How Flanders is working on the circular economy

1. In partnership

The Flemish Government wants to make Flanders a circular leader in Europe. It aims to do this by investing in circular innovation, decoupling the material footprint of our consumption from economic growth and reducing it by 30% by 2030. In this way we can reduce the environmental impact of our economy, become less dependent on imports of raw materials and create opportunities for (social) innovation.

That is why Flanders is investing in the ambitious Circular Flanders  partnership. The partnership is a joint venture of more than 20 public and private organisations, bringing together people and resources to boost the circular economy here in Flanders and to coordinate efforts. 

2. With six themed strategic agendas…

The circular transition is a project too big in scope to leave to one team or organisation. For upscaling – mainstreaming – we need many hands and many different kinds of expertise. That is why Circular Flanders is organised into six themed strategic agendas:

  1. bioeconomy
  2. circular construction
  3. chemistry/plastics
  4. manufacturing
  5. food chain
  6. watercourses

Each themed strategic agenda is a partnership in itself and has a public (government) and a private (trade federation, industry) leader.

Together they formulate ambitions, draw up the strategy and, above all, take action. Policy measures for the circular economy can also be included for action in a themed strategic agenda.

The topics of the Flanders Circular themed strategic agendas link seamlessly with the priorities that the European Union has set out in the Green Deal, among others.

3. …and with seven levers

Creating and implementing themed strategic agendas is no guarantee of success. In order to realize the transition to the circular economy, many barriers, rules or habits from the ‘linear economy’ still need to be tackled. Support is also needed in the areas of communication, funding and robust scientific research.

That is why, in parallel with the themed strategic agendas, we are focusing on eight levers. These levers address challenges that are common to multiple themed strategic agendas.

  1. funding;
  2. communication;
  3. research;
  4. jobs and skills;
  5. circular purchasing;
  6. innovation and enterprise;
  7. policy instruments.

In spring 2022, Circular Flanders will launch the actions under the different themed strategic agendas. At the same time, the partnership will also present its vision on a circular future for Flanders.

4. With investments

Between 2017 and 2022, Flanders invested more than 21 million euros in experimental projects and knowledge-sharing projects in the circular economy. Circular construction projects in particular received funding.

In the same period, some 2 million euros were spent on policy-relevant research in the CE Center and 1.3 million on the research consortium ‘Proeftuin Circulair Bouwen’ (Circular Construction Testing Ground).

In addition, the circular economy became a particular focus of attention for the successive ministers in charge of economy and innovation in the Cluster operation (innovation budgets). This resulted in a number of larger projects amounting to EUR 5.9 million.

For the period 2022-2024, Minister Demir (Environment and Energy) envisages:

  • 30 million euros to be invested in innovative recycling projects;

and Minister Crevits (Economy, Innovation, Employment, Social Economy and Agriculture) is planning:

  • 10 million euros for circular construction
  • 15 million euros for the manufacturing industry
  • 47 million euros for the bioeconomy

Within the Circular Flanders partnership, Ministers Crevits and Demir agreed to also use regular government resources for innovation (in the broad sense), employment and social economy, training, entrepreneurship support, etc., where necessary.

The Participation Company Flanders (PMV) and the federation of Belgian financial institutions Febelfin are pulling together leveraged finance and will work together to see which projects are ready for further scaling up and investment in due course.

The operating budget (expertise, research, communication) of Circular Flanders has been increased to 2 million euros since June 2021. These funds come from the budgets of Minister Demir and Minister Crevits, each providing half.

In addition, the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) and the Flemish Department of Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI) are each investing 200,000 euros in the 2022-2026 CE Center.

5. To measure is to know

The goal, however broad, is clear: to strive for a circular economy. However, to know where we stand and whether we are on the right track, we need to measure.

That is why Flanders is investing in the Circular Economy Monitor. The monitor presents more than 100 indicators with accompanying analyses. Most of the indicators use existing data that have been reworked by the Circular Economy Support Centre, while others are custom-made for the monitor.

You can find out more about the design of this monitor here.