Port and logistics the traffic leaders of circular economy

Tuesday 18 January 2022

(Publireportage) The Flemish Government wants to make Flanders a circular leader in Europe. The ports and logistics sector play a crucial role in this: to close cycles and attract new circular industrial activities.

The Flemish Government wants to invest in circular innovation and reduce the material footprint of our consumption by 30% by 2030. The ports and logistics sector play a crucial role in this. The government is already giving those sectors a boost with some concrete initiatives.

The fact that Flanders has an open economy is ... well, kicking in the door. 72% of our product and material flows, whether or not after processing, go through our economy to other countries. Our Flemish industry and logistics is therefore at a strategic crossroads for the circular economy: we are a hub of material flows and know-how. Flemish ministers Hilde Crevits (economy, innovation, employment, social economy and agriculture) and Zuhal Demir (environment and energy) have also understood this. Together they are guardian ministers for the circular economy and actively support the transition. The public-private partnership Flanders Circular coordinates the efforts. Within that partnership, six thematic working agendas (construction, bio-economy, chemicals/plastics, manufacturing, food and water cycles) are working on concrete actions for the short term. 

Gateways and logistics networks

Brigitte Mouligneau, transition manager at Flanders Circular: "The circular economy offers new opportunities for our ports and logistics sector. When the circular economy starts to accelerate, it will lead to new challenges and tasks for logistics in any case. Logistics companies will operate in both large and finely meshed logistics networks that connect supply and demand of residual flows, replacement parts, second-hand goods and so on. Logistics companies will thus become the traffic managers of the circular economy."

Investments in (multimodal) hubs and new logistics and circular concepts will be needed to further bundle product and material flows. It increases the opportunities for logistics service providers to use rail and waterways as sustainable modes. 

Space for circular hubs

Flemish ports benefit from their strategic location. They lie at the intersection of international and regional flows, close to urban areas, and have space for industry. This offers opportunities to play a central role in the "great transitions" of the 21st century.

Mouligneau: "The circular economy offers port areas opportunities to attract new, sustainable activities to strengthen circular clusters and chains, and thus diversify in a very competitive market. We can build a network of hubs in Flanders for reuse or high-quality recycling of strategic materials. Think of batteries, metals, biomass, and so on. The Flemish port companies are already working on this today."

The availability of sufficient space is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of the ports. It is often forgotten that the transition to a circular port requires sufficient space.

Mouligneau: "Space is scarce in Flanders, which is why we are putting a lot of effort into reusing space. Thanks to the smart reconversion policy, the Flemish government can clean up underused and polluted industrial sites and redevelop them into areas for new economic activity. These sites are often found in or around the city and (old) port areas, such as the Carcoke site in Zeebrugge, or the former Opel site in Antwerp, where the NextGen District will soon be located. 

In its new strategic plan 'Connect 2025', North Sea Port links the release of space to its steep ambitions in the field of energy transition and circularity."

Incidentally, Flanders Circular already took the initiative to explore the topic of 'Circular Port' as part of the Delta Atelier, where the role of space in ports for the circular economy also came into focus.

How do we make it concrete?

The measures in the EU Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan offer opportunities to capitalise on the transition to a new port economy. The partners of Flanders Circular are trying to match this as closely as possible with the thematic work agendas. 

"The Flemish government already has some initiatives running today. For example, there is OVAM's 'Recycling Hub' project call, for which a second round will start in 2022. That call supports companies that want to innovate in recycling techniques. OVAM and Port of Antwerp also organize the Symbiosis contest, a call for companies that want to do innovative matchmaking with their residual flows. VLAIO is launching the SME growth subsidy for companies that want to innovate in the circular economy," adds Mouligneau. 

Discover our tools and inspiration for getting started with the circular economy: www.vlaanderen-circulair.be.

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Written by Charlotte De Noose