The September 2018 Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

By Floris van der Laan
Consulate General of the Netherlands in San Francisco

Bringing your own bag or stylish reusable bottle to work to reduce the amount of plastic waste. Fighting “energy vampires” by unplugging unused devices in your home. Trying a meat-free Monday. Or simply turning off the lights when you leave your house.

Going circular can be easy, and everyone can help create a circular economy in a fun and creative way!

“In Silicon Valley terms, the circular economy is moving from a startup to a scale-up phase,” said Consul General Gebert Kunst. “Sustainable innovations are introduced in our daily lives, and more and more countries are trying to grow their economies without impacting the environment. Products and materials should be used time and time again, creating a green economy without waste. The Netherlands is a leading nation for this cause, as it set itself the goal to be a complete circular economy by 2050.”

The Netherlands and California have come up with innovative ways to develop a circular economy. Think about the use of smart mobility, clean transportation, and sustainable infrastructure.

An example of this is PaperFoam, a company that makes plastic packaging a thing of the past. By creating a biodegradable type of packaging that is 100 percent compostable, PaperFoam has found an innovative solution for both manufacturers and consumers. It is the perfect alternative for plastic in a circular economy, as it is environmentally friendly throughout its lifecycle.

Although Philip Bredt, VP Business Development at PaperFoam, doesn’t believe PaperFoam is changing the market, he identifies the steps that can be taken. “Only in the US, the size of the packaging market is about 240 billion USD. I do believe PaperFoam, together with other sustainable initiatives, are paving the road and showing examples in the market that it is indeed possible to create sustainable packaging solutions. Together with our clients, we show the world that we can replace plastics in multiple applications using renewable resources and using a clean production process.”

Moving toward a circular economy

“We believe fighting climate change and profitable business go hand in hand,” said Consul General Kunst. “The Netherlands is taking a major leap toward becoming resilient and fully circular, but we are not there yet. International cooperation is necessary to reach our goals. I am therefore glad that the Netherlands and California share a pioneering and inventive spirit, which is based on our climate- and environmental partnership.”

Together with California, the Netherlands is focusing on combating climate change in part by creating a circular economy. Recently, Dutch-British multinational Unilever announced that it will eliminate more than 100,000 tons of plastic packaging, increasing its recycling endeavors.

This follows the decision of San Francisco Airport to ban its sales of plastic water bottles. The airport aims to become a zero “waste-to-landfill” facility, showing California’s position in creating a global circular economy.

Trade mission

To further strengthen this partnership, a trade mission will visit San Francisco and Los Angeles from November 11-15.

As a follow-up to the Global Climate Action Summit in September 2018, this visit will focus on smart mobility, resiliency, and circular economy. The 50 participating Dutch businesses are looking to connect to US businesses to share expertise on these sustainable topics, and make new connections to build partnerships in clean transportation, sustainable produce, infrastructure, and water management technology.

The Netherlands and California successfully collaborate in the Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance, creating a market for low- or zero-emission transport.

“Both California and the Netherlands face similar challenges due to the effects of climate change like rising sea levels, extreme weather and environmental pollution,” wrote Stientje van Veldhoven, Minister for the Environment, to the participating businesses. “We will need to share knowledge and expertise on the smart, sustainable solutions for decarbonisation of our global economy. Jointly we have shown our willingness and ability to cooperate on climate change, such as the Paris Agreement. Decarbonisation of the economy is starting to happen. But we need to accelerate. Now is the time for action, for sustainable and smart mobility solutions, for a true circular global economy, for climate resilient cities and countries.”

The trade mission in California is the ideal opportunity for Dutch sustainable innovators and California to further work on its circular strategies. Many changes still have to be made to tackle climate change and have a global circular economy. The Netherlands and California are already pitching in, and you can do so as well. Share your knowledge on a sustainable environment with others, and help them with practical tips.