OVAM's ELFM Programme

Enhanced Landfill Mining (ELFM) is a strategic project by OVAM that runs from 2011 to 2015. This concept has been developed recently by the ELFM consortium in Flanders, of which OVAM is a member.

Within OVAM all departments are involved, because ELFM covers the waste, materials and soil policy areas. An ELFM project team defines this ELFM concept in more concrete terms.

At the same time OVAM has developed a programme. Its main lines are the inventory, valorisation, communication and legal framework. On the basis of this information and knowledge, ELFM is seen as a form of sustainable stock management.

During this planning period, OVAM set up various subprojects to collect concrete data about these research areas. This involves both its own research and the support of knowledge gathering by third parties.

OVAM is an environmental agency in Flanders (Northern region of Belgium) dealing with the issues of Soil Remediation, Waste and Sustainable Materials Management (SMM).

Over the last years, a policy transition towards SMM was developed and from this perspective, the role of the active and former landfills should be reconsidered and integrated in the new SMM policy. The concept of Enhanced Landfill Mining (ELFM) was introduced and defined by Jones et al.1 as

“the safe conditioning, excavation and integrated valorisation of landfilled waste streams as both materials and energy, using innovative transformation technologies and respecting the most stringent social and ecological criteria”.

In 2011, a corporate vision on ELFM was approved by the OVAM Board of directors and resulted in an operational programme over the period 2011 – 2015.

The introduction of ELFM should also be related with the new concept of Sustainable Materials Management and the broader shift to a Circular economy.

From this point of view, landfills are no longer considered as a final and static situation but as a dynamic part of the materials cycle. The potential valorisation of the disposed waste is an important aspect in the assessment of the environmental impact of landfills.

Project implementation

Within OVAM a project structure has been set up in which the three departments are represented and take on specific tasks. It is controlled by the board of directors. For each segment (surveying, mapping, mining) practical examples are sought and implemented. This approach should support a sound basis for the ELFM policy and adjust it where necessary. Every subtask needs to contribute to the final goal, i.e. ISO 2015 certification, the standard for stock management at landfill sites. The general principles of a project-based approach are defined here in a division into 15 subtasks with milestones in the planning period 2012-2015.

Knowledge gathering

ELFM is not only a relatively new concept but is also still little explored and elaborated. In international terms, too, knowledge is limited and, as a result, OVAM has defined a concrete research programme. The ELFM concept is described as a form of stock management, and this management has 3 pillars: an inventory of the landfill sites, a description of the landfill sites and the mining of landfill sites. For every pillar research projects are set up and supported. Because only fragmented knowledge is present, OVAM is systematically looking for partners and opportunities to improve knowledge gathering. This explains the attention for scaling up the ELFM consortium to EU level and frequent English communication around this topic.