Upcycle Your Waste helps companies turn waste into recyclable raw materials

West Flanders is more European than you might think. In this series, the journalists of the future show where you can find Europe here.

The European-funded ‘Upcycle Your Waste’ project helps companies optimize raw materials and resources and thus transform their waste streams into renewable products.

Europe must become greener by 2050. That is the goal of the “European Green Deal”, one of the six key points set by the European Commission until 2024. MEP Sara Matthieu (Green) emphasizes the importance of this priority: “I think , it is very important that committees are now working on this ‘Green Deal’. This is something we Greens have been asking for for a very long time and it is also something that people expect. Just think of the massive turnout for climate marches across Europe. “It’s five to twelve o’clock for the climate, that’s for sure. If we do not act now, it will be too late.”

Better use of resources and raw materials is one of the most important prerequisites for achieving this goal. By resources we also mean waste streams. There is a huge amount of useful and valuable waste that is lost due to lack of recycling opportunities. ‘Upcycle Your Waste’, a multi-country Interreg project launched in early 2020, is looking for a solution to this. Ostend Economic House – the body that assists entrepreneurs in Ostend in all areas – is one of the project’s partners and pilot partners in Belgium. Arne Rossel, project coordinator, explains exactly how UYW works.

waste stream

“The goal of the project is to help companies reduce their waste streams or transform their waste into sustainable and useful new materials. We visit the site and analyze the current material flows and look at possible solutions. It is on the one hand to start up new campaigns, and on the other hand to implement existing projects locally to make fundraising campaigns easier. We also ask whether the entrepreneur has concrete plans in the future for sustainable management of materials, water consumption or energy. ”

That the start of the project coincided with the start of the corona crisis was not ideal to get companies involved: “In a first phase, we made a general appeal to the companies to enter into talks with us, and we decided, among other things, who has After a while, it stalled, partly because of the corona crisis, because companies had other concerns. Then we contacted companies that have interesting waste streams. On the one hand, we have looked at what it is for waste streams. “We can do something about it to avoid them. On the other hand, we have looked at what type of waste streams we can use to recycle them.”

The waste streams that UYW specifically focuses on in West Flanders are hard plastic, polystyrene foam, coffee grounds, bicycle tires and wooden pallets. “We see that in practice there are a lot of wooden pallets, because there is no pick-up service for it, while you usually get a pallet when you return a pallet. In addition, hard plastic, such as a damaged chair, is not sorted and ends up quickly in the residual waste. There are opportunities for companies that use these materials as raw materials. ”


“With UYW, we map existing collection initiatives such as the collection of bicycle tires from the German manufacturer Schwalbe or the collection of bitumen roofing. We will then roll it out to local entrepreneurs. For certain materials such as hard plastic and fishing nets, there is not yet a collection tailored for entrepreneurs. For this, we are now working with partners such as OVAM, Denuo (the Belgian waste and recycling sector) and FPS Public Health. ”

Ostend Economic House is not the only West Flemish organization that is a partner with UYW. Vives University of Applied Sciences also participates: “Our collaboration with Vives is very close. There is a constant exchange of information. New inspiration comes in through the professional college. We meet every other week to discuss which companies we have visited, what new materials there are … Vives is also responsible for creating a new platform where supply and demand for waste can meet. ”

The platform will be launched at the end of this year in the form of an app and is more than just an ‘Ebay for waste’: “In addition to a simple marketplace for companies, the innovation of this application is that material experts can also offer their knowledge and expertise on the platform. In this way, we create a symbiosis of materials and solutions. Vive’s students have analyzed existing platforms and seen the added value that a materials expert can offer. ”

The application ensures that ‘Upcycle Your Waste’ can continue to live on after the end of the project, in March next year, but the Economic House in Ostend will also subsequently work on sustainable initiatives. “We do not only plan to drop sustainable material handling when the project is completed. Ostend Economic House continues to support companies with all issues related to sustainable corporate governance. I studied materials management and sustainable applications … The project is also a lever for the city of Ostend to work more sustainably in the future. “

Finally, Rossel also points out that the project is not only limited to West Flanders. “We will definitely sit down with a waste treatment company of an interesting material, even if it is on the other side of the country, if the logistics chain allows it. Finally, I would encourage companies to contact us if they are already processing used materials into new raw materials in a certain way. We will be happy to see if we can establish a collaboration. ”

The European in Sepouh Navartian Havana

“I’m Sepouh Navasartian, a 21-year-old Brussels student of Armenian descent. I study journalism at Howest to later become an NBA journalist. I do not yet know what it will be like. I can see myself doing interviews on the sidelines just as much. I think we quickly and easily forget the benefits of Europe because they are so obvious to us. Outside or outside Europe, these benefits such as free roaming, free passage and the free market are not there. “Europe has the key to solving tomorrow’s problems.”

This series was created in collaboration with Howest and Europe Direct West Flanders.

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