The challenge

"Worldwide, we are using more and more materials and resources, which leads to increasing scarcity. In Flanders and throughout Europe, a circular economy is being introduced. In such an economy, waste is avoided as much as possible through repairs, reuse and better product design. Waste streams remain, but here too we strive to close the circle: One company's waste becomes another company's resource. That circle, in turn, generates new activity. As an added advantage, we create more jobs and reinvigorate the industrial sector."

VITO's role

"Thanks to technological breakthroughs, we are able to enhance plenty of industrial residue streams. VITO has developed several useful recycling concepts, which are being used in various industries. Up until now, our focus was mainly on large streams with little valorisation value, such as construction and demolition debris. But now we also focus on streams that are more limited in scope, but still contain valuable components and allow for high-quality applications. Blast furnace slag is one such example: we clean out valuable metals and process the remaining 'matrix materials' into fully-fledged construction products.

"In a wider context, we inspire and support the Flemish and European material policy through our government studies and models. Our goal: facilitate a successful transition to a circular economy. In the last year we supported the Flemish government with new knowledge of, among other things, an environmentally-neutral food industry and recycling options for batteries and metals. On the European policy level, we offered practical suggestions to close the circles.

"With our renowned laser and plasma technology, we aim to enhance the manufacturing industry in Flanders. Our laser group owns powerful laser-cladding technology, which offers promising 3D applications. VITO's plasma group stands out with industrial applications in the biomedical sector, the world of composites and membranes and the textile sector."

Our research drives a circular economy forward. It underpins an innovative industry, more employment and economic growth.
Peter Vercaemst
Unit Manager Sustainable Materials