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Circular Economy

Circular businesses

Circular companies show how circular business models work in practice. There are many examples of this among start-ups, but also SMEs, multinationals and semi-public organisations give examples of circular entrepreneurship. Below is a selection of Dutch companies with iconic circular products or projects.

An extensive overview with examples of circular entrepreneurship can be found on the page of the Netherlands Circular (in Dutch): bestpractices.circulairondernemen.nl.


Closing the Loop

With the ‘One for One’ program, Closing the Loop offers companies the opportunity to compensate for the raw material consumption of new mobile phones upon purchase. This is done by linking the purchase to the collection and responsible recycling of an old telephone. Similar to CO2 compensation, but for scarce metals.

The same approach is used to give discarded mobile phones a circular second life. By linking every used phone – which is sold on the second-hand market in Africa – to the collection of a waste phone, they ensure that reuse does not lead to more ‘e-waste’. In this way, a collection structure is set up that was often not yet in place and income is created for the local population (Netherlands Circular, 2018).


Concrete is strong enough to last for centuries. But every kilogram of cement produces one kilogram of CO2 emissions. This means that today’s concrete and cement industry emits about three times as much CO2 as all aircraft combined. Crushed pieces of concrete can now only be used as low-grade gravel replacements.

SmartCrusher is a device that separates the unused cement stone from the concrete rubble. It also produces residual flows of good quality sand and gravel. The cement stone can be used directly in concrete production and thus saves cement and CO2 emissions. With SmartCrusher, 50% of the world’s largest concrete construction flow can be made circular. The revenue model shows that the investment can be recouped within 1.5 years and that the price of concrete is halved. And that without including CO2 pricing (Netherlands Circular, 2018).

Small and medium-sized enterprice (SME)


Auping won the Circular Award Business with the development of the Revive mattress, which is fully recyclable. In the Netherlands, 1.5 million mattresses are thrown away every year. Mattresses are poorly recyclable and most of them are currently incinerated. The ‘Revive’ mattress, which was developed in collaboration with DSM-Niaga, offers the solution to this problem. It is a high-quality mattress of which all materials are suitable for reuse in a new mattress. In addition, the company also offers the mattress in a lease construction. A completely closed cycle that offers opportunities for both refurbishment and recycling, without downcycling (Auping, 2019).


Instock is the first restaurant in the Netherlands to put food waste on the map, both literally and figuratively. The creative chefs at Instock transform products that wouldn’t otherwise make it to the plate into delicious dishes.

Products that no longer have any sales value for producers and supermarkets are picked up by Instock and sorted in the Food Rescue Center. Instock supplies the rescued fruit and vegetables to catering companies. Saved potatoes are processed in Pieper Beer and unsold bread becomes Bammetjes Beer. The remaining brewers are used to make granola with a high fibre content (Netherlands Circular, 2018).

Van Werven B.V.

For years, Van Werven invested in something that did not yet exist: sorting and recycling residual plastics from building waste and environmental waste streams into a high-quality raw material. The company is able to separate plastic from plastic and can therefore accept and process all plastic waste.

By entering into partnerships with suppliers and customers, the company is assured of supply and sales. Knowledge can also be shared in order to strengthen each other. An example is the cooperation with Wavin, producer of plastic pipe systems: the company uses more than 10% recycled plastic, of which Van Werven supplies a significant proportion (Netherlands Circular, 2018).



In recent years, Philips has established itself as a leader in the circular economy with two products: offering light as a “Circular Lighting” service and buying back used equipment by Philips Medical Systems.

Circular Lighting is Philips’ lighting management and maintenance service. This new business model for professional interior lighting was developed by Philips in collaboration with Turntoo. In this way, the lighting installation remains the property of Philips. This means that the company is maximally driven to produce products that it can reuse itself, while also stimulating innovation in lighting (Nederland Circulair, 2016). Philips Medical Systems produces, among other things, MRi scanners. Philips has an active policy to retain and sell used products in the second-hand market after they have been refurbished. This not only generates revenue, but also enables Philips to monitor product quality and thus protect its fire (Philips, 2019).


Vanderlande is the world market leader in airport baggage systems and sorting systems for parcel and postal services as well as a leading supplier of warehouse automation. Together with cradle-to-cradle founder Michael Braungart, Vanderlande has designed a circular conveyor belt. This Blueveyor has been designed in such a way that it can be easily and quickly disassembled and all materials can be reused to a high standard. It also consists of fewer parts so that less material is used. The company also gives the materials a passport so that they can be reused more effectively (Vanderlande, 2019).


Water network

Since November 2018, Waternet has been a shareholder of AquaMinerals on behalf of the Amstel, Gooi and Vecht (AGV) water board. This partnership of the drinking water sector gives reclaimed raw materials a second life. The purpose of this participation is to realise profitable and sustainable sales channels for the produced residues and raw materials of AGV.

Waternet and AGV have a great ambition when it comes to recovering energy and raw materials. They currently produce a variety of residues and raw materials. For example, phosphate in the form of struvite at the sewage treatment plant in Amsterdam West, but also calcite pellets or iron sludge that is released during drinking water production. The new challenge for both parties is the sale of screenings, screenings, sand, grease and in the future dried sludge that is released during the purification of our waste water (Waternet, 2019).

Get to work yourself?

If a company wants to apply principles of circularity in its business operations, it can follow workshops at CIRCO. With the support of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, CIRCO assists companies in discovering and implementing new circular business opportunities.

For more information, please visit: www.circonl.nl/doe-mee/