Accelerating the transition to a circular economy

The government will take various measures to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Rules and legislation that stand in the way of the transition are being amended, for example. And the government actively supports businesses that are engaging in circular practices.

Help for circular businesses

The government has set up a portal, Versnellingshuis Circulaire Economie (in Dutch), where businesses can go for help with their circular projects. The help comes from other businesses, financiers and the authorities. Many businesses are making efforts to achieve a waste-free economy, and they have many good ideas. This service is designed to ensure that circular businesses can put their plans into action more quickly.

Incentives in legislation

The government is screening its legislation to identify any laws that hamper the transition to a circular economy. These obstacles will, wherever possible, be transformed into incentives.

The government has for example amended legislation under which orange peel, which was regarded as waste, can now be used as a raw material (in Dutch) in soap and detergents.

It has also set up a special website, Smart Regulation for Innovation, (in Dutch) where the public can report any legislation that presents an obstacle to a circular economy. The government will then work with the person highlighting the issue and the parties responsible to find a solution.

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. The government is also looking into the potential for introducing producer responsibility for products like mattresses, disposable nappies and textiles.

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 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 it should be possible to reuse or repurpose its parts or materials. 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. All public authorities in the Netherlands will together strive to prevent a million tonnes of carbon emissions 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.

2020 budget: extra money for circular projects

The government’s aim is for 50% of materials to be reused as far as is possible by 2030, and for waste to be converted into usable raw materials where possible. To this end it intends to make a one-off sum of €80 million available in 2020 for circular projects that reduce carbon emissions from groundworks, roadbuilding and hydraulic engineering. In its 2020 budget the government has also made €8 million available for programmes to advance the transition to a circular economy in a variety of sectors.

This is all set out in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management’s 2020 budget (in Dutch). These are policy plans which are yet to be approved by parliament.

See also Businesses: main plans for 2020 (in Dutch).

Planning and adjusting on the way to 2050

The goal is for the Netherlands to have a completely circular economy by 2050. Exactly how this will be achieved is set out in the government-wide programme, the transition agendas and the Implementation Programme. To ensure that the Netherlands stays on track to its 2050 goals, the government will monitor and make adjustments to the programmes where necessary.

Once a year the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management will hold the National Circular Economy Conference (in Dutch), and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) will publish a progress report every two years.