Netherlands pulls ahead in circular economy race

Netherlands pulls ahead in circular economy race

The Netherlands is gearing up to make the circular economy a centrepiece of its presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2016. As part of the preparations, a project to make the Netherlands a “circular hotspot” started in September 2014.

The project has its roots in a 2013 “Green Deal” between the Dutch government and project partners Circle Economy, MVO Nederland and the Amsterdam Economic Board. Green Deals are Dutch government-backed partnership agreements to help with the implementation of sustainability programmes (the Eco-innovation Action Plan previously covered Green Deals at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecoap/about-eco-innovation/policies-matters/netherlands/20120726_en.htm).

The circular hotspot Green Deal aimed to start a number of projects to demonstrate the opportunities and create a network that would have an overall influence on Dutch policy to encourage the take-up of circular economy principles. The Green Deal triggered a specific programme, the Realisation of Acceleration of a Circular Economy (RACE), which is overseen by Circle Economy and is backed by Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.

RACE was launched in September 2014. Circle Economy, the organiser, is a cooperative with members including companies, researchers and public bodies. RACE has a series of work packages to:

  • Define and stimulate circular design;
  • Stimulate high-quality reuse of products;
  • Analyse the barriers to the circular economy;
  • Create a portfolio of circular projects that will serve as examples;
  • Raise public awareness about the circular economy;
  • Involve young people in the transition to a circular economy.

RACE is a young initiative but it has already created a set of guiding principles for circular design and started to test them. These, according to RACE, “challenge designers to first make a statement about the need they are going to fulfil with their design, rather than directly focusing on a physical product.” In other words, the designer of a television, for example, should consider the need for the television and the context in which it will be used, before considering how to address the need and the context through a physical product that is constructed in such a way that waste is designed out.

Further initiatives will follow ahead of the Dutch presidency of the Council of the EU. By the time it starts, according to RACE, the Netherlands should be recognised as a “global frontrunner for circular economy, by creating tangible examples and making circular economy a mainstream paradigm.”