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Working on a circular economy

The use of side streams from one production process as a raw material for another production unit, whether or not within the same company, is a well embedded principle in the sector. The integration of businesses in chemical clusters is an economic reality in Belgium. The recycling of our own production waste is also a common practice. The businesses in the sector are taking the next step in closing the cycles. How? By collecting, reusing or recycling more and more ‘post-consumer’ waste. Several initiatives are presented here.

Sector initiatives

The plastics industry is committed to a circular economy

Kunststoffen zetten in op circulaire economie

The CORE project (Controlled Recycling) by Federplast, Febem and VKC is focused on controlling recycling in the industrial value chain, supplying and/or utilising recycled materials for the production of plastics and/or textile fibres. Partners in the project are aiming to decrease the amount of incineration of post-consumer plastic waste using energy recovery and instead increase the amount of recycling. On the website www.werecycle.be various initiatives for the selective collection and recycling of plastics are identified and explained in an interactive manner.

In order to guarantee the quality of the recycled plastic as well as the quantity of recyclate in a product, CORE has developed a new certification system, QA-CER. The certification is based on ISO9001 and is issued by the BQA (Belgian Quality Association). This QA-CER quality system demonstrates that when the collection and recycling of secondary raw materials is carried out in a qualitative way, these materials are equivalent to ‘virgin’ raw materials and are equally suitable for use in the plastic converting industry. This high-quality recycling is necessary to achieve a genuine circular economy.

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A 100% recyclable cork made with biopolymers 

Nomacorc Select Bio is the world’s first zero carbon footprint wine closure made from renewable, plant-based polymers.

How does it work? The cycle starts in Brazil when sugar cane plants sequestrate CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it to sugar. Sugar cane is harvested and the sugar is fermented into bio-alcohol which is normally used as bio-fuel.

In our case, bio-alcohol serves as a renewable feedstock for biopolymers. For that, the supplier in Brazil, Braskem, transforms bio-alcohol into bio-ethylene, and subsequently it is polymerized to bio-polyethylene in conventional production equipment.

The bio-polyethylene is shipped to Nomacorc and used to produce Select Bio closures with 100% renewable energy. At the end of this production process, the Select Bio closures are transported to wineries to bottle their wines.

These bottles of wine get purchased by a consumer and after opening, will discard of the closure. Nomacorc Select Bio can be 100% recycled with polyethylene waste stream, or can be ending up in municipal waste incineration where it can serve as a valuable energy source to produce heat and electricity. The CO2 which is released upon incineration can be bound by sugar cane plants to start a new cycle.

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Everything runs smoothly at Valorlub.

Companies importing foreign lubricants for trading on the Belgian market or importing lubricants for their own use fall under the take-back obligation concerning used lubricants. This means that they need to meet legally determined collection and recycling objectives.

Since it is difficult for individual companies to satisfy this requirement, the federations concerned have made environmental policy agreements with the different regions. These environmental policy agreements allow companies to carry out their duties correctly via the non-profit organisation Valorlub.

Valorlub aims to satisfy all the terms, commitments and objectives determined by the environmental policy agreements for lubricants. Indeed, in 2014 this organisation achieved its allocated collection and recycling objectives.

Taking into account the losses which naturally occur during use, in 2014 more than 92% of the oil brought onto the Belgian market was collected as used oil. This result is higher than the collection objective, which was set at 90%.

The 90% recycling objective for refining and alternative reuse was easily achieved. In total 94% of the collected used oil was valorised. The remaining 6% consists primarily of water, which is reused via the water purification installations and a small remainder of sludge, which in many cases can also be recycled.

Valorlub is making both consumers and professional users aware of how to go about using used oil correctly. Furthermore, Valorlub informs them of how biodegradable lubricants can be a sustainable alternative solution for certain applications.

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A sustainable way to transport Vaccines

GSK set up a special project to optimize vaccines’ distribution and deliver significant environmental benefits.

1. Better fit for purpose Cold Chain Packaging (CCP) solution for transportation
In the past, the same CCP solutions were used all year round. Now, they are different CCP solutions adapted to the season and temperatures. Since July 2014, cold chain packaging solutions have the same external size but the interior padding is being adapted. Thanks to this innovation, up to 30% more products are now shipped. This leads to reduced CO² emissions, less packaging waste, lower costs and more airlines capacity.

Outcome: reduction of +- 13.500 Tonnes CO²/year

2. A new design for the boxes shipped to Singapore
The design of the polystyrene box have been reviewed: 12 bottles of Synflorix bulk can be shipped in 1 box instead of 4 bottles previously.

Outcome: reduction of 1067 Tonnes CO²

3. From single use to re-use of the Cold Chain Packaging
The quality and robustness of the single use CCP solution allowed GSK to consider its re-use. Through an initial quality check at destination, a return shipment by sea container and qualification of the returned units, the CCP solutions are used a second time, thereby avoiding carbon emissions and waste of the same number of new units.

Outcome: reduction of 150 Tonnes CO²/year

4. Transportation by road instead of by air to Morocco
Morocco was identified as an opportunity to optimize shipments costs by switching air to road transport. As from a minimal shipment of 8 pallets of finished vaccines, the road freight costs are lower than air freight. Side-benefits of the projects are reduced CO² emissions, less airline capacity dependency and less preparation time.

Outcome: reduction of 1350 Tonnes CO²/year

5. Return program for Temperature Monitoring devices
A partnership with our supplier of the temperature monitoring devices, used in cold chain packaging, led to an innovative solution to return the singe use devices to the closest located partner affiliate for recycling instead of going to the local waste stream.

Outcome: 3.5 Tonnes/year to landfill avoided

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Recycled beer crates for animal housing

Paneltim NV, a SME based in Lichtervelde, is a pioneer and specialist in the production of synthetic sandwich panels and grills for the Belgian, European and worldwide agricultural and construction markets. These sandwich panels are used within the agricultural sector, for example to sty partitions or as doors in pigsties.

Paneltim works predominantly with recycled material. Recently, more than 1 million Heineken beer crates were bought for this purpose. These crates are ground and, after a thorough clean and quality inspection, transformed into semi-panels. Then two semi-panels are welded into one closed sandwich panel, which satisfies the strict hygiene levels for animal housing. These panels are closed off so well that no water, dirt or bacteria can get inside. The internal cellular structure offers the additional advantage that the panels are both light but strong. Furthermore, they can be made with a minimum of material.

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