Circular economy opportunities in Belgium

Belgium shows interesting characteristics for doing business with in the field of circular economy. With its GDP ranking 24th in the world, a geographically favorable location and having ambitious circular economy and waste management goals, Belgium-Dutch collaboration is not unlikely.

Thinking about doing business in Belgium? Below you will find information on policy landscape, circular economy strategy and selected priority areas!

An overview of the most important information for business in Belgium

Facts & Figures

Economic indicators

  • Population (2019): 11,46 mln 
  • Nominal GDP (2019): €473 085 mln, world rank: 24th  
  • Purchasing power (2018): €43 4981 
  • Import from the NL (2018): €50,2 milliard 
  • Economic growth (2018): 1,4% 
  • Ease of doing business rank (2020): 46/190 
  • Corruption index (2019): 17/198 
  • Unemployment rate (2019): 5,4% 
  • Currency:  
  • Time difference NL: +0.00 hrs 

Circular economy indicators

  • Global innovation index (2019): 23/129 
  • Municipal waste recycling rate (2018): 54.6% 
  • Circular material use rate (2017): 17.8% 

Policy landscape

EU level

In 2015 European Commission adopted the Circular Economy Action Plan, which included comprehensive measures addressing waste management. The EU laws set minimum recycling, landfilling, material recovery and renewable energy consumption targets. Among other initiatives introduced in the Plan is the plastics strategy which aims to ban and reduce consumption of certain types of single-use plastic. New Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in March 2020 will aim among others to facilitate circularity in textile industry and production of electronic equipment. Belgium transposes timely EU legislation on CE and performs above EU average on attaining some of their targets. Particularly, the country ranks 1st in EU in packaging waste recycling. 

Currently main targets include: 

  • min. 65% of municipal waste to be recycled by 2035 
  • min. 70% of all packaging waste to be recycled by 2030 
  • max. 10% of municipal waste to be landfilled by 2035 
  • certain types of single use plastic will be prohibited to place on market as of July 2021 
  • min. 32 % of the Union’s gross final consumption of energy to originate from renewable sources by 2030 

 

National level

Belgium first  adopted national CE strategy in 2014. In December 2021 the Federal action plan circular economy 2021-2024 was published. The measures in this action plan will target sectors and product groups with the largest environmental footprint and circularity potential, including electrical and electronic equipment, chemicals, batteries and vehicles, packaging, plastics, textiles and construction.Within the framework of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), the federal government will launch the “Belgium Builds Back Circular” investment project, which should accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Belgium.

Regional level

Flemish region

The Government of Flanders adopted strategy Vision 2050 which set CE as one of the seven transition priorities. Circular Flanders,  was launched in 2017 by OVAM, to ensure Flanders transition to the circular economy by 2050. The current Flemish Government confirmed this objective and voiced their ambition to transform Flanders into a circular trendsetter in Europe by 2030. To do that, they aim to separate the material footprint created by Flemish consumption from economic growth and reduce that footprint by 30%.

Through public-private partnerships they are working on 7 strategic levers and six themed strategic agenda’s: circular construction, chemicals and plastics, water cycles, biobased economy, food chain and manufacturing (textiles, furniture, electronics, batteries, etc.)

 

Walloon Region

CE is one of the major political priorities as it is reflected in the political in Regional Policy Declaration for Wallonia (2019-2024). In February 2021, the Walloon Government adopted Circular Wallonia, the first strategy for deploying the circular economy in the Walloon Region. The strategy includes 10 ambitions translated into 60 specific measures which aim to facilitate the circular transition of Walloon economic players. 

Circular Wallonia focuses its action on 6 priority value chains: construction and buildings, water, metallurgy (including rare metals and batteries), textiles, food and food systems, plastics and on a transversal value chain: the biobased economy.

 

Brussels-Capital Region

CE strategy, adopted in 2016, sets a 10-year framework to move Brussels’ economy towards a circular model. The strategy is focused on 3 objectives: transform environmental goals into economic opportunities, anchor the Brussels economy, where possible, to local produce and to minimise transportation whilst optimising the use of available territory in order to create additional value for the people of Brussels and to contribute to the creation of employment.

We see three priority areas when it comes to circular economy opportunities and need: construction & infrastructure, sustainable design for packaging and circular offshore windfarms

Dutch Embassy in Belgium

Circular construction and Infrastructure

Transition to circular construction is a priority both for Belgium and the Netherlands, which lays down the basis for mutually beneficial cooperation. One of the challenges for Belgium is to replace where possible demolition with renovation. In Flanders, especially the Antwerp area a great deal of focus will be on infrastructural projects, which typically have a significant environmental footprint. At the same time, large parts of existing infrastructure require renovation as well and there is a growing need for additional infrastructure that is safe, durable and economically viable. Circular business models that increase modularity, buy-back guarantees by infrastructure companies, objects as a service and new lifetime-oriented consortium between infrastructure companies and their customers might offer inspiration.

