Belgian scientists repurposing waste for green projects

Global Business

Belgian scientists repurposing waste for green projects

A group of researchers in Belgium has found a way to create building cement from the waste left in landfills.

The team is working in conjunction with another project that’s removing precious minerals from waste for use in green technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines.

CGTN’s Jack Parrock reports.

“The aim of the project is to take this waste out of the landfills and process it in order to recuperate the most out of it,” Juan Carlos Hernandez from New Mine Project said.

“To recover recyclable materials, to produce alternative fuels and of course to decrease the amount of waste that is being kept in these reservoirs that are still contaminating the environment.”

If the research team can prove that the so called ‘mining’ of these landfills can be economically profitable, then there will be more than 150,000 landfills across Europe that could be dug up.

Last year the landfill processed 120,000 tons of waste but it will be closing in 2020. The clearing project is ambitious. It wants to one day excavate all 53 hectares so there’s no trace that the landfill was ever here.

The team is continuing to test the bricks here in the lab to see if they can be used for industrial purposes.

And they’re working in conjunction with another project here at Leuven University that’s looking at extracting minerals and critical metals from industrial waste that can be used in green energy production hardware such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Currently around 90 percent of those materials are freshly mined in China.

“The focus is on recovering the metals in such a way that we can also valorize the residual fraction in building materials, ideally as a geopolymer cement because the added value there is much larger than when you produce aggregates to replace aggregates in concrete, for example,” Peter Tom Jones said. He’s a project director Sustainable Materials Management at Leuven University.

The ‘new mine’ project has received $4.5 million in funding from the EU. The researchers hope that one day the foundations of buildings in European cities could be built with bricks created from the waste of previous generations.