Projects

OVAM's ELFM program

Enhanced Landfill Mining (ELFM) is a strategic project by OVAM that runs from 2011 to 2015. This concept has been developed recently by the ELFM consortium in Flanders, of which OVAM is a member.

Within OVAM all departments are involved, because ELFM covers the waste, materials and soil policy areas. An ELFM project team defines this ELFM concept in more concrete terms.

At the same time OVAM has developed a programme. Its main lines are the inventory, valorisation, communication and legal framework. On the basis of this information and knowledge, ELFM is seen as a form of sustainable stock management.

During this planning period, OVAM set up various subprojects to collect concrete data about these research areas. This involves both its own research and the support of knowledge gathering by third parties.

OVAM is an environmental agency in Flanders (Northern region of Belgium) dealing with the issues of Soil Remediation, Waste and Sustainable Materials Management (SMM).

Over the last years, a policy transition towards SMM was developed and from this perspective, the role of the active and former landfills should be reconsidered and integrated in the new SMM policy. The concept of Enhanced Landfill Mining (ELFM) was introduced and defined by Jones et al.1 as

“the safe conditioning, excavation and integrated valorisation of landfilled waste streams as both materials and energy, using innovative transformation technologies and respecting the most stringent social and ecological criteria”.

In 2011, a corporate vision on ELFM was approved by the OVAM Board of directors and resulted in an operational programme over the period 2011 – 2015.

The introduction of ELFM should also be related with the new concept of Sustainable Materials Management and the broader shift to a Circular economy.

From this point of view, landfills are no longer considered as a final and static situation but as a dynamic part of the materials cycle. The potential valorisation of the disposed waste is an important aspect in the assessment of the environmental impact of landfills.

Project implementation

Within OVAM a project structure has been set up in which the three departments are represented and take on specific tasks. It is controlled by the board of directors. For each segment (surveying, mapping, mining) practical examples are sought and implemented. This approach should support a sound basis for the ELFM policy and adjust it where necessary. Every subtask needs to contribute to the final goal, i.e. ISO 2015 certification, the standard for stock management at landfill sites. The general principles of a project-based approach are defined here in a division into 15 subtasks with milestones in the planning period 2012-2015.

Knowledge gathering

ELFM is not only a relatively new concept but is also still little explored and elaborated. In international terms, too, knowledge is limited and, as a result, OVAM has defined a concrete research programme. The ELFM concept is described as a form of stock management, and this management has 3 pillars: an inventory of the landfill sites, a description of the landfill sites and the mining of landfill sites. For every pillar research projects are set up and supported. Because only fragmented knowledge is present, OVAM is systematically looking for partners and opportunities to improve knowledge gathering. This explains the attention for scaling up the ELFM consortium to EU level and frequent English communication around this topic.

Landfillmining Zuienkerke

Enhanced Landfill mining & management (ELFM²) as a concept focuses on the valorisation of materials and energy out of landfills. The valorization must be as sustainable as possible, having a high recycling rate and high energetic profitability when incineration is applied. Thanks to Flanders’ optimal separated waste collection, it is possible to make the best suitable choices with these criteria in mind.

Since 2012, OVAM experiments with different waste separation techniques or combinations of these techniques to improve output. Separation was investigated during projects on landfills in Hasselt (Limburg province) and Evergem (East Flanders province).

Sieving installation and windshifter on the closed Zuienkerke landfill

Taking this idea to the next level, OVAM created a special assignment for this Enhanced Landfill Mining concept to test on a third site in Zuienkerke (West Flanders province) in which the innovative separation techniques were linked to different waste streams when applied on excavated landfills, thus determining the yield of each type of waste. Five companies participated in the project.

Meanwhile, OVAM launched a second assignment specifying the technical and economic proceedings of the applied separation techniques. The core of this second assignment can be summarized into five questions:

  • Which fraction is obtained with which separation technique and how much?
  • The purity of each fraction?
  • What are the possibilities in terms of valorization?
  • What is the degree of mobility for the applied technologies (s.h. how easy are the machines translocated)?
  • What is the overall profitability?

Each contractor had access to one hundred tonnes of frenchly excavated municipal solid waste. The material was primarily deposited during the sixties. The contractors separated the waste with the only goal being a maximum recuperation of materials and/or energy. Combinations of separation techniques included: sieving, belt magnets, hydrocyclones, belt press, windshifting, eddy current separator, optical separation, aqua motor and ballistic separation. Based on this test, OVAM showed that a great amount of waste can be recuperated as waste-to-materials and only a small part as waste-to-energy. Additionally, efforts were made on-site to separate the different sorts of plastic waste by combining different sieving methods and windshifting.

