What's the project about?

Old landfill policy – Memorandum of sustainable landfill management

COCOON boomIn 2015, an OVAM-memorandum about sustainable landfill management was approved by the Flemish Government. It was a proposition of the Flemish minister of Environment, Nature and Agriculture and comprised the innovative concept of Enhanced Landfill Mining & Management, also abbreviated as ELFM². From 2019 onwards, ELFM² as a term was abandoned and replaced by the more suitable Dynamic Landfill Management (DLM). 

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 DLM.

To improve this new approach on landfills it is necessary to develop a brand new working method and translate this into new policies. Not coincidentally this is the main target of the project partners of COCOON. Apart from OVAM, seven other European organizations participate in this project: vzw 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 Saneamientos de 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.

Report on Mapping

The report on Mapping is the first significant output of the project. It was published in June 2018 and contains about fifty pages of thorough analysis based on a questionnaire that was launched at the beginning of the project. The report was also sent to the European Commission for evaluation.

The questionnaire evaluated a several management aspects of each region’s policies:

  • Governance and organizational aspects
  • Available landfill information and data
  • Current regulations on landfill management
  • Landfill management and funding
  • Landfill mining activities and related policy issues

A brief excerpt of the conclusions the COCOON team made:

  • The information about closed landfills is not on the same level as for the operational landfills.
  • The current knowledge about the closed landfills is unsatisfying. The experiences show that the introduction of a modern waste management is not possible if the further use of officially closed landfills isn’t consistently prevented and the closed landfills aren’t remediated.
  • Regarding the existing legislation, the focus very often includes only managing and not mining. A change of the mindset is needed to achieve a circular economy by 2030

The partners will use this report as a blueprint to change, improve or create policies nationally, but also on a EU level, hence the reason why the European Commission evaluated the document.

If you want to check out yourself what the COCOON partners discovered and concluded, you can find a digital copy of the report in the right section on this page.

Who are we working with

Cleantech Flanders

DOE Cyprus



WasteServ Malta