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Belgium: champions of recycling

Peter Geldof, manager of Geldof wood recycling and (as of May 2017) G-Bloc

Why should more Belgian companies invest in the processing of waste materials into renewable resources?

“Belgium isn’t exactly rich in natural resources, so it’s only sensible that we harness our waste streams for new and existing applications. That’s also the principle behind landfill mining, which determines whether waste products that were once landfilled can be salvaged for reuse. Fortunately, such waste materials are now regularly recycled. At G-Bloc, for instance, we recycle our own wood chips and manufacture pallets, pressed wood pallet blocks or packaging timber from them. This not only gives wood a new lease of life; it also reduces the waste mountain whilst simultaneously conserving natural resources. After all, it’s imperative that we manage nature in a sustainable way.”

Which key challenges within your sector hamper or facilitate new innovations or applications?

“We face numerous challenges, and these are not exclusive to our sector. The general public, for example, isn’t always receptive to recycled waste products, as these can deviate slightly in appearance from traditional products. Recycled wood has a darker colour for instance, and consumers are sceptical about whether the properties and performance of a ‘waste product’ can match those of a new one. A change in attitude is, therefore, essential. Waste products must also be significantly cheaper, otherwise there’s no appetite for them. Ultimately, we as a sector must search for innovations and invest energy in waste product preparation and cleaning processes.”

What personal initiatives are you undertaking to enhance the circular economy?

“Our business strategy is entirely based on the circular economy. It’s ingrained in our DNA. This year, in addition to our wood recycling company, which launched in 1994, we established a brand-new company called G-Bloc. G-Bloc is the only company in Belgium that manufactures pallets or pressed wood from wood chips. And we’re additionally looking into making our energy even more sustainable by constructing a biomass power plant that will utilise degradable wood streams derived from recycling to generate our own electricity and heat. We’re also making increasing use of water transport to limit the number of lorries on the road. These measures are specifically aimed at further reducing our CO₂ emissions and ecological footprint.”