Circular Economy

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The world’s population has quadrupled over the past 100 years and it is expected to exceed the nine billion in 2050. At the same time the availability of resources keeps on falling. In order for everyone to lead prosperous lives on a healthy planet in the future it is necessary to start managing our raw materials in a smarter way today. It is time to build a new system that will take us to a circular economy.

With almost 18 million people living on just 41.500 km2 The Netherlands can almost be seen as a densely populated city with outstanding infrastructure, mainports and logistics. This combined with the country’s open minded, cooperative business mentality and drive for innovation creates excellent conditions for a circular economy as products and large quantities of products and materials can easily circulate.

The Netherlands has made good use of these conditions and is a pioneer in transforming the linear economy into a circular economy. The Netherlands has become a circular hotspot in the whole European region. We have managed to double the recycling of plastic packaging in six years’ time and in 2014 we were already recycling 82% of our paper and cardboard. For metals, the level is even 94%. Companies are also active on realizing a circular economy. For example, G-start Raw uses recycled materials to produce jeans and FrieslandCampina uses manure to generate energy. Consumers are also sharing more things than before, such as cars using Greenwheels, tools using Peerby and Ricoh using scanners and printers.

Furthermore the Dutch government is the first government in the world to formulate a government-wide program and implementation strategy on circular economy with the ambition to be a hundred percent circular economy by 2050. With an interim objective of reducing the use of primary raw materials in 2030 by 50%. To realize these objectives, this year the cabinet wants to conclude a circular economy agreement with a variety of stakeholders.

To accelerate the transition the government plans to draw up “transition agenda” in which the five following chains and sectors have the highest priority: biomass and food, plastics, manufacturing, construction, and consumer goods. The goal is that by 2050 these chains and sectors will only be using sustainably produced, renewable or generally available raw materials. Another aim is for products that reach their end of life to undergo high-quality recycling and be used to make new products.

A circular economy needs more than technical innovations alone: social and economic innovations are essential. For example, when designing a product, the period after end of life has to be taken into account. This requires a society wide effort where a crossover between sectors such as design, tech, logistics, the creative industry and fintech is essential. The Dutch business world has a strong culture of collaboration and cooperation and the country functions as a living lab where new models can be tested and improved before scaling (inter)nationally.