Brussels regional programme for a circular economy


Brussels Capital Region

Main actors

Regional Government, Private Sector, NGO / Philanthropy

Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region


Ongoing since 2016

The circular economy is providing an innovative and sustainable way for the Brussels-Capital Region to address environmental, social and economic challenges.

The Brussels-Capital Region has developed a coherent vision and multi-stakeholder programme to guide and accelerate its transition to a circular economy model. Through 111 measures it aims to turn environmental objectives into economic opportunities that will optimise the use of resources, create new jobs and add value for local people. The government is highly motivated to position the city as a leader in sustainability, however, given its dependence on material flows from outside the region, moving to a circular economy is vital to achieve this goal. The government has put the environment at the centre of its 10-year vision for revitalising the economy. It has identified this as the area with the greatest potential for generating new economic activity and the jobs needed to reduce its high unemployment rate.

Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF:


Sustainable Development Goals

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for allBuild resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovationMake cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainableEnsure sustainable consumption and production patternsTake urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Eurocities Awards

This project was shortlisted for the 'Eurocities Awards' in 2017 in the following category: Cooperation.

Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
Size and population development
The population of Brussels Capital Region was recorded as 1,191,604 in 2017. By 2030, the total population is expected to reach 1,309,264 people, corresponding to an increase of approximately 10% over this period.
Population composition
65% (777,465 people) of the Brussels Capital Region are of Belgian nationality. Due to the high number of European institutions and businesses located in Brussels, a large proportion, 23%, of the population are from other EU countries. 12% are from countries other than Belgium and the EU. The average age of the population is 37, in comparison with the European average of 42. Based on the World Migration Report of 2015, after Dubai, Brussels is the city with the highest percentage of residents from foreign origin. About 6 in 10 Brussels residents were born outside Belgium.
Main functions
The Brussels-Capital Region was formed in June 1989 and is part of both the French and Flemish communities of Belgium. It has bilingual status and is one of the three federal regions of Belgium along with Flanders and Wallonia. The Brussels Capital Region is the administrative centre for many international organisations, including the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the World Customs Organization and EUROCONTROL as well as a large number of international corporations.
Main industries / business
From 1995 to 2015, the Brussels Capital Region experienced economic growth of approximately 1.5% per year and accounts for nearly 9% of all exports from Belgium. Despite this, the unemployment rate in the Capital Region was recorded as 17% in 2017. The main industries operating in the Brussels Capital Region include electronics, chemicals, printing, publishing, clothing, telecommunications, aircraft construction, and the food industry. During the 2016-2022 period, the ‘other market services’ industry, including business services, is projected to make the largest contribution to economic growth in the Brussels Capital Region.
Sources for city budget
The National Government of Belgium and taxation revenue from the Brussels Capital Region.
Political structure
The Brussels Parliament is made up of 89 members, elected by universal suffrage every five years by Belgian adults registered in one of the communes of the Brussels-Capital Region. The regional deputies are split into two groups: 72 parliamentarians are elected from a list for French speakers and 17 from a list for Dutch speakers. The Parliament chooses the members of Government of the Brussels-Capital Region and the regional state secretaries from among the elected parliamentarians, who are then replaced by their substitutes on the electoral list. The Government of the Brussels-Capital Region is comprised of a Minister-President, 4 Ministers (2 French speakers and 2 Dutch speakers) and 3 Secretaries of State. The Government is elected every five years by the Brussels Parliament (the Council of the Brussels-Capital Region). The Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region represents the legislative branch of government that prepares, debates and votes on the laws. The members of the Government are responsible for matters defined by the regional competences.
Administrative structure
The policy of the Regional Government is implemented in a number of areas, particularly in economic and territorial matters by the Brussels Regional Public Service and the regional bodies. The Brussels-Capital Region is the competent authority in: Urban development (plans, planning permission, urban renewal, real estate policy, protection of monuments and sites) and housing; Environment, water and nature conservation; Economy (economic expansion, foreign trade) and Employment policy; Transport; Public works; Energy policy; Local authorities and subsidiary authorities; External relations; Scientific research. The Brussels-Capital Region is composed of 19 communes, including the City of Brussels. The communes manage matters relating to the daily life of citizens and the communal territory. They play an essential role in urban governance and are responsible for a range of services in diverse areas including water, energy, waste management and telecommunications.

