KNOWLEDGE MAP Back to overview

Circular Economy

What policies are still necessary?

With additional and sometimes different policies, the Dutch government can promote the transition to the circular economy even better. For example, definitions of waste and raw materials in legislation and regulations have become outdated. In addition, policy measures still focus mainly on recycling and traditional partnerships, and a tax shift from labour to raw materials has not yet been achieved. In addition to the national level, it is important that the Dutch and European governments continue to manifest themselves internationally for the circular economy. Worldwide, the amount of mined raw materials is still increasing every year.

National level

Implementation of laws and regulations hinders circularity

In October 2019, the Task Force Waste Review published its report on regulatory and legislative barriers to the circular economy. The most important observation made by the Task Force was that the obstacles are not so much found in legislation and regulations, but for the most part in their implementation. Rules are often not interpreted in the same way; experimenting with new production processes is sometimes difficult. The Task Force sees that as a result initiatives remain small-scale, while the step must now be taken towards more and more extensive innovative processes (Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, 2019).

The Task Force Waste Review was set up by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to advise the government on obstacles to circularity in waste legislation and regulations. These laws and regulations originated in the 1970s, when waste became a problem. At the time, the starting point was a linear idea, whereby a product would become a waste. Hence the waste legislation and regulations clash with circular ambitions. The findings of the Task Force have been incorporated in this diagram and worked out in detail in the final report (both in Dutch):

Recommendations of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

The Integrated Circular Economy Report 2021 (ICER) is a biennial report that provides insight into the progress of the Netherlands towards the goal of a fully circular economy by 2050, including its environmental and socio-economic effects. The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency drafted the ICER in collaboration with various knowledge institutions.

Opportunities and Challenges

The use of raw materials in the Netherlands has become more efficient, but the total amount used has hardly changed since 2010. The supply risks in the Dutch manufacturing industry increased due to the dependence on rare earth metals, such as cobalt, tungsten and tin. The scarcity of these materials has consequences for the energy transition, because these materials are essential for electrical systems. The international footprint of the Netherlands is also relatively large, because the Netherlands import many raw materials that have a large footprint elsewhere in the world. Finally, The Netherlands are lagging behind with the performance in waste and it seems that the Netherlands will not achieve 6 of the 7 national waste targets without additional policy.


While the Netherlands is a leader in Europe in the field of recycling, the challenge for the Netherlands is to keep these flows of high quality. The number of courses on the circular economy has also increased in the Netherlands. Almost half of the higher professional education institutions and 80 percent of the universities devote attention to this in their curriculum (RVO 2021).

The ICER has established that in terms of government policy a basis has been laid for the Circular Economy, but in addition to setting the agenda, stimulating and creating support, more powerful, possibly compelling instruments are needed, and a widely supported vision of the desired direction that has been elaborated into concrete goals. These goals can be combined with more actions aimed at the higher R strategies, such as refuse, rethink & reduce.

Policy recommendations

The ICER makes the following recommendations to intensify the Circular Economy government policy:

  1. Make sure that environmental damage is included in the prices of products and services. At the moment, for example, polluting new plastic is cheaper than circular alternatives.
  2. Make more use of ‘compulsion and coercion’ in policy, such as mandatory levies, more legislation and standards. At present, the vast majority of initiatives are still without obligation.
  3. Increase the circularity requirements in procurement and tendering by the government step by step, also in the context of producer responsibility.
  4. Develop a detailed vision of the circular economy that is widely supported by social organizations, and flesh it out into concrete goals.
  5. Ensure a clear division of roles between the implementing parties, for example between different sectors.

More information?

You can download and view the complete Integrated Circular Economy Report here (in Dutch).

International Level

Circle Economy calculated for their report The Circularity Gap Report that by 2019 only 9.1% of the world’s raw materials will be fully recycled. In 2018, this was still 9.5%. Internationally, the world is moving away from a circular economy. The researchers formulated four recommendations to reverse this trend. Three of these recommendations are relevant here:

  1. Develop decision criteria and a measurement framework. This will stimulate the setting of objectives, evaluations and peer review.
  2. Make international knowledge transfer easier. This will accelerate the international dissemination of effective policies.
  3. Build a global coalition for action that is both diverse and inclusive. This coalition will increase the capacity of frontrunners.