Brightlands Chemelot Campus, Maastricht University and TNO have joined forces to develop Brightlands Circular Space, an alliance that accelerates circular plastics for a future-oriented circular economy. The National Growth Fund is making a substantial contribution of €25m through the Circular Plastics NL (CPNL) programme. This contribution was confirmed in writing by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy on 24 November 2023. The collaboration between the three founding partners was sealed with the signing of a cooperation agreement and the establishment of Brightlands Circular Space Facilities BV.
A core component of Brightlands Circular Space is the realisation of an openly accessible demonstration facility at Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen. This facility will serve as an international hub for scientific and applied research, companies and consortia, to collaborate on accelerating the development of circular plastics on an industrial scale. In doing so, they can make use of state-of-the-art equipment and expertise for researching, developing, analysing and testing large-scale reuse of plastic waste. On an area of more than 40,000m2. To this end, 4 different facilities will be realized: the House for Circular Co-creation, the Skid, pilot and demonstrator facility, the Polymer Processing facility and the Plastic Waste Preprocessing facility.
The growth fund contribution is intended for the realisation of the first three facilities. Brightlands Circular Space also receives funding from the founding partners and other funds. The joint investment is €50m. Euro, paving the way for the construction of one of the world's first fully circular plastics demonstration facilities.
Lia Voermans, chair of the Brightlands Circular Space Steering Group, emphasizes the urgency of this initiative: "We see a continued role for plastic as a unique basis for many daily products, but without using oil and gas and further burdening our planet. It is our mission to accelerate fully circular plastics and to create a society in which waste serves as a raw material for new products as much as possible. The starting point is consumer demand, which means that use, reuse, and recycling are better aligned."
In line with the Dutch ambitions for circular plastics – 50% circular by 2030 and 100% by 2050 – Brightlands Circular Space focuses not only on technological innovation, but also on new forms of collaboration to achieve new social and business models. Brightlands Circular Space stands for a future-oriented circular economy with national and international impact. The demonstration facility will act as a catalyst for improved preprocessing, mechanical and chemical recycling technologies, circular design and scale-up to new materials and products. Improved collection, sorting, and pre-treatment is an absolute necessity for this. For example, it has been calculated that for the largest chemical cluster Antwerp-Rotterdam-Ruhr-Rhine Area (ARRRA), this results in a potential reduction of approximately 0.8 Mton/year in waste to be incinerated, 1.6 Mton/year in CO2 reduction and 800 MEUR/year in new materials. On a European scale, this is tenfold.
International collaboration is a key element within Brightlands Circular Space. Initiatives with which we work closely are CPNL, Circular Regions and Cities Initiative, Hubs4Circularity and the Horizon Europe Consortium Syschemiq. Brightlands Circular Space is also a partner in the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Net Zero Industrial Cluster. These collaborations are aimed at circular upscaling and consortia formation, but also aim to contribute to the adaptation of laws and regulations and financing for the emerging circular plastics industry.
Lia Voermans said "After several years of preparation, we are extremely proud to realize this unique circular demonstration facility together with funds, investors, and stakeholders. The CPNL Growth Fund initiative has helped to take the decisive step towards the establishment of this open facility, which can also be used by other participants and partners of the CPNL programme. In collaboration with industrial and various other private and public partners, we can now show in practice what is possible for circular plastics on an industrial scale."
The construction of Brightlands Circular Space is expected to start in the spring of 2024. The facilities are expected to be fully operational in the spring of 2026.