Regional Programme for the Circular Economy

City, Country

Brussels, Belgium

Initiative/ policy

The Brussels Regional Programme for the Circular Economy - BRCPE (in French PREC) is Brussels’ central circular economy initiative. Launched in 2016, it aims to turn environmental objectives into economic opportunities that will optimise the use of resources, create new jobs and markets, and add value for local communities.

Initiative's relationship to REFLOW

  • Co-creation design & framework

  • Technical infrastructure & software

  • Creating & managing circular flows

  • Collaborative govenance & urban strategies

  • Capacity building

  • Communication


Regional level

Period of implementation


Core vision

The Brussels government, in its 2025 Strategy, outlines its vision for the circular economy as deeply anchored to the concept of environment as a key resource for creating new jobs and markets, as well as a means to contribute meaningfully to citizens’ wellbeing. The intention was to formulate a clear and mobilizing vision, able to operate as a vehicle for change that federates the actors of the territory and guide them towards a common goal. The Strategy acknowledges the need of managing city resources in a holistic and comprehensive way, looking at the city as a living ecosystem. The regional strategy aims to bring this holistic vision of circularity, and to offer a practical translation via involvement of different ministerial competencies (environment, economy, employment, training, scientific research, waste management, etc.), as well as of different actors (public and private) at regional and city level, with a view to responding to cross-cutting challenges alongside sectoral policies.

Key to the development of the Strategy has been a first study on Urban Metabolism realized in 2015, which offered an evidence-based picture of material flows circulating in the city-region. The study helped identify the materials mostly suitable for circularity, particularly in the construction field. On the basis of this study, the Brussels government undertook an expert consultation to refine and improve the strategy and its action plan. During this process, five priority sectors were identified, namely in retail, logistics, waste and resources, food, construction, and the built environment, and 111 measures got approved spanning pilot experiments, policy and regulatory measures, business models innovation measures, among many others. The Programme was officially launched in 2016, as a joint initiative of three Ministers - i.e. Housing, Quality of Life, the Environment and Energy; Economy, Employment and Vocational Training; Waste Collection and Treatment and Scientific Research.

Implementation and governance

The Programme is articulated into the following strategic goals:

  • to promote the relocalisation of production within Brussels’ borders, boosting new entrepreneurship and jobs in coherence with local environmental policies, as well as adaptation and resilience of enterprises;

  • to stimulate technological and organizational innovation, the creation of new products and urban circular economy services;

  • to promote waste prevention, safe collection, and reuse of products at the end of their first life, particularly via optimization of business flows through industrial ecology.

These goals are pursued via 111 measures articulated across four axis:

  1. A cross-functional approach which mainly concentrates over the creation of a favourable regulatory framework

  2. A sectoral approach which targets the five priority sectors mentioned above

  3. A territorial approach which seeks to integrate the circular economy at the local level, fostering new urban economies

  4. A multi-stakeholder governance approach which supports the programme by fostering multi-actor dialogue and coordination

Among the 111 measures developed in the plan, we highlight the following actions:

  • Policy development measures: The Circular Regulation Deal brings together private and public actors in topic-specific workshops to identify legal and administrative barriers to the circular economy transition. Topics for discussion range from the use of space and buildings, to the designation of waste. This action is supported by legal and administrative experts.

  • Business support measures: Be Circular – Be Brussels enterprise call offers advice, financial and marketing support to entrepreneurial circular economy projects that are economically viable and beneficial for local employment. An annual call for projects is issued with a budget of approximately EUR 1.5 million; between 2016 and 2018, 60 projects have been funded. Other measures include coaching services to business incubation and acceleration, as well as the establishment of the Circular Economy cluster CircleMade.Brussels and Innoviris’ living labs for circular economy research projects.

  • Training and capacity-building measures: The Circular building training tools offer circular economy education modules for Brussels and construction workers. They are run by the Brussels training centres CDR-BRC and EFP as the MODULL 2.0 and BRIC projects.

  • R&I measures: An academic chair in urban metabolism & circular economy was created at the Brussels Free University to link private and public Be Circular participants with academia. It also allows urban metabolism studies to be integrated into the evolving strategy.

A budget of € 12,839,500 was allocated to the implementation of the initiative as part of the 2016 budget of the Brussels-Capital Region, this in turn stemming mainly from environment and innovation budget streams. The budget is reviewed annually according to needs and priorities. Moreover, several projects referred to in the Program have been or are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The programme has been designed with clear objectives, milestones and KPIs which are monitored and evaluated every 18 months by a specific Steering Committee. KPIs are mainly regulatory, business and work-related, though there is an effort in place to create an evaluation framework able to capture the broader, multiple benefits stemming from the transition to the circular economy. The governance of the programme involves multiple public and private actors, along with 3 regional ministries, 15 public administrations, regional advisory committees and around 60 stakeholders between businesses and social organizations. A Steering Committee has been created to strengthen multi-stakeholder coordination, which is also in charge of monitoring and evaluation. The Coordination Committee ensures day-to-day coordination and management and supervises the implementation of the actions also via regular reporting. This inclusive approach has created a strong sense of ownership and helps ensure the initiative is resilient and systemic.

Results, impacts and learnings

After 18 months of implementation, the average rate of achievement of the measures is 45%. Only 14 measures are yet to start, while 20% of the measures are fully completed. Overall, 196 people belonging to 91 organizations take part in the development of the programme, and 49 cross-sectoral collaborations have been already set in place. The programme has indeed contributed to foster inter-ministerial governance approaches, developing collaborative and multi-stakeholder networks that in turn support pooling of capacity and resources around a shared vision. The programme has been developed with a strong learning by doing approach, which regularly convenes all stakeholders in exchanging lessons and identifying rooms for improvement. Thematic coordination meetings are generally perceived as useful occasions to create and build trust, as well as to spot opportunities of joint effort. A mixture of top down centralized coordination and bottom-up participation has also helped create a positive climate for cross-cutting innovation. The programme has been framed primarily as an economic development tool, with a strong focus on businesses, including start-ups. The demand side is not directly targeted, therefore, citizens, users/consumers are not the main target of the programme, and not directly integrated in the co-creation aspects of the programme nor in its objectives. Instead, the consumption aspect mainly falls within the resource management and waste plan, which runs in coordination with the circular economy programme.

A number of weaknesses have been identified from the first rounds of evaluation, including in terms of sectoral approaches that still persist, as well as the scale of intervention which, for certain sectors and themes, is perceived as not particularly effective. Moreover, the lack of consumer involvement in the programme is likely to limit the impact of the programme in the long run. Furthermore, other weaknesses have been identified in a general fragmented knowledge, at the administration level, around the circular economy concept, as well as in the difficulty to turn the various actions of the programme into clear mandates across its organizational chain. In this respect, efforts are in place to understand the feasibility of specific circular economy professionals operating across departments, as well as the structuring of external facilitators acting as ‘hubs’ of connection and convening across the plethora of stakeholders.


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