Speech by Stientje van Veldhoven, State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, at the seminar ‘Circular leads the future’, Andaz Hotel, Shanghai

“The value of public procurement in the Netherlands is around 75 billion euros per year. And for the EU it’s a staggering 1,800 billion euros per year. As a major buyer of goods and services, the government can stimulate the circular economy. It’s great to see China welcome our expertise.” Speech by Stientje van Veldhoven, State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, at the seminar ‘Circular leads the future’, Shanghai, 13 April 2018

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m honoured to be here. And I’d like to thank the organisers for this opportunity to speak about the transition to a circular economy.
This seminar is extra special because it’s been organised jointly by China and the Netherlands. It’s a reflection of the strong ties between us. And of the importance that we both attach to the circular economy – a production model based on maximum reuse of raw materials.
Both China and the Netherlands have set ambitious goals in this area. So we can learn a lot from each other. And build new partnerships.
I’m here with dozens of companies specialised in waste management and recycling. They’re eager to deploy their knowledge in China.
It’s great that so many Chinese and Dutch companies are already working together.

And our governments have been sharing knowledge on issues like the extended producer responsibility system for about 12 years now.
Like the Netherlands, China wants to make companies themselves responsible for recycling products. So it’s keen to learn more about the Dutch approach, including our waste tracking system. It’s important to know where the waste is, who’s processing it, where it’s going to. Dutch experts have already held several workshops on this topic in China.

It’s great to see China welcome our expertise. We have a lot to offer each other in the areas of waste management and circular economy. Especially since we’re both working towards maximum reuse of raw materials.
The relevance is clear.
The global population is projected to grow by a third over the next 35 years.
So by 2050 there will be 10 billion people on the planet.
And all these people will need food. They’ll need energy. They’ll need clean drinking water, clean air and clean oceans – so no plastic soup!
This will only be possible if countries and the private sector take their responsibility and work together to make the transition to a different economic model.
A circular economy in which waste is a raw material. In which products are designed so they can be used again and again. An economy that safeguards prosperity for future generations.
The world urgently needs new knowledge to make this happen. And China and the Netherlands can play a leading role here. Because of our inventiveness.

It’s inspiring to see how China – one of the world’s largest economies – takes responsibility in the area of waste and recycling:
-    China wants to increase the volume of recovered household solid waste. Dozens of big cities are introducing waste separation systems. The aim is 35 per cent recycling by 2020.
-    By 2020 China wants to recycle at least 50 per cent of plastic waste used in parcels. That’s significant when you consider that nine million parcels are delivered every day!
-    It’s vital that we raise demand for recycled plastic at the same time!
-    The development of eco-industrial parks is also impressive to see. They’re designed so that one company’s waste can be used as a raw material by another.

The Netherlands is also moving towards an economy without waste, an economy that re-uses raw materials. We want to have a completely circular economy by 2050.
Of course we’re about 200 times smaller than China. But we are the world’s second-largest exporter of agri-food products. That’s only possible because of our commitment to innovation and close cooperation between government and the private sector.
Factors that also underpin our circular economy strategy.

For instance, we’ve now got a National Raw Materials Agreement. Five sectors are drawing up their own road maps for going circular – plastics, biomass and food, consumer goods, manufacturing, and construction.
These plans translate words into action. They’re full of practical measures to do things differently.
To use less concrete – or no concrete at all.
To stop burning plastics – and to make plastics that aren’t fossil-based. China’s import ban on plastic waste is giving a big boost to innovation.
Another way to encourage innovation is to make companies responsible for processing and recycling their own waste.
The Netherlands now leads the world with a recycling rate of 81%.
And there’s a lot of interest in our expertise.

Orgaworld and WTT offer innovative techniques to process organic waste.
WSS provides software for separating waste flows and for ‘pay as you throw’ charging systems.
There’s so much innovation in this sector! So don’t miss the business pitches.

Just because my country’s doing well in recycling doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax. For instance, we’re currently working on new legislation that makes the whole concept of waste obsolete. We’re taking our lead from EU legislation.
Another way to stimulate the circular economy is through public procurement. As a major buyer of goods and services, Dutch central government wants to lead by example. For instance, we’ve got a circular procurement policy for office furniture.
The value of public procurement in the Netherlands is around 75 billion euros per year. And for the EU it’s a staggering 1,800 billion euros per year.

Besides office furniture, we’re doing well on the circular procurement of textiles, construction materials and office paper. We want to expand this policy to other goods and services too.

Circular procurement saves the government money, and it creates a circular business cases for suppliers. As a big player, government can create new markets for sustainable products.

Let me conclude.

We’re keen to share our knowledge on ways of becoming a circular economy, on innovation, on governance.
International cooperation and knowledge sharing are key factors in shaping a futureproof economy.
Today’s theme – ‘Circular leads the future’ – is highly appropriate.
Here’s to an inspiring seminar!

Thank you.