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Circular solutions

The world is in the midst of a transition. The future is sustainable and circular, as are the materials and products we will use. The environment, stricter rules and regulations, decreased availability and high costs of materials are driving our economy in a more circular direction, based on long-term strategies. The way we use and reuse materials will play an essential part in our circular transition.
This transition requires (new) technological knowledge of materials, their performance, processing and impact on the life cycle. It also requires other competencies, such as life cycle thinking, eco-design, new types of partnerships in the value chain, a rethink of revenue models, etc. These varied competencies are available in-house at Sirris, and are deployed in various projects and initiatives to support circular innovations within companies.

Companies put circular economy into practice step-by-step

Innovation in the circular economy gives rise to questions at many companies: which circular steps should we take, now and in the future? How do we define a circular strategy and action plan suitable for our corporate context and value chain(s)? Which opportunities are currently available to companies in the circular economy? How do we take action based on concepts such as reuse, remanufacturing and recycling or implementation of new business models?

Helping companies to innovate is core business at Sirris. We have set up a new circular economy team, with all the important competencies required to support the implementation of circular innovation within an industrial context. The team includes material expertise, but we also bridge the gap to other enabling technologies, tools, expertise and infrastructure, within Sirris and across our network. We support companies in the field of the circular economy, from strategy to action plan or circular implementation, by means of a variety of projects and initiatives.

Knowledge and implementation of biocomposites gaining ground

Although the composite industry in Europe is growing significantly, end-user demand for natural (bio-based) products is increasing. However, the implementation of bio-based materials in end-consumer applications is limited. Biocomposites have the advantage of being relatively lightweight and are structurally competitive with fibre-reinforced composites, but the wide variation in fibre properties makes it harder to produce a robust design and their intrinsic sensitivity to moisture may lead to early degradation. The wide range of bio-based materials also requires thorough knowledge during the product design phase. Disseminating easily comprehensible information on these topics is essential to make use of the advantages biocomposites offer industry. The COOCK (Collective Research & Development and Collective Knowledge Dissemination) BREPLA – Biobased fibre REinforced PLAstics – project is the joint effort of Centexbel-VKC and Sirris. Started in 2020, it aims to accelerate the transition to the production and industrial use of bio-based composites in the furniture, transport and consumer goods industries by increasing knowledge on biocomposites and stimulating and activating industrial implementation. We engage the entire value chain in the transition to biocomposites by means of collective actions and raising broad, low-threshold awareness.

Bio-based coatings as opportunity for sustainable business

The pressure on fossil fuel-based products is increasing and bio-based alternatives are gaining ground, but there remains a great deal of work to do. This also applies to the coatings industry. End users develop bio-based products and want to finish these with a bio-based coating as well. The project Bio-based coatings: an opportunity for sustainable businesses and the world kicked off in early 2020.
Supported by Sirris and Centexbel-VKC, this project aims at formulating an answer to the increasing demand for products with a more sustainable origin. The 36-month project is aimed at providing companies with information on the options of using bio-based building blocks and the applications of these raw materials in coatings. We want to demonstrate the performance of bio-based alternatives compared to traditional fossil fuel-based coatings and offer a solution for any changes in processability.

The joint project is a collaboration between our knowledge centres and companies, where knowledge is exchanged between end users, raw materials suppliers and developers. Companies involved in the project can start up their own implementation process based on the results (demonstrators, target formulas, etc.).

White paper offers introduction to the world of bio-based coatings

A white paper was published as part of a new project on bio-based coatings: Bio-based coatings, an opportunity for a durable world, providing an introduction to this new technology. The document sets out a definition of ‘bio-based’ and explains the relevance of this new technology and what it can mean for companies.

Testing to lengthen life cycle of products and materials

The circular economy entails sustainable use of products and materials. Alongside the reuse and recycling of products, lengthening the life cycle is one of the best ways to retain the value of materials. Sirris aims to support companies by offering various lifespan tests at our testing laboratories. To offer additional capacity and options, we have recently invested in new testing equipment: a salt spray test (at the Corrosion & Insulation Practice Laboratory), an additional QUV test chamber, a condensation test chamber and the set up for large-scale ice formation tests as part of the European NewSkin project.

Innovation ecosystem accelerates industrial adoption of surface nanotechnology

The new European NewSkin project, participated in by the Sirris Smart Coating Lab and OWI-Lab, is researching the potential of nano-based surfaces for industrial and consumer products, to explore the enormous potential of material solutions with a view to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. NewSkin aims to accelerate the industrial adoption of surface nanotechnologies in Europe. The innovative production facilities for scaling and testing will provide the Innovation Ecosystem with the necessary tools to create TRL7 and new technologies.

Set-up for research into ice formation

Sirris has developed an ice formation test set-up at its large climatic test chamber and intends to quickly transfer the knowledge gathered during the project to Flemish industry via the COOCK Fighting Icing project, which is conducting research into concrete solutions for issues related to ice formation and their implementation.

Find out more about these projects in Harsh Environments.

Working towards optimising monetisation of ferrous scrap metal

Ferrous metals are one of the most commonly and easily recycled and recyclable materials. Rightly so, but there is room for the next step: the metals are currently collected in bulk and incorporated into the materials cycle, although little attention is paid to selective recycling and reuse. It is high time to focus on this, as did the CLEANSCRAP project which concluded in 2020. 

Based on a survey aimed at various stakeholders in the ferrous metal value chain, the project mapped the valuable ferrous metal waste streams available. On the other hand, the survey raised awareness of the potential of these material waste streams for ferrous alloys in Flanders. One of the conclusions was that not many companies were aware of the EU specifications concerning scrap metal. Processing companies sort the scrap metal and run tests, but these do not always meet global specifications. This results in potential loss of monetisation. In both sorting and pre-treatment, neither the 'scrap creators' nor the 'scrap users' exploit a wide range of the actions open to them. 

The next phase of the Cleanscrap project involved research into several use cases and applied some of the pre-treatment technologies offered by CRM Group to enhance this value-in-use principle.