In a circular economy, products and materials are reused and production chains are redesigned to minimise waste and maximise the value of resources. The idea of a circular economy has many different aspects, all looking towards being more careful with raw materials and natural resources. This includes more and new ways of recycling, but also a change in designing, manufacturing and using products to limit the use of raw materials.
Reorganising supply chains and changing processes of manufacturing and maintenance are just as much a part of the circular economy as sharing, rather than buying, rarely used products. In fact, while recycling plays a role, changing designs and processes to minimise waste and maximise the value coming from resources is more important. Recycling has a comparatively high cost, so the idea is to effect a radical shift in how we look at the use of raw materials and finished products instead, moving away from the culture of ready disposal of products and waste.
Why a circular economy
In the face of diminishing raw materials and resources, moving towards a circular economy is not only important for the environment, but also for business. To become future-proof, a company must ensure to not be left behind in the transition. There is also a solid business case for the shift: analysis estimates it would add a considerable amount of value and jobs to the economy. In addition, it leaves businesses less vulnerable to risks related to acquiring raw materials. In short, a circular economy will create new opportunities for growth, reduce waste, drive greater resource productivity, deliver a more competitive economy, position our economy to better address emerging resource security and scarcity issues in the future and help reduce the environmental impact of our production and consumption here and abroad.
Industries and companies
The ways to a circular economy vary wildly. There are numerous industries involved, ranging from water management, construction and waste utilisation to service industries and sharing initiatives. Changing the supply chains in construction is as much a part of the circular economy as a move to product-as-service models, where companies retain ownership of a product, enabling them to improve repair, maintenance and reuse processes. The businesses engaged with circular economy processes are similarly manifold, including large corporations, small startups and everything in between.
Circular economy in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is positioning itself as a pioneer in the field. The country, and the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area in particular, has huge potential for developing, testing and scaling new business models and production processes. The small size of the country makes it flexible; at the same time, population density is high and therefore a large amount of materials and products is in circulation. The logistics infrastructure is outstanding, and there is a high concentration of experts, researchers, institutes and innovative businesses. There is a thriving startup ecosystem, so startups receive a lot of support, enabling new models and products. Public support for innovative circular approaches is high. Lastly, the Dutch pride themselves on having an open-minded business mentality with much space for innovation and cooperation.
New approaches in Amsterdam
The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is already bustling with numerous initiatives and businesses engaged with circular ideas and projects. Ranging from Philips’ product-as-a-service cooperation with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol through Peerby’s sharing tool to the recyclable workwear of DutchSpirit, there is a lot happening already.