The Circular Economy

Skift Take

Flanders is a leader in research and development on circularity. In this conversation, we explore the circular economy with Brecht Putman, senior association manager, North America at VISITFLANDERS and Karl Vrancken, research manager, circular economy at VITO.

Brecht Putman is the senior association manager, North America at VISITFLANDERS and Karl Vrancken is research manager, circular economy at VITO. Putman started working with VISITFLANDERS around 15 years ago at their Brussels Headquarters before leading the organization’s expansion into the U.S. market. He has been based in New York for 12 years, focusing on bringing international conferences to Flanders, the Northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium.

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Vrancken has been working for VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technology Research, a government-owned institute, for over 25 years. His focus has always been on waste management, resume, and recycling. He teaches circular economy at the University of Antwerp as an associate professor.

Defining the Circular Economy

The circular economy is a strategy to reach sustainability and is not a goal in and of itself. It is a sustainable way of managing materials whereby you maintain a product’s value for as long as possible. This can involve reusing, repairing, and refurbishing products. When that isn’t possible, it requires considering the methods of recycling and extracting any value that may remain. 

Flanders is a leader in research and development within the circular economy sector. The circular economy is one of eleven key sectors that VISITFLANDERS focuses on. Their strategy focuses not only on economic success but also on social success. The destination is looking to attract conferences that share their DNA.

Leading Events

Vrancken highlights a leading event on the Circular Economy, Love Tomorrow. This conference happens during the week between the two weekends of Tomorrowland, and at the same site as the world-renowned EDM festival. Love Tomorrow is for Tomorrowland festival-goers and also for the wider community.

It’s important that events and conferences have a story behind them that allows for community building and allowing connections with other events. G-STIC, the Global Sustainable Technological and Innovation Community, is another noteworthy example. The body organizes events promoting integrated technological solutions and roadmaps for the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations.

Circularity Creates Legacy

Putman sees legacy as a core component of VISITFLANDERS’ strategy. The goal is to create a long-lasting legacy impact within the destination from the events that come to the region.

The concept of circular economy has been around for around ten years. For Vracken, it’s important that businesses and events implement standard processes and address common challenges. Technology plays an important role in circularity. It helps in areas like material tracking and understanding the effects of persistent chemicals when recycling or reusing materials.

To learn more about Visit Flanders and the concept of circular economy, download the e-book on the Circular Economy created by VISITFLANDERS.

This episode of the Skift Meetings Podcast was produced in partnership with Visit Flanders.

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