Cross-border cross-pollination


Flanders as a leader in circular construction 

Circular initiatives by the Flemish construction sector are not going unnoticed in other European countries. Some time ago, for example, the Flemish Construction Confederation (VCB) explained the benefits of its spin-offs Grondbank and Tracimat at a conference organised by CL:AIRE, the UK counterpart to Grondbank, the organisation that oversees guaranteed earthworks in Flanders. In recent years, delegations from France, Canada and the Basque Country have called on Flemish expertise to help them with circularity in construction. Early this year, the OECD also gave Flanders good marks for its waste, materials and soil management. In turn, the European Union is promoting Tracimat as a benchmark in demolition monitoring. 

Regulations governing earthworks in Flanders and Grondbank, a tracking system for excavated soil established by the Flemish Construction Confederation (VCB), have been around for more than 15 years. That accumulated experience contributed to the deployment of Tracimat, a non-profit association which, in 2018, rolled out a management system for tracking construction and demolition waste that construction industry players in Flanders can use to clearly distinguish between 'low environmental risk' and 'high environmental risk' rubble. This sophisticated tracking system and the associated demolition monitoring plan and demolition certificate ensure that intensive selective recycling is possible. The Tracimat system is in line with the EU's Waste Framework Directive, which calls for the re-use, recycling and/or recovery of 70% of construction and demolition waste by 2020. Moreover, the EU Construction and Demolition Waste Management Protocol (2016) mentions Tracimat as a benchmark thanks to its approach to demolition monitoring.

The Flemish Construction Confederation (VCB) is keen to share its insights and best practices with its international partners. For example, some time ago at a conference organised by UK organisation CL:AIRE (Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments), the VCB revealed the benefits of Grondbank and Tracimat. Just like Grondbank, the UK not-for-profit focuses on the sustainable reuse of soil in numerous developments and advances. Watch the explanatory video below in which Marc Dillen from the Flemish Construction Confederation talks about the importance of urban mining and other issues. 

The safe and sustainable reuse of soils and aggregates is, for many regions around the globe, still a relatively new endeavour. Other environmental issues have taken priority, but the protection and reuse of soil materials is increasingly 'having its time'. These materials are a valuable, finite resource. Since 2009, CL:AIRE has successfully developed and run its Definition of Waste: Development Industry Code of Practice (DoW CoP), which allows construction and development projects to reuse soils and aggregate materials. CL:AIRE is certainly a leader in this field, but during this period we've benefited greatly from having the Grondbank, and more lately Tracimat, teams to look to for collaboration, for challenges and as an example of best-practice. CL:AIRE looks forward to improving these links between the two organisations in the future and the benefits this will bring to industry and the environment

says Nicholas Willenbrock, DoW CoP Manager, CL:AIRE.

Earlier this year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published its Environmental Performance Review for Belgium, in which Flanders gets particularly good marks for waste, materials and soil management. For some time now, the VCB has been emphasising the construction sector's major contribution to the reuse and recycling of construction and demolition waste as well as the optimal earthworks in our region. By deploying circular principles in construction, we can now usefully reuse more than 60% of all the waste we produce as a society. The construction sector has not been sitting around doing nothing. In fact, we are now recycling more than 90% of construction and demolition waste, making us a European leader in this segment. But there is still a lot of room for improvement by moving towards high-value recycling applications. In order to further close the cycle, thorough tracing and trust in construction waste as a raw material are crucial, something which thousands of construction professionals are now engaged in.