The Netherlands has made a mission of the transition to a circular economy, in which only reusable primary, secondary and sustainable bio-resources are in circulation. Our country wants to be at the forefront of the transition because we are a small country with limited natural resources. We import most of the raw materials we need, which makes us vulnerable to price fluctuations and geopolitical tensions. By moving to a circular economy, the Netherlands will be able to reduce its dependence on external resources and increase the resilience of its economy. In addition, the transition to a circular economy will help reduce environmental pressures. Minimising waste and promoting recycling reduces natural resource depletion, reduces CO2 emissions and helps protect biodiversity.
Role of key technologies
Currently, we are already deploying several key enabling technologies (KETs) to promote sustainable solutions in the Netherlands. This is taking place in various sectors, including manufacturing, construction, waste management and logistics. The approach includes using AI to develop advanced analytical and predictive models for more efficient use of raw materials and optimising production processes. Through Machine Learning, systems can learn from data and make recommendations for improvements in the management of materials and waste streams. Sensors and smart devices are deployed to collect real-time data on products, raw materials and equipment. This will allow companies to track product lifecycles, track materials, predict maintenance and use resources more efficiently.
Furthermore, Blockchain technology will ensure transparency and traceability in supply chains. It can be used to verify the origin of raw materials, ensure the authenticity of recycled materials and make the sharing of data between different parties secure and reliable. By collecting and analysing large amounts of data (big data), companies can gain insight into their resource use and reduce waste. Data analysis can also help identify opportunities for reuse, recycling and optimising logistics processes. Finally, 3D printing makes it possible to customise products and produce demand-driven products. This will reduce the need for mass production, reduce the waste stream and make it easier to produce spare parts, thus extending the life of products.
Interfaces with energy transition
Achieving a Circular Economy interfaces with another important mission of the Dutch government: energy transition. Indeed, circularity is the first of the five action perspectives in the National Raw Materials Strategy to increase the security of supply of critical raw materials essential for the energy transition. This can also be an important implementation of the European Critical Raw Materials Act. There is also a link to the zero pollution ambition from the European Green Deal and the National Circular Economy Programme (NPCE).
In the transition to a fully circular economy, the government has set four intermediate targets in the National Circular Economy Programme 2023-20230:
- Reducing resource use (production and consumption)
In doing so, we look at the extent to which we can align with the EU proposal of 50% reduction by 2030 and 75% by 2050;
- Substitution: increasing the share of applied renewable raw materials (both secondary raw materials and sustainably produced bio-based raw materials)
- Maximum life extension of products and components through reuse, refurbishment and repair by 2030
- High-quality processing: clean, well-sorted collection streams and materials recovery
(55% recycling of municipal waste by 2025 and 60% by 2030)
Role of Topsector ICT
Topsector ICT can help create innovative solutions for various industries. To make the transition to a circular economy successful, close cooperation between government, industry, research institutes and other organisations is essential. By working together to develop and implement innovations and ICT KETs, we can accelerate the transition to a more sustainable future and effectively address the challenges of the circular economy. Moreover, the deployment of these (key) technologies in the Netherlands' circular economy contributes not only to achieving sustainable goals, but also to strengthening the competitive position of Dutch companies and promoting innovation and growth in the Dutch economy.