OVAM is the Public Waste Agency of Flanders. As environmental agency in Flanders (Northern region of Belgium), they deal with issues around soil remediation, waste and sustainable materials Management (SMM) and recently circular economy.
OVAM aims at gaining recognition as the primary contact in Flanders for all matters to do with waste management, environmentally-sound use and consumption of materials and soil remediation in their broadest sense. To fulfill its role OVAM seeks to acquire an unique expertise. OVAM is also legally appointed as responsible authority on data collection of waste and the Land Information Register. To date, moreover 2.200 landfills were identified but only 28 are still operational and 11 of these landfills are accessible for third parties. This limited number of landfills reflects also the effect of the Flemish waste policy: less than 2% of household waste is landfilled.
Collecting these data provides an overview on the multiple sources of waste and the contaminated sites. It is their ambition to set up enhanced inventories and aggregate this information to EU-level in order to identify the reserves and resources as defined by the United Nations Framework Classification for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources.
With regard to waste management, they see that the scope has been broadened and that integration increased considerably.
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 SMM 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.
The main goal is the recovery of resources from landfills or dump sites and reintegrate the landfills in the circular economy concept. This approach makes it possible to preserve virgin raw materials (including aquifers and greenfields). A secondary benefit of this concept is the applicability for soil remediation purposes. Integration with redevelopment of the landfill sites delivers often sustainable solutions at a lower cost.
The first objective is providing reliable data on the composition and magnitude of landfills in Flanders. This information allows a sustainable management of these landfill sites within the context of resource and materials management. The R³P-approach includes Recycling of Materials, Recovery of Energy, Reclaiming of Land and the Preservation of Drinking water supplies.
With regard to soil remediation in Flanders, the clean-up of the historical pollution remains on schedule (all remedial actions started before 2036), as agreed in the Flemish global environmental plan. Today, remediation mainly occurs on a voluntary basis thanks to a more comprehensive and flexible set of tools. Meanwhile, the appropriate measures have been taken to avoid new soil pollution.