Port areas, because of their easy logistical access and the existence of ample surfaces for large volumes of products and wastes, have traditionally attracted a mix of recycling and distribution firms.
The Urban Trieur hosts activities ranging from the distribution of products directed to the urban economy (from construction materials to consumer items) to the handling of wastes (collection, storage and sorting), and even their treatment on site (involving repair and recycling). These fast-growing activities claim their strategic position next to the urban markets and residual streams. Its size is modest, implying that it can only handle relatively small volume at once while relaying on other locations along the port corridor for consolidating and eventually treating them further.
A quick geographical description
As its name suggests, the Urban Trieur has the particularity of being functionally linked to the urban core, while taking advantage of vast port areas and the canal as a means of transport.
Observed advantages and disadvantages
Its strategic position makes the Urban Trieur a crucial link in the waste management chain: mining the diverse wastes originated in the city to then dispatch them for further treatment or disposal along the port corridor. It is necessary that authorities become aware of the importance of conserving such spaces in urban areas, both from a logistical point of view and from a circular one, as reusing a fragment of those wastes in new local products will depend on the continuity of their operations on the sites they occupy at present. Although the Urban Trieur relies mostly on transport by water, as a sustainable and competitive enough transport mode, many companies operating inside this building block have no choice but to still shift now and then to the road to reduce costs and pay the higher land rents to be able to stay even. In addition, restrictions on the transport of waste by water are often a barrier to the further development of this sustainable alternative.
Different situations analysed
The most representative example is undeniably the case of the Vergote Basin in the port of Brussels. Positioned next to the canal and the city, this basin boasts industrial activities such as sorting, collection, and storage of used materials, but also fabrication of concrete, whose location there is justified by the imperative to be nearby construction sites. The Vergote basin constitutes a real hub for construction and demolition materials, which constitute an important flow in terms of volume and weight circulating through the Brussels port and the region.
Analysis - the generic case: what activities can be found here?
The main activities found here are related to industry and logistics, necessary for the treatment of urban waste and mostly linked to the supply of building materials. These activities use the waterways as much as possible to deliver the products as close as possible to their destination in the city centre. Conversely, waste from the urban centre passes through the Urban Trieur where it is sorted, stored, revalorized or compacted if necessary before sending it back to the city if recovery has been possible onsite or, failing that, to more distant treatment areas.
The proximity to the city is crucial in two ways: it allows to collect residual flows separately, thus keeping as long as possible their latent value (e.g. mixed organic waste does not enjoy the same reuse possibilities than when it is separated from early on into coffee grounds, citrus peels, other pulp-rich fruit, etc.); and the handling time is also reduced, as aspect that might be important in some flows (e.g. the fabrication of concrete, or the fermentation time of some biota). The fact that this building block might attract some activities that are labour intensive, some of them requiring specific skills that are learned while performing them (e.g. removing metallic elements from textile like zippers and buttons), implies a potential for job creation in the neighbouring districts. Often, this building block develops jointly with the Local Job Generator one: while the secondary flows might be grouped and sorted in the port itself, their manipulation might involve nearby workshops, especially for those items with a higher added value (e.g. textiles, electronics, packaging).
Conversely, activities linked to the distribution and handling of goods, whether bulk (e.g. sand, cement, fuel) or palletized (e.g. bottled good, building materials) ones, might be less labour intensive thanks to the many technological progress it has experienced lately (e.g. Internet of Things, unmanned and electricity-propelled ships, semi-automatic loading equipment) but due to its multiplication and long supply chains is equally important for the creation of jobs. In the Urban Trieur goods arrive preferably by water, are temporarily stored on the quays, and then timely distributed to the rest of the city. These services often include return or reverse logistics that allow residual goods and wastes to be collected on the way and be brought back to the quays, aiming to limit trips.
Towards more circularity: what are the ongoing initiatives?
01 Training centre: Training for new jobs in the recycling sector.
02 Vacant spaces: Spaces to be shared between several actors for temporary storage for example (e.g. BC architects, brick project, BE).
03 Vertical densification: New second floor to sort and salvage smaller waste, like electrical and electronic waste. These activities are labour intensive and are normally endowed with higher added value (e.g. Stevens and co, Brussels, BE).
04 Concrete plant: Storage of concrete from the construction and demolition sites and reintroduction of it into the manufacturing process of new concrete.
05 Textile sorting: Research unit in collaboration with the training centre to find new ways to recycle combined textiles (e.g. Boer group, Dordrecht, NL).
06 Consolidation centre: This type of platforms helps to group all (reverse) logistics of the construction sector in a couple of places strategically located in the region and along the waterways. From there on, materials are being distributed to the individual sites, and waste collected and brought back to the CCC. It helps to reduce logistics-related road transport (by clustering deliveries), and to optimize the normally limited space available for construction sites in dense urban areas (e.g. Royal Dock, Stockholm, SW). The consolidation centre can also be used as a platform for retrieving flow data passing through it (e.g. CMDU, Lille, FR).
07 Building materials bank: Provide a space where it is possible to store, sort, and resell building materials to individuals or companies and consider a lab for the recovery of second-hand materials (e.g. Mpro, Brussels, BE).
08 Biomaterials lab: Recovery of organic waste to make new products and process biomass-derived intermediaries (e.g. Groencollect, Rotterdam, NL).