Transport of Flemish Brabant’s household waste by water: trial set up with inland waterways shuttle from Leuven

The trial project for the transport of household waste by water from Flemish Brabant to the Indaver facility in Doel has now added a second loading site at Leuven. Positive tests run have already been completed from Vilvoorde. For two to three months an inland waterways shuttle service will run twice a week back and forth between Leuven and Kallo, and from there the waste will be transported the five kilometres to the treatment installation. If the evaluation is positive, an agreement will be drawn up for the transport of 30,000 tonnes of waste a year from each quay for the remainder of the term of the treatment contract (2023). The barge sailing from Leuven is a Kempenaar barge that can carry 10 containers per load.


Fewer tailbacks

The biggest advantage of transport via inland waterways is the positive way it contributes towards solving the mobility problem in the European logistics region. 

“With an annual reduction of 2,400 trucks, each filled with around 25 tonnes of residual waste, on the road between Flemish Brabant and Doel, the authorities in Flemish Brabant are fulfilling an exemplary role,” says Rudi Beeken, chairman of EcoWerf.

The 2,400 truck journeys from two transfer stations in Leuven and Grimbergen account for around 300,700 km annually – that’s around 7.5 times the circumference of the earth. All the trucks drive the Brussels-Antwerp and Leuven-Antwerp routes and on the Antwerp ring road, all busy motorways in Flanders.

Fewer CO2 emissions, less fuel

All the partners in the project want to keep the ecological footprint of the transport of waste as small as possible. For that reason they have cooperated intensively to achieve this result. After all, waste transport by water also leads to a reduction in emissions.

When in operation, every engine – be it a truck engine or a barge engine – releases an amount of waste gas, particularly the greenhouse gas CO2 or carbon dioxide. The transport from Leuven is being done with a relatively small barge (a Kempenaar with 10 containers) and with larger container barges with mixed cargo from Vilvoorde. Depending on the age of the engines in the barges used, the size of the vessel and the type of vehicles used for the pre- and post-transport, the CO2 emissions of the multi-modal transport fall to 50% of those of traditional truck transport.

In addition, VITO also demonstrated a major reduction in fuel consumption. Less air pollution through the use of inland waterways is closely linked to around four times less fuel consumption per tonne and per kilometre. This includes the pre- and post-transport.

Higher cost

Admittedly, multi-modal transport does carry a higher price tag. Various working groups have pored over this and have sought solutions for numerous problems (cost, safety, etc.). The biggest obstacle has been the substantial added cost of this multi-modal transport. The kilometres by water may well be cheaper than by road, but numerous logistical movements are still needed to get the waste from the loading site to the bunker at the incineration plant (cf. appendix). All partners are now agreed on a division of that additional cost, but they are still looking for optimisations.

Paul De Bruycker, Indaver CEO: “Indaver has been helping to come up with ideas on ‘modal shift’ for years, evaluating the cost structure and impact on the environment and on society for each alternative. Only when a scenario scores highly on these three criteria is a shift from road transport to an alternative mode of transport sustainable.”

Adapted container following extensive tests

One of the logistical flaws to be conquered was the container type. These must be sealable for environmental and hygiene reasons (e.g. avoiding odour emissions, litter and vermin). On the other hand, it is essential that the container can be loaded and unloaded safely. Van Moer Stevedoring had an existing 30-foot container converted. This type can hold up to 22 tonnes of waste without causing problems during unloading. The test container has been in circulation since December 2015 and the findings are positive.  Safety during unloading was improved by e.g. making the interior of the container smooth, so that the waste doesn’t get stuck behind crossbeams. The steel top of the container was removed and replaced with folding nets.

Dennie Lockefeer, Van Moer Group CCO: “Van Moer Logistics has always taken a pragmatic approach to this project. It was by building an initial prototype at our own risk that we learned the best way to optimise traffic. During the second phase both efficiency and safety were improved, and we achieved a better result. It is now crucial to further optimise the logistical processes together with Indaver and the intermunicipal organisations."


Numerous organisations have been working together in this project for more than ten years:

  • The principal for the treatment of the waste: these are the 5 intermunicipal waste management partnerships in Flemish Brabant i.e. Incovo, EcoWerf, Interrand, Interza and Haviland
  • The contractor: Indaver, which treats the waste at its waste-to-energy plant in Beveren and Indaver Logistics, the logistics arm of Indaver for the transport of non-hazardous waste
  • Waterwegen & Zeekanaal, which manages the waterways in the west and centre of Flanders and which supports the public authorities in Flanders in transporting household waste via inland waterways
  • Province of Flemish Brabant, which has played a coordinating and stimulating role
  • The subcontractor Van Moer Stevedoring, a company that specialises in container transport by road, water and rail


  • EcoWerf: Peter Standaert, director EcoWerf, Mobile: 0495 52 25 05
  • Indaver: Inge Baertsoen, spokesperson, Mobile: 0497 97 05 70
  • Waterwegen & Zeekanaal: Luc Calluy, Manager Business Development, Mobile: 0477 43 82 78
  • Van Moer Stevedoring: Dennie Lockefeer, CCO Van Moer Group, Mobile: 0490 44 48 88


The research into and proposal of alternative modes of transport was already a requirement of the European tender for ‘Eindverwerking van het Vlaams-Brabants restafval’ (Final treatment of residual waste in Flemish Brabant). Transport by rail proved not to be an option. Transport by water was a feasible alternative. 2005: Contract awarded to Indaver for 18 years based on usage rights in the treatment installation. The cheaper option was chosen – getting transport with ‘walking floor’ trucks quickly operational. A working group was given the task to explore all options, within three years, to reduce the difference in cost between road and water transport.

This ‘Water transport’ working group consists of the principals and the contractor, plus W&Z. After the initial optimism, when effective cost reductions were identified e.g. in the contract part, achieving transport by water did not prove straightforward.

In 2014 – 2015 a new trial project was conducted to develop a new type of container together with a modified container chassis and modus operandi. This project was organised in phases from Grimbergen via the container terminal in Vilvoorde along the Brussels-Scheldt Maritime Canal to the port of Antwerp (Kallo). This was followed in May-June 2016 by a final test phase, this time from the quay at EcoWerf in Leuven, which was specially built for the transport of waste via the waterways on the Leuven-Dijle canal, again to the port of Antwerp (Kallo). 

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