VITO is a leading European independent research and technology organisation. VITO is active in five areas of expertise: sustainable chemistry, energy, health, materials management and land use. All of them imply a societal transition. The transition towards sustainable materials management requires a different mindset, with a crucial focus on life-cycle thinking. Equally important is the development of innovative technologies to stimulate innovation in the waste/resource management sector.
And that’s exactly where VITO meets ReNEW. By joining the ReNEW innovation network, we encourage innovation in the waste sector in North-West Europe through both technology development and policy support. This paves the way to a European recycling society, which uses waste as a resource and reuses materials completely.
To that end, VITO developed the ReNEW innovation roadmap, describing possible routes to maximize resource efficiency, recycling and waste valorisation. For eight technologies, drivers and barriers were identified in order to develop pathways to overcome them.
VITO also shared Flemish best practices, e.g. for innovation support (‘Recycling of Cellular Concrete by Jacobs nv’) and innovation facilities (‘Valorising organic waste streams in Flanders’). Moreover, a study visit brought stakeholders, including policy makers from Northern Ireland to VITO. The visit addressed the need for a shift from waste management to materials management concepts and approaches. As a result, Belfast City Council was commissioned to prepare a materials management strategy paper, supported by ReNEW.
Moreover, VITO developed and showcased three innovative technologies to recycle raw materials from low-quality waste streams. The results were disseminated at multiple conferences and exhibitions.
• Using an innovative hydrometallurgical leaching process, chromium was selectively stripped from historic stainless steel slag. It is possible to yield both a valuable resource from this waste in the form of chromium and it allows the rest of the slag material to be valorized in high value building materials.
• VITO investigated the production of bulk chemicals and biofuels from organic waste streams such as waste paper and dairy waste. The organic matter in the waste streams was biologically converted by fermentation processes. The remaining material can be valorized through bio-energy production.
• CO2 can be a valuable source of carbon for the production of commercially valuable products. Within ReNEW, the technical feasibility of the production of the biopolymerpolyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) from CO2 off-gas by fermentation processes was demonstrated.
In order to enhance public understanding and acceptance, VITO produced three short animation films. They were shown at several roadshows, conferences and exhibitions and are also available on-line.
As the ReNEW project came to its end, VITO co-hosted a workshop in Brussels entitled “ReNEW your approach to resources in the circular economy! Let’s collaborate and innovate!"