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The Netherlands: the circular economy’s European driving force ?


The Netherlands has announced its ambition to become a global hotspot for the circular economy, making this one of its key priorities for its presidency of the Council of the European Union, which it will take up in the first half of 2016.

Numerous initiatives such as local sourcing, eco-friendly design and recycling are already in place in the Netherlands, which mean the country can make real progress in developing the circular economy. With its extremely high population density, established culture of waste recycling and a geographical location that makes it both a logistics hub and one of the most dynamic international centres for industrial design, the Netherlands has both good reason and the considerable strengths needed to develop this approach even further and become a real touchstone on the international stage.

Credits: Extract from

Since 2013, the government has been keen to step up the country’s transition towards a circular economy, launching numerous initiatives to this end including the RACE (Realisation of Acceleration of a Circular Economy) programme, launched in September 2014. Overseen by Circle Economy, a co-operative with members from business, research and the public sector, RACE has multiple objectives: defining the circular economy, creating a portfolio of success stories, raising public awareness, etc.

In anticipation of its presidency of the Council of the European Union in early 2016, the Netherlands is also working on setting out its strategic vision for the circular economy. To this end, the initiative “The Netherlands Circular Hotspot” was launched on 8 July 2015 by Prince Carlos de Bourbon-Parma from the Dutch royal family, Circle Economy and 25 leading partner organisations including Accenture, Akzo Nobel, KPMG, Philips and the City of Amsterdam. The same day also saw the signing of a partnership agreement to make the area around Schiphol airport in the Amsterdam suburbs the “Silicon Valley” of the circular economy.

The Netherlands as a circular hotspot from Circle Economy on Vimeo.

Amsterdam is, in fact, playing a key role in this building momentum. In November 2014, the city published its vision and roadmap for becoming a “circular city” . This strategy involves all aspects of the circular economy: energy, waste, water management, health, air pollution, etc. Its methodology relies on a collaborative model that brings together businesses, start-ups, the resident population and NGOs to work on specific pilot projects. These pilot projects include redeveloping a former industrial area of the city to build a new district destined to become “the largest circular economy test site” in the country. The development includes 3,500 homes and 200,000 m2 of workspace, which will be built from recycled materials and generate their own power, with selective waste collection and even a large area set aside for electric vehicles.