Sustainability and value creation are key focal points for the circular economy

Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands lead the way when it comes to the circular economy and energy efficiency. It was therefore no coincidence that, during German President Joachim Gauck's state visit to Belgium, we were given the opportunity to explain to him and King Philip the role that waste treatment companies play within the circular economy.

Joachim Gauck, His Majesty King Filip and Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever - copyright ‘Havenbedrijf Antwerpen’

Chemical cluster at the port of Antwerp

In Antwerp President Gauck and King Philip took part in a round table discussion, together with representatives from the business community and the port authority, on the importance of chemicals to the city's port. Antwerp is Europe's largest integrated chemical cluster, partly thanks to its links to the chemical industry in the Rhine and Ruhr regions. German companies like BASF and Bayer, who are also customers of Indaver, have had production sites in Antwerp for many years and the German chemical sector invests substantial sums in Belgium.

Cooperation

The state visit by President Gauck focused on a number of areas, including the importance of the cooperation between the German and Belgian chemical industries. Considerable attention was paid to the circular economy. Both President Gauck and King Philip showed a particular interest in this subject and asked specific questions. What progress have Belgium and Germany made in this area? What action is needed to develop the circular economy further and what role can policymakers play in this? What are the costs involved?

Indaver's role

Within Antwerp's chemical cluster the products and by-products of one company are used as raw materials by another, with the heat released providing a source of energy for other processes. Heat generated from the thermal treatment of waste is shared via communal networks. Waste companies like Indaver are involved in all these processes and during the round table discussion we had the opportunity to explain our role.

Materials

High-tech waste treatment companies like Indaver destroy or neutralise undesirable or dangerous components of waste and in this way keep the materials loop clean for the circular economy. Indaver also recovers materials from waste using chemical and thermal recycling techniques. These techniques can also break down organic materials into their basic constituents, which means they can be reused to create new products that are indistinguishable in terms of quality from products made using primary raw materials.

European ambitions

The heat released during the treatment of non-recoverable residual waste is used by Indaver itself. Increasingly, however, it is also supplied to neighbouring companies. One example of such an application is the industrial heat network ECLUSE, for which Indaver will supply the heat. This will be the biggest network of its kind in Europe. Such an initiative is in keeping with the European ambitions of a company like Indaver, which, to the surprise of those present at the discussion, is also the market leader in the treatment of hazardous waste in Germany.

Innovator

The circular economy focuses on both sustainability (maximising recycling and minimising risks) and value creation (financial and qualitative objectives). Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are already champions when it comes to recycling and we can also lead the way in making the circular economy a reality. We have the infrastructure and knowledge required and the chemical sector can play a key role as an innovator and purchaser of these new raw materials. 

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