Nestled in the forest of the Ardennes in the north of Luxembourg, the municipality of Wiltz (6,500 inhabitants), is in the process of building a new and innovative future, after having drawn part of its former glory from large manufacturing industries which have now disappeared (tanneries, draperies, textile mills,…). Today, the capital of the Luxembourg Ardennes isbeginning to think and live “circular”, ever since it was designated, in 2015, as the future municipal hotspot of the circular economy in the country.

Specifically this involves integrating the principle of  circular economy into the redevelopment of some 35 hectares of old industrial wasteland. Over 28 ha, there are already plans for the Housing Fund to develop a residential complex of several hundred housing units.

The draft law that should officially launch the project is expected in the next few months. Work is set to begin by 2019.

Know how to explain to improve acceptance

This is only one example amongst others of projects planned in the short and medium terms in the municipality, notably with the aim of creating new prospects for economic development, ensuring intelligent regional development and, ultimately, attracting new inhabitants and new investors.

The “education” and “information” components are also important in the whole of this project. Thinking “circular” is fine, but explaining why enables better understanding of the concept by the population. Hence the creation of a hub that will be installed from spring in the railway station at Wiltz, which will give a detailed presentation of the project “Wunne mat der Wooltz”, the new central district of the municipality, which has been designed according to the principle of circularity.

“The point of departure for the study is related to the famous ‘Earth Overshoot Day'”, explains Jean-Claude Backendorf, Project Manager – Flagship Projects at Luxinnovation. “It is the date from which, based on the calculation of its ecological footprint, humanity has already consumed all of the natural and renewable resources that the Earth is able to regenerate in one year. In 2017, at the worldwide level, that date was 2 August and it is becoming earlier as the years go by. In Luxembourg, it was 17 February! It is clearly no longer possible to continue in this way. It is imperative to disconnect growth from requirements for natural and ecological resources.”

Change the way in which products are designed

The basic principle of the circular economy is to be able to keep the value and quality inherent in products, components or materials at each stage of their “lives” and therefore create a world that is ideally without waste. When it reaches the end of its use, such a product, component or material can serve as a source or element enabling a new cycle of life. The objective of this hub is to explain all this in a recreational and educational manner.

Companies standing together

In the Salzbaach business zone, where some twenty companies have their headquarters – amongst them the Alipa group, alongside giants such as Tarkett or Circuit Foil, studies have already given rise to some first concrete implementations: grouped purchase for electrical power, with a significant reduction in the bill for small companies; organisation of common first-aid; setting up collective letterboxes; concerted organisation of potential snow clearing…

“Behind the slogan ‘Together towards the future’ for the entire zone, the companies are organising themselves and creating a certain spirit of solidarity”, says Pierre Koppes. “For example, there were 5 teams engaged in the 24 hour race walk organised last June.” For the future development of the zone, a study performed by the Ministry of the Economy is currently being finalised to define the major areas of work.

At the same time, the construction of Hall Weidingen, a “positive” collection building (which will produce more energy and water than it will consume) for companies, which will be able to share some infrastructure with it, is still in preparation.

The studies are almost finished and work should start on the construction site at the beginning of 2018 for expected delivery in the autumn “We will take care to build structures that can be easily disassembled, so that they can be recovered for subsequent use of the components”, says Jean-Claude Backendorf.

Towards a model school

The life-cycle of materials is one of the main concerns in terms of the circular economy. Also, a large study on Wiltz will be launched next year (amongst companies in the business zones, as well as the population) to study flows of materials to better understand how these materials circulate and to define by which methods it is possible to channel them or to “close” certain loops. The results of this study, which was designed in collaboration with Luxinnovation, are expected for the end of 2018.

For the longer term, the municipality of Wiltz would also like to construct a new school which is a model in its class. “We have a model: that of a school built in Rønneby, in Sweden, which is presented as being the most ‘healthy’ in the world”, explains Pierre Koppes. It was entirely designed according to the principles of the circular economy, but we want to go even further by imagining different ways of seeing things. We already know where this school could be built and we are in the process of working on the budget.”

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