First companies for NextGen District in Port of Antwerp sign agreement

NextGen District, situated on a former General Motors site, has been established as the Port of Antwerp’s circular economy hotspot. The 88-hectare location was deliberately chosen because of its proximity to Europe’s largest chemical cluster for the circular economy.

The district aims to become the home of innovative players in the circular process and manufacturing industries who will give end-of-life products a second or third life, explore circular carbon solutions and develop renewable energy technologies. In order to attract as many national and international pioneers in the field of circularity as possible, market surveys were conducted in October 2020 and June 2021.

Circular economy game changers
The first two companies to sign up are both game changers. Antwerp-based Triple Helix is set to build a factory to take polyurethane foam from discarded mattresses, insulation panels and car seats, among other sources, and waste PET from the retail and food industries, and convert them into polyols. These chemicals can then be used in the production of new polyurethane products, for example. The factory will be fully circular and self-sufficient in terms of energy use.

Bolder Industries has developed a pioneering process for extracting values from end-of-life tyres, which delivers dramatic environmental savings to the global rubber and plastics industries and their customers. The company’s proprietary process produces BolderBlack® and BolderOil™, sustainable replacements for carbon black. In this recovery process, 98% of a tyre’s materials are used and 75% of the resulting solids and liquids make their way back into new tyres, manufactured rubber goods and plastics.

The total investment value of these two new players amounts to approx. 100 million euros and will generate at least 70 new jobs. After applying for the necessary permits, the objective is for them to be operational by 2023-2024.
In the meantime, talks with other potential candidates are still in full swing. The projects are judged on feasibility, future orientation, innovative value, climate impact and adaptability. More news on this will follow in the course of 2022.

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO, Port of Antwerp: “The signing of these first two concessionaires represents a milestone for NextGen District and for Port of Antwerp. Several teams within our organisation have pulled out all the stops in recent months to achieve this milestone. With this, we are taking another important step forward in our pioneering role in the context of the climate transition. I want to thank both companies for being bold enough to take this leap of faith and I hope other game changers will follow.”

Steven Peleman, CEO, Triple Helix: “To drastically reduce emissions and waste pollution, we want to show the principle of material reincarnation to the world. In our plant at NextGen District, we want to recover polyurethane foams at the end of their life and transform them into their main components to be used again in new products. This is innovative and challenging, but with Port of Antwerp, BlueChem and our industrial and knowledge partners, we are ready to fight this battle. Not words but deeds!”

Tony Wibbeler, CEO, Bolder Industries: “Since 2015, we have delivered material solutions that are now in thousands of rubber, plastics, and petrochemical products globally and with some of the world’s most recognized brands. We’re very proud to join the Port of Antwerp NextGen District, which is strategically situated, allowing Bolder Industries to better serve our global customers and make a meaningful contribution to the circular economy.”

Annick De Ridder, Vice-Mayor city of Antwerp and President Port of Antwerp: “These new players and the investment and jobs they generate are very good news for the sustainable growth of our port. In the NextGen District these pioneers will be given every opportunity to innovate and contribute to the strengthening, synergy and diversification of the port platform. With this cluster of circular companies at a prime logistical location, we can accelerate the transition to a climate-neutral society.”

Claire Tillekaerts, CEO, Flanders Investment & Trade Agency: “Even in Covid times, Flanders remains an attractive destination for new foreign investors. The synergy between the central location of our region and the logistical assets of Port of Antwerp, sharpened by a hands-on policy of the Flemish government committed to circular economy forms a very attractive framework for innovative companies, with mutually complementary effects. I am therefore very pleased to welcome Bolder Industries as a new ecosystem-strengthening partner in Flanders.”