The Brussels-Capital Region covers an area of 161.38 sq km with a population of more than one million inhabitants. In its 2025 strategy adopted on 16 June 2015, the Brussels government set out the goal of revitalising the economy with a 10-year plan. The environment is identified as area that brings jobs, in connection with the development of a regional programme for the circular economy. After several seminars, working groups and public meetings, the Regional Programme on the Circular Economy, was adopted by the Government on 10 March 2016. 

The main objectives of the project are:
  • to transform environmental objectives into economic opportunities
  • to anchor economic activities within Brussels' borders, maximising resource circularity and boosting entrepreneurship
  • to create new employment opportunities

The Brussels regional programme for implementing a circular economy is an integrated strategy involving 111 measures aimed at delivering circular patterns at the city level. The different measures are divided into four areas and a set of specific targets and indicators have been developed for each of the planned measures.

  • Cross-functional measures are concerned with creating a favourable regulatory framework. 
  • Sector-based measures target construction, resources and waste logistics, trade and food sectors.
  • Territorial measures integrate the circular economy at the local level. 
  • Governance measures support the programme by strengthening coordination between authorities. 
The programme is a bottom-up initiative involving several public and private stakeholders through an innovative collaboration process, along with three regional ministries, 15 public administrations, regional advisory committees and almost 60 stakeholders between NGOs and private businesses. Currently 74 measures have commenced and 37 measures are developing action plans. A revision mechanism will take place every 18 months and involve both public and private stakeholders' participation to challenge the results and amend measures.
The Lead agency for the project is the Brussels-Capital Region government. The project is led by three Ministers and brings together 13 partner authorities that strengthen co-operation. A strategic committee and coordination committees have been established to ensure the operation of the programme and its implementation.
On 10 March 2016, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region adopted the Brussels Regional Program for a Circular Economy 2016-2020, with a budget of €12.8 million for the year 2016.
  • A call for projects 'Be circular' was launched with the aim to guide and support companies towards the development of circular business models. 

  • The Urban Renovation Contract was launched as a financing programme with a budget of €110 million to stimulate pilot projects that employ the circular economy approach at local level. 

  • 'Village Finance', a support organisation that provides grants for sustainable entrepreneurship, was established.

  • Two different pilot projects, MODULL 2.0 and BRIC, launched to develop training modules for workers in the construction sector and inform them on circular economy practices. 

  • The Greenbizz incubator was established to provide companies and start-ups with an area of 8,000 sq metres that includes facilities and services to develop their circular sustainable projects. 

  • The research study, Brussels Circular Economy Transition (BUCETRA) was financed by Innoviris to analyse the economic and environmental potential of the waste streams for a transition towards a circular materials management in Brussels capital region. 

  • A platform was created to identify, prioritise and resolve technical and administrative barriers that block the transition to a circular economy. In this platform, the private sector plays a key role.

The Brussels-Capital Region is facing environmental, social and economic challenges similar to those of other European urban regions. Despite the city's role as an important and dynamic economic centre, the unemployment rate is high. The city is highly dependent on material flows from outside the region. It functions mainly as a linear economy, producing large amounts of waste, and must fight pollution and cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • the establishment of a collaborative bottom-up approach aimed at creating a resource efficient vision for the city is key. In Brussels, this was achieved through preliminary seminars, bilateral meetings with public and private stakeholders and by fully integrating stakeholders in the practical implementation and evaluation of the process and actions through steering groups.

  • ensuring a combination of both transversal and sectoral measures, as well as territorial and governance procedures. An integrated approach can only be possible if different stakeholders are involved in the implementation of the measures. The 111 measures are being implemented through approximately 60 pilot programmes. Each pilot typically involves 2 or 3 stakeholders, both public and private as well as the construction federation, for the practical implementation and follow-up of the measure.

  • promoting new forms of regional collaborative and social economies can be a way to encourage mindset changes not only among stakeholders but also in the wider community.

- Cities in action - Brussels circular economy programme, Regional programme defines and drives action for change - Eurocities, November 2017:

- Brussels Regional Programme for a Circular Economy:

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Jakki Mann
Melbourne , Australia

Jakki Mann

Individual | Content Curator
Eurocities Awards
Brussels Capital Region, Belgium

Eurocities Awards

Institution | Urban Award

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