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Circular Economy

What ambition is currently followed?

In the Netherlands and Europe, the urgency of a transition to a circular economy is noted. As a result, goals have been formulated by the EU to achieve a more circular system at a given time. And in the Netherlands, a government-wide ambition has been formulated as a guiding vision.

National level

Governmental Circular Economy program

In October 2016 the governmental circular economy program has been created. In this report a nationwide plan is drawn up by multiple departments, the function as a vision for the successful implementation of the circular economy. This piece is based on the SER advisory report on the circular economy (Sociaal-economische Raad (SER), 2016 p 41).

The content of this report can be found here.

The goal formulated in this report is to reduce the amount of primary resources used in the Netherlands by 50% in 2030, and to become completely circular by 2050.This can be accomplished through a resource agreement, a cultural paradigmshift, and investments in the sharing economy. Five interventions are defined to reach this goal, which will have tob e elaborated in transition pathways for different sectors:

  1. Stimulating legislation – Legislation must accommodate circular initiatives by:
  • Providing more room for experimentation
  • Adaptation of European rules on nutrient recycling and reuse
  • Encouraging circular revenue models, recycling and reuse
  • Stimulating an integral chain approach.
  1. Smart market incentives – The existing instruments of taxation, duties and subsidies could be better aligned with the transition to a circular economy. In addition, the government wil go for 10 % circular purchases in 2020.
  2. Financing – Investment in sustainable developments in the Netherlands should be further encouraged.
  3. Knowledge and Innovation – The government will strengthen the joint focus on innovation and knowledgedevelopment for a circular economy by developing transition routes for different key sectors.
  4. International cooperation – The Netherlands will be positioned as an international Circular Hotspot.
  5. Behavior: to make this transition land in society, policy needs to be formulated about how to influence and change the behavior of organisations and individuals in a more sustainable direction.

The government is working together with businesses to write transition agendas. These agendas will outline the change strategy for the next five years. The government has identified five priority sectors. These are sectors where much progress can be made through the adoption of circular economy principles. From these five sectors, five transition teams have been assembled, whose members are prominent in their sector. The five sectors are:

  1. Consumer Goods
  2. Construction
  3. Plastics
  4. Biomass and Food
  5. Manufacturing

Every transition agenda contains agreements on:

  1. Development paths for 2021, 2025 and 2030;
  2. Action agenda with concrete projects for innovation;
  3. Knowledge agenda where knowledge- and research questions are formulated;
  4. Social agenda with attention for labor market effects, education and cultural change;
  5. Investment agenda with financial obstacles and possibilities.

In November 2017, the transition teams will finish their transition agendas. The finished agendas will be offered to the initiators of the National Agreement on 15 January 2018, at the start of the Week of Circular Economics. News about the progress of the government wide program can be found on their website (in Dutch).

Waste to Resource


The Waste to Resource program details a number of ambitions that will bring a circular economy closer to reality, through a new way of handling waste:

  1. Identifying and eliminating unnecessary obstacles in legislation: the ambition is to to remove any obstacles for entrepreneurs to make their production processes and waste handling more sustainable;
  2. Less material leaves the economy: the ambition is to visibly reduce the amount of material that leaves the economy. In 2012 9,2 Mton of material from The Netherlands was offered to waste incineration plats and landfills. The aim is to halve this amount in ten years;
  3. Better separation of household waste and comparable waste streams: for the separation of household waste this cabinet has the abmition to reach 75% household waste in 2020. The concrete amount has been set to 100 kg waste per citizen per year;
  4. Dutch Hotspot circular economics: the ambition of the cabinet is to make The Netherlands into a hotspot of circular economics by 2020. This ambition is more qualitative in characters and is meant as a beckoning perspective.

Source: Voortgangsrapportage VANG


The knowledge and innovation agendas the topsectors are required to make will also contain a passage about their contribution to societal challenges, among which circular economics.

European level

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement, signed on 12 December 2015, has the central aim to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework. Further information on key aspects of the Agreement can be found here.

Dutch State Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment signed this agreement on April 22nd, 2016, on behalf of the 28 members of the European Union.  This agreement will take action when the current climate agreement, the Kyoto protocol, will end in 2020. All participating countries will take action to develop their country as climate neutral as possible. These countries will be required to present new, increasingly ambitious goals and evaluate their progress every five years. An important goal is that rich, developed countries will be required to help developing countries to decrease their pollution.


(Source: Klimaattop 2016, UN)

EU Circular Economy Package

From the European Commission a proposal for an action plan to implement the circular economy, beginning in December 2015 appeared. In this ambitious report includes an action plan in which the entire material cycle is included. Following this plan to close the loop by recycling and reuse can benefit both the environment and the economy.

Attached was a new proposal for legislation in the field of waste operation. This included ambitious goals:

  • The goal is to recycle 65% of municipal waste across the EU in 2030
  • The goal is to recycle 75% of packaging waste across the EU in 2030
  • The purpose to dump up to 10% of municipal waste in landfills by 2030
  • A ban on the dumping of waste separate waste streams
  • Proposals for economic instruments to discourage landfill
  • Improved definitions and calculation methods for measuring recycling rates
  • Concrete proposals to promote reuse and industrial symbiosis
  • Economic incentives for greener products to transform the market and to support recycling and reuse.

European Commission, 2016, See also this link.

Progress per 2017

The European Commission published a progress report in January 2017, where a few new activities are reported, among which setting up the Circular Economy Finance Support Platform with the European Investment Bank (IEB), a plan for the extraction of energy from waste, and a plan for the improvement of legislation surrounding the use of dangerous substances in the production of electrical and electronic appliances.

In 2017, The EU Commission will develop a strategy for plastic waste, an exploration of options for an improved interface between chemicals, products and resource legislation, and a proposition for renewed legislation about the reuse of water and a framework for monitoring the circular economy.

In March 2017 the Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference was held in Brussels (the reports can be reviewed here and here), where the progress of the program was reviewed. During the conference the launch of the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform was announced. This platform has the goal to be a ‘network of networks’ where knowledge about circular economics is collected and a dialogue between stakeholders is made possible.

News about the progress of the European Programme can be read on the website of the European Commission.

Sustainable Development Goals

The UN has formulated 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) that describe targets for all participating countries, leading to a more sustainable world. Target 8 (decent work and economic growth) and target 12 (responsible production and consumption) are strongly related to the achievement of a circular economy.

See this page for more information.