Bandera, S. (2021). Land recycling in the European Union circular economy: (Re)development of brownfields as a potential mitigation strategy to land consumption focusing on Austria and the region of Flanders in Belgium [Master Thesis, Technische Universität Wien]. reposiTUm. https://doi.org/10.34726/hss.2021.91904
The issue of brownfields has been acknowledged for a long time in various countries around the world and has been gaining awareness since the 1990s. A shift away from traditional industrial and commercial sites from the city centers has left many urban spaces with abandoned, derelict of under used areas, as well as creating such sites in areas that are experiencing rural depopulation. Austria and the Region of Flanders in Belgium are both areas that are experiencing the pressures of land consumption on still available greenfields. It is estimated, that if Austria continues on this path of land consumption, that in 200 years there will be no more land available for agricultural purposes. This trend not only infringes on theopen green spaces that Austria is known and admired for, but it may well become a serious question of the ability to remain autonomous in terms of food production. Similar trends can be identified in Flanders, however, while land used for agriculture and grassland still make up the largest portion, residential land take closely follows in third place. For both case study regions,the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 11.3.1, regarding land consumption rate inrelation to the population growth rate, clearly demonstrates decoupled development. For Austria, in the time frame of 2007-2019, apart from 2016 and almost 2015 with a value of 0.99 all years were a lot higher than the value 1, which means that land consumption has be endisproportionately high. The mean value of Flanders, in the analyzed time amounts to 1.47,while not as high as Austria’s 3.17, is also clearly shows the rising disparities. With this rising pressure the shift towards the possibilities of using these previously developed sites as potential mitigation strategies to land consumption has been widely accepted. Contaminated sites have been focused on through legal frameworks such as the ‘Contaminated Sites Remediation Act’in Austria, or the ‘Brownfield Covenant Act’ in Flanders, which both include financial mechanisms to support the (re)development. While it is important to secure these sites, to notonly protect the environment and the health and safety of residents most high-risk locations have been identified, registered and are being remediated. The focus now needs to shift to the sites that show little to no contamination as these are only now starting to become a problem,and the documentation of these sites is the main difficulty in both countries. Furthermore, whilethe costs of (re)development may not be as severe, these areas often have a certain levelof stigmatization, making it harder to re-enter them into the economic cycle.