“The Belgian government only finances 3% of Circular economy activities in companies” – Flash Eurobarometer 441, 2016.
Circular economy seeks to extend the life cycle of products by sharing, leasing, reusing, or repairing materials and products. Measures towards a circular economy in Belgium are justified since Belgium is a major importer of goods into Europe and the hub of a market of 60 to 80 million people; therefore, it must take the lead at the European level (Ministre e fédérale de l’Énergie de l’Environnement et du Développement durable).
Since there is no specific indicator to measure circular economy, instead, the level of commitment of states with this concept is measured by sustainable resource management, societal behaviour, and business operations. This last indicator sheds light, for example, on the availability of finding financing sources for circular economy activities.
In the case of Belgium, in 2016 self-financed sources represented 65% of financing sources , and 23% from a standard bank loan; only 3% came from the government. This means that despite the aim of the Belgian government to promote a circular economy, its approach is theoretical, rather than tangible.
Moreover, the decentralized approach of the commitment undertaken by Belgium to promote Circular Economy must be taken into account. It is independently carried out by the regional authorities of Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels Region. Nevertheless, the same goals of reducing waste and work to phase out the traditional linear economic model persist.
For example, the Brussels region is implementing “Le Programme Régional d’Economie Circulaire (PREC)”. This program strives to achieve 50% of public contracts relevant to the circular economy and contains environmental clauses aimed at promoting circular and reuse activities by 2019.
In the “Flanders Circular Economy Target”, the Public Waste Agency of Flanders highlighted the need to collaborate with more stakeholders and broaden the scope of the circular economy, since it estimates that investing in a circular economy could create 27.000 additional jobs ranging from high-tech to low-skilled positions.
Thanks to these initiatives, and others like the “Wallonia WasteResource Plan”, the “Sustainable Strategy Wallonia”, or the “Sustainable Public Purchase Policy”, Belgium has managed to be the 5th country with less municipal waste generated in 2019. The Belgian government has pushed for the inclusion of the circular economy philosophy in the performance in all economic sectors, especially on those polluting more (for instance, construction).
Finally, in order to build on these good trends, the Belgian government should actively support companies to boost their participation in the circular economy, for instance, increasing the grants for these activities, as well as coordinating different initiatives between the regional governments.
Adriana Roldan Serrano and Auguste Taruskaite, Out of the Box International