Cutting edge technology in waste valorisation

The Machiels Group has been working on the ‘Closing-the-Circle’ project for years, aiming to excavate, sort and recycle what is possible of the waste from the Remo waste repository and to vaporize and vitrify the rest in an installation. Meanwhile the applications for the demo-installation have been approved.


Location: Houthalen-Helchteren

Client: Group Machiels

Period: 2015 - ...

Services: architecture, stability, building techniques and HVAC, infrastructure, building permits and energy study.

The stocks of raw materials on this planet are becoming increasingly scarce. At the same time, our consumer society is also creating a huge waste mountain. With the 'Closing-the-Circle' project, the Machiels Group is aiming to rework waste into hydrogen and high-quality construction materials. The ultimate goal is to rebuild the entire site as a sustainable nature area.

In Flanders alone, approx. 2000 landfills have been identified and listed (at EU level, this would amount to about 500,000); some of these date from the time that there were no regulations and could cause problems in due time.

Yet here too we can see opportunity when we consider a landfill not purely as a closed repository for waste, but as a potential material and energy source that can be incorporated back into the loop, after which the site can then be redeveloped. This, in a nutshell, is the principle of "Enhanced landfill mining."

After years of thorough research (collaboration between academia, governments, businesses and local players), the Machiels Group deemed the time ripe to take the next step of the 'Closing-the-Circle Project' from the R&D stage towards a first demo plant on an industrial scale.

This demo plant, for processing 30,000 tons of RDF per year, is envisaged on their REMO site in Houthalen, one of the larger repositories in Flanders. This installation provides the controlled excavation of the waste, this to be sorted out further (recyclable fractions are recovered), and to be further processed into a fuel (RDF or Refuse-Derived Fuel). This RDF is then converted by means of a gas plasma installation into a syngas, which is further processed to hydrogen. Plasmarok, the solid residual fraction which comes out of the plant, may also be processed further and can be upgraded to a substitute for cement or processed into tiles, roof tiles, and in the future also into insulating material.

Once the demo plant is ready, it is intended to raise the capacity in 2 further stages to 130,000 tonnes of RDF/year and finally to 230,000 tons RDF/year, for the purposes of excavating, sorting and processing the remaining waste on the site in the coming 20 years (in excess of 16 million tonnes in capacity). The land (landfill areas), which is recovered in this way, will be transformed into a sustainable nature conservation area.

For the ‘Closing -the-Circle’ project, Sweco Belgium is responsible for the entire civil engineering component (architecture, stability), building techniques and HVAC, infrastructure, building permits and energy study. Sweco is after all a recognized energy expert and is investigating whether the customer is effectively using the most energy-efficient technologies.