces the operational cost of waste disposal. You can innovate together with private partners. We deliver residual heat or CO² to Proviron, a chemical company that produces algae at an old Antwerp landfill operated by Indaver. Those algae are used as raw materials. Such partnerships can be launched across Europe from our sites."
KRISTEL MOULAERT: "It is clear that the contribution of Flemish knowledge and experience in relation to waste and materials management within a circular economy could be immensely valuable for a large number of other countries, regions and cities. We have committed, together with OVAM, VITO and Interafval, to actively reach out and support
cities, regions and countries in their quest for a solution to actual waste and materials problems within a regional and global circular economy."