Rotterdam fires up circular economy

maasvlakte - Port of Rotterdam Port of Rotterdam Authority: "A circular economy will strengthen the competitive position of the port of Rotterdam." Credit: Port of Rotterdam

The circular economy will strengthen the competitive position of the Port of Rotterdam, strengthen the supply of raw materials and is vital to help realise the Paris Climate Agreement, the Port of Rotterdam Authority has said.

Speaking exclusively to Greenport ahead of the World Resources Forum on 25 February, where the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam will discuss how ports can contribute to a circular economy and their future role in this, the port authority said it is well placed to build on the emerging practise as an extensive network of hinterland connections offers the Rotterdam region an “excellent point of departure for bundling circular activities”.

It stated it "acknowledges that fundamentally changing our energy and raw materials systems promises to be a challenge" but stressed it “is convinced that circularity will be beneficial for the port area. A circular economy will strengthen the competitive position of the port of Rotterdam”.

The port authority added: “Moreover, it is a vital step in realising the ongoing energy transition towards achieving the Paris Climate Agreement and will improve the security of supply for raw materials.”

Chemical opportunities

A major hub for international cargo flows, Rotterdam also has a thriving refining and chemical production industry. “This concentration of industrial activities provides excellent opportunities for the valorisation and utilisation of a wide range of residual flows that can be found (or imported) in the greater Rotterdam area,” the port authority explained.

It is in the process of building on its Waste-to-Value Port status in the area of raw materials productivity for low carbon, circular production by following four key circular pathways in collaboration with multiple partners.

These pathways include innovation focused on attracting new activities and helping start-ups to develop into scale-ups that can be widely implemented within their respective industries; sorting and recycling, with a particular focus on ‘closing' the chain; Industrial symbiosis – smart infrastructure, with a particular focus on ‘extending, shortening and narrowing’ the chain; and Carbon Capture & Utilisation (CCU), with a particular focus on ‘closing’ the chain and ‘valorising’.

The port authority said it is actively involved in some circular projects including the construction of the Prinses Amalia overpass at the Maasvlakte 2 area of the port, where "the contractor Boskalis used Beaumix: a sustainable construction material that is made using decontaminated residuals from waste incineration plants in Amsterdam and Alkmaar”.

Air Liquide, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, Enerkem and the Port of Rotterdam are also currently developing a first of its kind for Europe ‘waste to chemicals’ plant that can convert residual flows of non-recyclable waste materials into clean methanol.

"In the near future, we can expect widespread use of residual heat generated in the port to heat homes, greenhouses and offices," the port authority predicted. "The Zuid-Holland Heat Alliance, made up of the Province of Zuid-Holland, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Gasunie, Eneco, Warmtebedrijf Rotterdam and the municipality, is focusing on the realisation of a main infrastructure for heat in the region."

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