Based on the results of the Zuienkerke project and the feedback of the contractors, new propositions were made for further innovative research on waste separation.      

Sieving installation and windshifter on the closed Zuienkerke landfill
COCOON

Old landfill policy – Memorandum of sustainable landfill management

In 2015 an OVAM-memorandum about sustainable landfill management was approved by the Flemish Government. It was a proposition of Joke Schauvliege, Flemish minister of Environment, Nature and Agriculture and comprised the innovative concept of Enhanced Landfill Mining & Management, also abbreviated as ELFM².

The memorandum consists of a long term management of closed landfill sites. Optimal and sustainable integration of landfills into the present day environment are the most important key features.

Dynamic inventories

Landfills are no longer termini of the consumption society, meant to last forever. Today they are dynamic stockpiles of materials, energy and space ready to be exploited for the benefits of the local economy and direct surroundings. This way of thinking is steadily growing in popularity and only recently the European Union, via Interreg Europe, has created a project called COCOON to bring together different stakeholders specializing in ELFM².

To improve this new approach on landfills it is necessary to develop a brand new working method. Not coincidentally this is the main target of the project partners of COCOON. Apart from OVAM, seven other European organizations participate in this project: i-Cleantech Flanders (coordinator) (B); Department of Environment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment (CY); Rijkswaterstaat (NL); State Office of Environment of Brandenburg (DE); Environment and Resources Authority (MT); WasteServ Malta Ltd (MT) and Sanitation Cordoba (ES).

Policy instruments as a catalyst for new legislations

The pilot meeting of the project took place at the offices of OVAM on February 7th and 8th 2017. The mission of this project is developing policy instruments related to the management, valorization and integration of landfills into the circular economy. Each partner has indicated an existing policy instrument that can act as a catalyst to introduce a new approach. For Flanders this existing policy is the Soil Remediation Decree (Bodemdecreet) and the Environmental Protection Act (Natuurbeschermingswet) of the Netherlands. In Andalusia, Brandenburg, Cyprus and Malta the used policies are mainly focused on the funding of landfill management.

The next step is to create a custom plan per region to promote landfill management. Besides that the partners must introduce a stakeholder group as an advisory board and develop a landfill management policy. The total budget to fulfill all these tasks is 1.4 million euros of which 1.19 million euros is subsidized by Interreg Europe.

COCOON isn’t the only initiative on valorization of landfills in which Flanders participates. Already in 2016 New-Mine was approved as an EU Horizon 2020-project. Both COCOON and New-Mine were initiated in Flanders.

RAWFILL

Old landfill policy – Memorandum of sustainable landfill management

In 2015 an OVAM-memorandum about sustainable landfill management was approved by the Flemish Government. It was a proposition of Joke Schauvliege, Flemish minister of Environment, Nature and Agriculture and comprised the innovative concept of Enhanced Landfill Mining & Management, also abbreviated as ELFM².

The memorandum consists of a long term management of closed landfill sites. Optimal and sustainable integration of landfills into the present day environment are the most important key features.

Landfills are no longer termini of the consumption society, meant to last forever. Today they are dynamic stockpiles of materials, energy and space ready to be exploited for the benefits of the local economy and direct surroundings. This way of thinking is steadily growing in popularity and only recently the European Union, via Interreg North-West Europe, has created a project called Rawfill to bring together different stakeholders specializing in ELFM².

To improve this new approach on landfills it is necessary to develop a brand new working method. Not coincidentally this is the main target of the project partners of Rawfill. Apart from OVAM, seven other European organizations participate in this project: SPAQuE (coordinator) (B); Liège University (ULg); Natural Environment Research Council (UK); i-Cleantech Flanders (B); ATRASOL (B); SAS Les Champs Jouault (F) and Bergischer Abfallwirtschaftsverband (D).

On June 7th 2017 the pilot meeting of Rawfill took place in Liège.

Solutions

At the moment landfill mining is encumbered by the lack of specific information about the potential of reclaiming resources and habitable space. Secondly, the current techniques and methods for extracting those resources are very expensive.

Rawfill wants to counter these challenges by developing a methodology to…

  • … build extensive databases.
  • … collect missing information by combining geophysical and historical techniques at a reasonable price.
  • …create a Decision Support Tool helping authorities and companies to subdivise and rank their landfills based on their mineability.

Long term impact

The project itself has a duration of three years. The long term impact of Rawfill will be perpetuated by creating an e-library and by organizing workshops and trainings where the conclusions of Rawfill will be distributed.