PlastiCity partner Van Werven specialises in creating high-quality raw materials from post-consumer rigid plastics collected from construction waste, industrial waste and municipal recycling centres. However, at the moment, they are hit hard by the corona crisis.Due to the halting and the diminished production throughout Europe, the demand for recycled raw materials has fallen sharply. On top of that, the reduction in transport movements has broken the 'logistics circle'. As a result, stocks are piling up and storage becomes problematic. Therefore, recyclers are looking for external storage facilities that are licensed for keeping waste materials. Ultimately, the recyclers will have to close the gates due to lack of stock options or because financial resources are insufficient to build up even more stock.
Our recycling infrastructure for turning bulky household hard plastic waste into high-quality raw materials has been built up step by step over many years. This investment is now put on the slope in a few weeks.
Ton van der GiessenCEO Van Werven
The situation is putting a lot of pressure on our local circular chain. Nevertheless, while trying to get out of the storm and secure the ship, Van Werven is already looking ahead and is very aware of the need to go circular and local in partnership with every stakeholder.Firstly, the crisis puts the focus on our health and that of others. Our health is seen as paramount to our social ánd economic wellbeing. Without a healthy workforce, no healthy economy. But that health is heavily influenced by our neighbourhood, our climate and our environment. We will have to keep this in mind when we are 'restarting' the economy. Will we go for a climate-environmental-driven, collaborative, circular and local economy? Or will we keep on using natural resources and at the same time incinerating, depositing or throwing away our materials as if they were neglected or 'lost plastics' whilst still focusing on short-term profits?Secondly, we notice that the solution to this health crisis lies in solidarity and collaboration. Only when all of us are sticking to the measures, we prevent others from falling ill or falling out. Here, we notice a parallel with the circular economy. In a circular economy, the solution lies in the collaborative management of a chain that involves production, consumption ánd the returning material stream for that production and consumption, in a never ending circle of reuse and recycling. Customers, producers, suppliers, consumers, re-users, recyclers and the authorities: everyone in the entire chain is part of it and must take care of this entire chain.Thirdly, we have to take care of our planet and so also of our materials during our global chain. This means a different perception and way of dealing with our end-of-life products and materials. There are huge opportunities for all those valuable materials that were manufactured and used so efficiently, instead of having them suddenly become worthless… like lost plastics! If we take good care of our end-of-life materials, as a user and producer, we can keep our chain in a sustainable balance.Fourtly, whilst the physical globalization is coming to a halt, the focus is switching to the local level. Though there is still a lot of international collaborations around vaccines, we also see shortage of mouth masks and test kits. The question pops up to be more local self-sufficient. The same can be said for circular waste strategies and with our PlastiCity project. We are internationally looking for strategies and solutions to keep, treat and recycle our source material (waste) in the region. We put the focus on end of life (waste) material recycling at the highest quality so that it can be used again and again. And we exchange materials within specialism with return logistics across cities and regions.
The present dire situation offers a remarkable opportunity to take permanent steps with the same decisiveness towards a supportive, effectively executing Flemish circular 'plastics' plan in order to accelerate the goals set for the EU Green Deal. We really should not wait until 2029 to achieve this in 2030.
Peter BrughmansConsultant to Van Werven Belgium
Rebooting the economy will require a long-term vision of all parties regarding circularity. Innovative and sustainable businesses should be considered carefully when deciding on government policy and interventions. The business model for a local, circular waste economy should be supported by a long-term government vision on waste management. This business model is only viable if the logistics and recycling costs can compete with the incineration cost. And as long as we are burning our waste at an economic cost too low to cover the environmental cost, we will still end up with lost plastics and wasted natural resources. After the corona crisis, we need the help of the government to favor secondary sources over natural primary sources to green our economy! Article by Peter Brughmans, Consultant to Van Werven Belgium