As the world’s population grows, so does the economy and the demand for raw materials. But these raw materials are limited and will eventually run out.

A circular economy could solve that problem. The idea is based on recycling and reusing as much material as possible, in contrast to one-time use of a linear economy, in which resources are collected, processed, used, then thrown away.

In a circular economy, resources are used for as long as possible to extract the maximum value, then recycled or upcycled when their product life cycle ends. Nothing is thrown away or wasted.

The Dutch government believes the world must shift to a circular economy and by 2050 wants its industries to run completely on reusable raw materials.

To meet that goal, the Netherlands has set aside money to improve waste management and separation, and to re-use discarded products. That means valuable raw materials will no longer be lost in landfills, and that innovations will focus on improving the recycling capability of products.

Collaborative programs are in place to allow public, private and knowledge institutions to exchange knowledge.

By 2023, the circular economy in the Netherlands is expected to account for a market value of 7.3 billion euros and 54,000 jobs, meaning the business opportunities are strong.

A circular economy in practice

Photo: Fairphone

Fairphone is a Dutch company that has developed a modular smartphone. Each component in the phone can be replaced easily.

The new conflict-free phone can be deconstructed in minutes with only a screwdriver. It comes in its own protective case, because, even though every part can be replaced, longevity in use is the main goal.

To reach that goal, Fairphone sells spare parts and offers repair tutorials for users to make its phones useful for as long as possible. The company also works with partners to improve local collection efforts in countries struggling with electronic waste.

Photo: KLM

SkyNRG, founded by the Dutch national airline KLM, Spring Associates, and Argos Oil, has developed a sustainable jet fuel.

The fuel is produced with hydro-processed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) technology. The feedstock for the fuel was sourced from waste streams, such as waste vegetable oil, forestry residues, municipal solid waste, and non-food energy crops.

SkyNRG’s sustainable jet fuel has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80% and could ultimately lower the sector’s dependency on fossil fuels.

Photo: PlasticRoad

The PlasticRoad concept developed by transport infrastructure consultants, KWS (part of VolkerWessels). Road-users and statutory authorities want a road surface that lasts, is quick to build, requires little maintenance and is safe.

The PlasticRoad is a road made of recycled plastic. It is prefabricated and features a hollow space that can be used for various reasons, such as storing water, cables and pipes, heating roads, or generating energy. The PlasticRoad elements allow for circular reuse.

Municipalities collect plastic for PlasticRoad in their own community, an example of the ultimate circular economy model.

A circular economy in the United States

Recently, the Netherlands Consulate General in San Francisco participated in California’s Global Climate Action Summit, focusing on the circular economy, resiliency, and mobility. Check out the video highlights below: