Promoting Innovation in Waste-Processing Industry

The Federatie van Bedrijven voor Milieubeheer (Federation of Environmental Companies, or FEBEM-FEGE) represents Belgian companies that collect, sort, treat, recycle or process waste; companies involved in cleaning up soil; and companies creating energy out of waste and biomass. FEBEM-FEGE has around 220 member companies with a total of 10,000 employees and total turnover of more than €2 billion per year. General Manager Werner Annaert discusses FEBEM-FEGE’s current projects and priorities.

Can you describe Belgium’s waste-collection sector?

Werner Annaert: Belgium has both public and private companies handling waste, and each municipality in the country has its own private waste-collection provider. Waste collection is managed regionally in Belgium and involves a lot of competition among Flemish, Brussels and Walloon companies. The federal government only oversees radioactive and nuclear waste.

What are FEBEM-FEGE’s current priorities for the waste sector?

Werner Annaert: Over the past year, a lot of waste was collected in Belgium but little was done with it besides sorting it. We need to focus a lot more on recycling and on convincing people to use recycled materials, which can be cheaper and better quality than new materials. Many of our members are getting involved in not only collecting and disposing of waste but also in turning the waste into useful new products. FEBEM-FEGE’s on-going priority is to serve as an advocate for our member companies and to help them be at the forefront of new trends in the waste sector. There are many new recycling technologies and solutions being developed all the time, and I would like to see Belgium’s waste sector create innovative solutions which we can export worldwide. For example, the biggest paper-production plant in Europe is in Ghent and it uses only recycled materials to produce its paper.

What message do you have for companies and consumers concerning waste products?

Werner Annaert: People and companies in Belgium must be educated about waste. Recycling can mean major energy savings; it takes 25% less energy to recycle glass than to produce new glass. Waste products can have many uses, including as a source of energy, and since waste taxes were implemented in Belgium, there is more interest in recycling. Some waste still needs to be destroyed rather than recycled, but usable products can be taken to Belgium’s recycling centres. Companies should explore recycling their waste to make new products. For FEBEM-FEGE, waste is not a problem; it is an opportunity!