Belgium is home to numerous producers of construction materials and technologies that respond to the changing needs with regard to comfort, safety, and environment. The Netherlands is, in its turn, innovative in creating circular business models that include the entire value chain, with a focus on long-term design thinking and technology. Opportunities for Dutch-Belgian cooperation are highlighted in the 2022 market study Kansenrapport Duurzame & Circulaire Bouw in België (Dutch). Most opportunities were found in 5 Flemish cities plus Brussels. In addition opportunities for overarching themes were found for transparency and measurement of circularity and requirements for circular procurement and certification. 

Sustainable design for packaging

Both countries are signatories of the European Plastics Pact. Belgium has a large polymer industry and there is a great interest in making it more sustainable, to which circular design for packaging can contribute. On a national level a platform PreventPack provides tools and services aimed to support transition to circularity in packaging. Flemish eco-design platform advises and inspires designers by providing access to an extensive case database as well as raises awareness in academia about the importance of sustainable design via guest lectures and community building. The Netherlands being a frontrunner in research on circular design could offer its expertise both for educational sector and the industry. 

Circular offshore windfarms

Renewable energy, including offshore wind, is a top priority in Belgium and the Netherlands alike. Offshore wind sector expected to show exponential growth, poses challenges like access to rare metals, and lowering the sustainable impact during lifetime. Belgian offshore wind sector is one of Europe’s leading energy sectors1, therefore, it was among the first ones to face the challenge of sustainable decommissioning of the windmills. An estimated yearly influx of offshore blade waste in Belgium is about 1400 tons, starting with +/- 15 ton in 2030. However, currently, no concrete policy, knowledge, experiences or supply chain regarding the dismantling of offshore wind farms is available in Belgium, neither among the companies nor among the governments. Developing new circular or modular offshore windfarms designed for reuse or remanufacturing and recycling solutions for composites might not only increase sustainability of the sector but also open up a huge export market for the Netherlands (particularly in Flemish region) where such solutions are already being designed with the support of knowledge institutes (TNO, TU Delft4 and Hogeschool Windesheim) and Versnellingshuis Nederland Circulair.

Sustainable chemistry & bio-economy

Belgian chemical sector was traditionally strong and now it aspires to become more sustainable and foster bio-economy. Wallonia offers a skilled workforce, advanced industrial environment and academic R&D expertise. It received support from the European Sustainable Chemicals Support Service and develops sector of polymer-wood composite materials and high-performance plant fibers with low environmental impact for the development of light bio-composites. Flanders, together with North Rhine Westphalia (DE) and the Netherlands is home to one of the world’s most powerful chemical industry cluster. Trilateral strategy for the chemical industry adopted by three regions strives to become the world’s engine for the transition towards a sustainable and competitive chemical industry cluster. Despite the fact that much cross-border Dutch-Belgian cooperation is already taking place (e.g., within the framework of European funded projects), in order to achieve more ambitious goals, cooperation with the Netherlands is explicitly mentioned as an opportunity.

Major upcoming events

See related items below.

Related items

news
NOV 17, 2022

Setting foot in Belgium: Dialogue sessions on Dutch-Belgian market potential for circular plastics and construction

Setting foot in Belgium: Dialogue sessions on Dutch-Belgian market potential for circular plastics and construction

Recap of the two dialogue meetings held in The Hague on November 8.

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NOV 11, 2022

Chemical Recycling is gaining momentum!

Chemical Recycling is gaining momentum!

Join the Chemical Recycling Summit 2022

events

'Sustainable packaging beyond borders' seminar

Antwerp and online | 17th of November 2022

'Sustainable packaging beyond borders' seminar

The seminar will discuss challenges for fibre-based packaging.

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Belgian trade and economic mission to the NL

Eindhoven, the Netherlands | 3rd until 5th of October 2022

Belgian trade and economic mission to the NL

Belgian trade and economic mission to Eindhoven, Netherlands.

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Benelux Circular Economy Business 2022

Luxembourg | 4th until 5th of October 2022

Benelux Circular Economy Business 2022

Benelux Circular Economy Business Forum will take place in October 2022.

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HCH | Dutch only

Circular entrepreneurship in Belgium

RVO Den Haag | 8th of November 2022

Circular entrepreneurship in Belgium

Opportunities for Dutch circular companies in Belgium

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SEP 05, 2022

Will you host the 2024 Circular Economy Hotspot Event?

Will you host the 2024 Circular Economy Hotspot Event?

Host the 2024 Circular Economy Hotspot Event

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JUL 08, 2022

New publication: 'Circular Buildings: constructing a sustainable future'

New publication: 'Circular Buildings: constructing a sustainable future'

Inspiring circular collaboration between the building environment

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JUN 28, 2022

NL Trade Mission to Belgium – Circular Infrastructure and Construction

NL Trade Mission to Belgium – Circular Infrastructure and Construction

The Netherlands & Belgium seeks cooperation in the construction field