How far has the circular economy progressed in Flanders and how fast? To find out, we need a detailed set of indicators. That is why the CE Center is working together with numerous transition partners on a Flemish monitor for the circular economy.
Today, the monitor bundles together more than 100 indicators. We have also made some analyses of these indicators.
1. How is the monitor structured?
There are many ways to measure the circular economy. Perhaps the most well-known is Circle Economy’s Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative. This initiative bundles many statistics into a single figure. Their conclusion: the Dutch economy is 24.5% circular while the global economy is 8.6% circular. We are not going to reinvent the wheel, but we are choosing a different path for Flanders. That of a layered monitor.
To that end, the CE Center has built a framework that allows us to select and develop indicators. The concept consists of three layers, from a high and abstract level to a low and concrete level:
First is a top layer of ‘macro indicators’.
These macro indicators summarize the progress towards a circular economy for the whole of Flanders. They provide insight into our consumption of materials, water, soil and space.
Below these are the intermediate indicators.
They measure four systems of need: housing, food & water, consumer goods and mobility. By opting for systems of need, and not for sectors (construction, car industry, etc.), we can view the indicators from a broader perspective. Our (circular) economy has to meet these needs anyway, that is beyond doubt. However, there are many and varied ways to fulfil these needs. A mobility need can be met, for example, by wider roads, more cars, longer buses, more trains, more shared cars, and so on. So we will not just look at the production of cars or houses, but at the most complete picture possible at the level of need.
We then fill in the picture as completely as possible with existing and new sources of data. For mobility, for example, we collect numerous figures ranging from the number of car-sharing subscriptions, to the number of passengers on public transport, to the ultimate destination of discarded tyres.
Finally, we supplement these two layers with figures for certain specific products or services.
In doing so, we create a representative sample of our daily consumption. This sample must, of course, keep a close link with the circular economy. An example: the turnover of repair shops for mobile phones. Is our spending on repairing electronics increasing or decreasing? We have not yet included the micro level in this monitor.
2. Where does the data come from?
The data for the monitor comes from a wide range of sources. Within each system of need, for example, we rely on numerous organisations and governments that have figures on a sub-aspect. For example, we received help from MIRA (Environmental Outlook Flanders) with data on emissions, from Febelauto to visualise end-of-life vehicle processing, and the FPS Mobility and Transport for data on transport in Flanders.
Each indicator has been carefully selected and substantiated in scientific analyses by the CE Center. You can find the underlying reports here.
3. So how circular is Flanders?
21%. That’s the short answer to the question. This figure represents the cyclical material use rate (CMUR) for Flanders in 2018. In 2014 it was 16% – so we seem to be improving, mainly due to increased recycling in Flanders.
The long answer, of course, is more nuanced: the circularity of the Flemish economy cannot actually be captured in a single figure. After all, each figure has its own strengths and weaknesses due to the underlying calculations. To obtain a rigorous picture of the circularity of our economy, it’s best to dive deeper. We do this by looking at the material accounting of the Flemish economy, at the socio-economic and ecological effects of our economy, and at how it provides for our needs such as food, water, housing, mobility and consumer goods.
4. Who is participating in the monitor?
The CE Monitor is an ambitious and collective effort: we can only arrive at a meaningful picture for Flanders by combining data.
- The CE Center, a scientific consortium financed by OVAM, the Department of Science and Innovation, and Flanders Circular, built the framework and coordinates the implementation and updates of the monitor.
- The Public Waste Agency of Flanders, OVAM, provides relevant indicators from its field of expertise.
- The Department of Economy, Science and Innovation also provides feedback and data.
- On behalf of the CE Center, VITO has provided an update of some key circular economy indicators on the basis of the most recent data.
- Within each system of need, we rely on numerous organisations and government bodies that have figures on individual sub-aspects. For example, we received help from MIRA (Environmental Outlook Flanders) with data on emissions, from Febelauto to visualise end-of-life vehicle processing, figures on ‘Loop shops’ (Kringwinkels) we get from HERW!N…
- Circular Flanders funds and manages the online monitor.
We welcome any offer to provide additional data or input. Please contact email@example.com.
5. Will this monitor be added to?
Yes. What you see today is the first version of a work in progress. During construction, the researchers at the CE Center took note of a number of gaps in the available data. We want to eliminate these gaps step by step through further research.
We certainly don’t have a complete picture of all the systems of need yet. The link with the themed strategic agendas in the policy also needs to be further developed, so that we can link policy actions to concrete indicators in the monitor.
Circular Flanders and the CE Center will therefore continue to invest in further expansions, updates and adjustments to the monitor in the coming years.
6. Do other monitors exist?
Our ambition for Flanders is to bundle all relevant data on the circular economy in this online monitor. There are of course other related monitors with a different focus:
- The Green Economy Monitor of the Department of Environment maps the sustainable transition of the Flemish economy.
- Environmental Outlook Flanders (MIRA) describes, analyses and evaluates the state of the Flemish environment, discusses current environmental policy and looks ahead to possible environmental developments.
- The Spatial Report (Ruimterapport) Flanders describes, analyzes and evaluates the state of space/spatial fabric in Flanders based on the latest available figures.
Abroad, you can find the following noteworthy monitors of circular economy:
- The Integral Circular Economy Report (ICER) outlines the progress of the transition to a circular economy in the Netherlands.
- Eurostat also tracks circular economy indicators for each member state of the European Union.