Boyan Slat, CEO and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, talks during the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit about his efforts to remove plastic waste from the ocean. Photo: Heidi Alletzhauser

From construction to food waste, a circular economy has a massive effect in tackling climate change.  But many steps and solutions are needed to reach that point. The Netherlands and the US are working together to find solutions to create a fully circular economy.

For a long time, our economy has been “linear,” meaning that raw materials are extracted from the Earth, used to make a product, but then throw away when it served its purpose. Example of this include packaging, food waste, and construction materials.

In a true circular economy, waste does not exist. All materials that enter the economy will be reused time and time again, thereby diminishing stress on the environment.

If new raw materials are needed, these must be obtained sustainably, without placing unacceptable burden on the environment and without exhausting natural resources. Social, technological, and system innovations will be required to face the circular challenge. Dutch and American companies, nonprofit organizations, and governments share their experiences and best practices.

Holland Circular Hotspot

The Netherlands aims to be fully circular by 2050. To realize this goal, the Dutch government has launched a government-wide program called Holland Circular Hotspot.

This program includes measures to support the transition to a circular economy. Regulations and legislations are being changed, and new, circular business models are being supported. International cooperation is stimulated as changes are needed worldwide to create a circular economy in the Netherlands.

To make the transition to a complete circular economy, partnerships are inevitable.

The Holland Circular Hotspot stimulates international partnerships by connecting governments, knowledge institutions, and businesses. They will visit California in June 2019.

The program aims to share and present the innovations, knowledge and experiences, and inspire international entrepreneurs and knowledge institutions with successful circular initiatives. An exchange of experiences of other circular experts around the world help create successful circular businesses.

Linear to circular

The Netherlands has selected five economic sectors that are important to the Dutch economy and have a big impact on the environment:

  • biomass and food
  • plastics
  • manufacturing industry
  • construction
  • consumer goods

Learn more about these five sectors.

Cities and regions in the Netherlands, such as Amsterdam, have also taken the initiative to close local and regional loops. Policies, circular hubs, and circular innovations are being developed in close cooperation with frontrunner companies and knowledge institutions.

Circular economy

Components of the circular economy have been around for ages. Think about a shoemaker or compost pile. The former extends a product’s lifetime, while the latter returns natural resources to grow new plants. To speed up the process and foster new technologies, every sector has its own transition agenda.

The three principles of the circular economy include:

  1. Design out waste and pollution. By thinking of the possible circular options for resources during the design of a product, we can design out waste and pollution.
  2. Keep products and materials in use. By lengthening the lifespan of products, we need less production, thus less of resources.
  3. Regenerate natural systems. Natural resources can be returned to the ground or ecosystem, to be reused over and over again. Where some resources may deteriorate in quality, natural resources are renewable.