Accelerating the transition to a circular economy

The Dutch government has set the target of achieving a fully circular economy by 2050. Governments, industry and civil society organizations have joined forces to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. All actions that these partners work on are gathered in the Circular Economy Implementation Programme. The Programme provides an overview of circular economy developments and new activities that are being launched, and reports on the progress of activities that were already under way. Under this Programme efforts are being made through five transitional agendas, ten cross-cutting themes and at regional level, with projects that yield valuable experience and lessons for central government policy and with the best combination of instruments.

The five transition agendas are:

  • Biomass and food 
    Biomass is a raw material for the animal feed, chemicals, transport fuel and energy industries. It can be used to make many sectors greener and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Plastics
    Plastics are everywhere. They are useful, but they damage the environment, in the form of plastic soup, plastic litter and microplastics in water, and impact on the climate. The government, industry and environmental organisations have committed to plans to tackle plastic waste in the Plastics Pact.
  • Manufacturing industry 
    The manufacturing industry uses metals and other materials to make new products. These production processes are often environmentally harmful. Circular design based on the high-grade sustainable reuse of materials is needed.
  • Construction 
    The construction sector accounts for 50% of raw materials consumption in the Netherlands. A large proportion of our waste comes from demolition. We need to step up the pace of innovations (such as circular and modular construction) in order to make our living environment more sustainable.
  • Consumer goods
    Consumer goods are packaged goods that we all use, from disposable cups to clothes, and from soft drinks to vacuum cleaners. The goal is to reuse raw materials and packaging rather than wasting them.

The Circular Economy Implementation Program has ten cross-cutting themes that play a role in each of the transition agendas. Some of these cross-cutting themes are explained in further detail below.

Help for circular businesses

The Circular Economy Accelerator portal (Versnellingshuis) can help your business with its plans or ideas for the circular economy, or respond to your questions about knowledge, network partners, legislation or financing. The portal is a partnership of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO/NCW), the Royal Association MKB-Nederland for SMEs, sustainability think-tank the Green Brain and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

Responsibility for sustainable products

Producers and importers will share responsibility for the management of waste generated by the products they market. This should encourage manufacturers to make their products as sustainable as possible. It will also ensure that more products are collected and recycled at the end of their useful life.

Producer responsibility already applies to manufacturers and importers of:

  • cars;
  • tyres;
  • electronic goods;
  • packaging;
  • batteries.

The government is exploring the possibility of expanding producer responsibility, by reaching agreement with producers as to how much recyclable (recycled or bio-based) material is to be included in their products.

Products that prevent waste

Circular design is important for a circular economy. This means designing and developing products in such a way that they are easy to repair, recycle and reuse. Circular design is geared towards preventing waste. For example, more and more modular phones are being launched, consisting of parts that can be individually replaced. So if the camera is broken, only that part need be replaced, rather than the entire device.

The government’s goal is for as many manufacturing companies as possible to have taken steps towards circular design of their products by 2022. This is set out in the government’s letter to parliament in response to the transition agendas (in Dutch).

More sustainable manufacturing and consumption through market incentives

The government can use targeted price incentives (market incentives) to guide the country towards a circular economy. This can encourage manufacturers to opt for recycled or bio-based materials, and consumers to choose sustainable products.

Examples of market incentives:

  • higher prices for products whose manufacture is bad for nature and the environment;
  • financial benefits for companies that use resources as sustainably and efficiently as possible.

Circular procurement

Unlike in normal procurement procedures, circular procurement involves considering at the outset what will happen to a product once it has reached the end of its life. The principle is that the product will be put to optimal use again after its life cycle. It is important that products and component materials retain their value. Waste paper can, for instance, be used to make toilet paper.

The government is keen to set an example in the transition to a circular economy. The government's ambition is to work with all public authorities to save 1 megaton of CO2 through circular procurement. Rijkswaterstaat, for example, is experimenting with building a viaduct from reusable components, and the Ministry of Defence is having parts of its equipment made from recycled parts of old military equipment. 

Would you like to get involved in circular procurement (in Dutch)? PIANOo has some practical tips.