Closing the loop: Week puts spotlight on circular economy


Vlaanderen Circulair has devoted this week to teaching the public and businesses how the circular economy works and how they become part of it

Go low impact

The Flemish agency tasked with easing us into a more circular economy is organising several inspiring activities this week: a boot camp for youngsters, a networking event called Community Night and a workshop involving citizens to find solutions for a better future. Steven Vromman – better known as “Low Impact Man” – kicks it all off tonight in Leuven.

Vlaanderen Circulair, established last year, is a partnership of governments, research centres, companies and civil society. The common goal: the transition to a society where resources like water, energy, food, urban space and all manner of materials are used more efficiently.

This week the organisation is focusing on the current state of affairs and raising awareness around remaining challenges. The Community Night on Thursday is the main event.

All activities take place in Leuven’s Stelplaats, a former De Lijn bus depot recently transformed into a multifunctional site, mainly for youth. The site was specifically chosen as a prime example of how infrastructure can be re-used.

Your city, but better

Anyone from Leuven could sign up for tonight’s interactive workshop Betergem 2038 – Betergem being a fictional city in Flanders whose name could be translated as Bettershire. Participants are invited to discuss possible solutions for the challenges that this “city” will be faced with in 20 years’ time.

The workshop was created by network organisation TransitieNetwerk Middenveld and Vlaanderen Circulair. But it’s being led by a celebrity in the circular economy: Steven Vromman (pictured above), who in 2008 became famous as Low Impact Man thanks to a TV programme with the same name.

In the programme, Vromman adjusted his lifestyle to reduce his ecological footprint to the sustainable proportion of about 1.6 hectares. He has since then written several books and theatre pieces on the topic and is now starting a tour with the eco-comedy show The end of the world, a try-out’.

We envision local workshops with 3D printers and open-source manuals allowing people to repair things themselves more easily

- ‘Low impact man’ Steven Vromman

At the start of the workshop, Vromman will outline progress achieved and the problems that remain in the fictional city of the future. The circular economy plays an important role.

“We envision local workshops with 3D printers and open-source manuals allowing people to repair things themselves more easily,” says Vromman. “I also explain about the recuperation of waste materials in cities, like from old cars or construction sites.”

The participants will then be split up into small groups to discuss different future scenarios concerning crucial topics like mobility, consumption and agriculture. They have to choose concretely what would be the best approach to deal with certain related issues.

Share and repair

Is it for example more important to have a food sector where all production is computerised than to have small-scale, local food production? Could the introduction of a basic income provide an answer to economic problems? Should natural resources like water be managed by the community or should this be left to the market?

After the brainstorming sessions, ideas are brought together and a discussion is started on quick steps towards a better future. “For the circular economy, this could come down to the more common use of renewable materials, the development of more adaptable devices and the more widespread organisation of activities where things are shared or repaired,” explains Vromman.

Leuven is not the only stop for the Betergem workshop: It will also take place in other cities for both the public and private organisations. In Leuven, the public was specifically targeted. “Because they are in a position to influence local policies,” says Vromman, “and especially to promote a better long-term vision among policymakers.”

This is the first of three articles on Vlaanderen Circulair’s event week. Check back for more later!