Recovering, storing and reusing recovered building materials
About 35% of the waste in Flanders comes from construction and demolition activities, which are also responsible for a significant part of our CO2 footprint. Moreover, that waste often contains a large proportion of reusable materials. Through the Urban Mining project, Atelier Circuler wants to change this. We 'mine' the reusable materials from buildings in the urban environment of Leuven before they are demolished or renovated.
To collect and manage that material, we set up the Leuven Materials Bank. This is a web shop with a physical collection point for recovered building materials with a focus on wood. The largest share of our material comes from recovered streams from the City of Leuven, Vites, Ecowerf and Zorg Leuven.
In addition to the Materials Bank, we have an open workshop for wood, metal and small electro where anyone can come and work at an advantageous rate. We also organise workshops here on a regular basis. Due to the corona measures, the workshop was only open for two months, but as soon as it is possible again, the workshop operation will start again.
Furthermore, we partly finance our own operation through projects and customised products, mainly in wood and metal. Some examples are a forest shelter, cutting boards made of rubber wood, memory benches, etc. For these products, we also use recycled and ecological building materials as much as possible.
In the first place, this project has a positive impact on the environment since we are working as much as possible with recycled materials. We are actively contributing to the objective of facilitating the circular economy in Leuven.
We have set up a materials bank for recycled building materials that is now operating well. The combination of a webshop and collection moments appears to be working. We are currently consulting with new partners to scale up the project.
We created the fallen timber project whereby we save valuable wood from being burnt by processing it into planks or twigs. This is done in cooperation with local tree workers and the ANB.
Our projects ensure a financially healthy organisation. We have drawn up a financial plan for the next three years, including a long-term vision for the organisation and the project.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
Recovering material via container parks is not easy. This is partly due to the complex regulations. It is also not easy to sort on site, due to the crowds and understaffing.
As a provincial capital, Leuven mainly has a knowledge economy, which gives us few continuous production streams. We mainly have to deal with large, sudden material flows from renovations, demolition works, warehouse clearances, etc. Storing such large quantities is still a problem at the moment.
Investing in a good television commercial for a local station turned out to be a good move. With our commercial on ROB-tv, we reached by far the most customers.
The positive environmental impact of the Materials Bank is unfortunately overshadowed by the total amount of material that is still lost. The reason for this is the limited storage capacity, logistics and number of personnel.
131.922euro turnover (2020)
10.764revenue materials bank (2021)
64big and small projects
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
We will continue to mine materials and carry out customised projects as we have been doing. The studio will also reopen after the lockdown.
To make a bigger impact, however, we need to be able to scale up. For example, we are investigating whether a structural collaboration is possible with the three largest building owners in Leuven, namely the City of Leuven, KULeuven and UZLeuven. Together, we can create a larger materials bank, which other private players can join later. We are also looking at the option of involving the social economy in the sorting of materials.
To increase the efficiency of the Materials Bank, it is important that we obtain a type 2 environmental licence in the medium term. This will allow us to make the switch from waste to raw material, which is not possible at the moment. This will enable us to process larger quantities of material more easily.
In terms of personnel, we hope to grow from three to five full-time equivalents within three years.
Finally, we would like to expandthe fallen timber project. With a mobile tree saw and a new drying place for wood, we can significantly increase our efficiency, and thus our turnover.