Policy brief: The Circular Economy

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How is progress made in the transition towards a circular economy being measured? Statistics Netherlands (CBS), PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the RIVM created the report ‘The Circular Economy: starting progress measurement’ in which they recommend to work towards a circular equivalent of the National Energy Outlook (NEO). A considerable contribution to the report was made by Professor Marko Hekkert and Denise Reike from Utrecht University, who co-authored the chapter on the transition process.

Over the past years, the Netherlands has been one of Europe’s frontrunners when it comes to the recycling of materials, with a recycling rate of over 80% and a high materials productivity ratio (in euros, per kg of material). In the government-wide programme for a circular economy, the Dutch Government presents ways to move forward from this position, to achieve a circular economy in which raw materials are used in the smartest possible way.

Target of halving raw material consumption needs elaboration

To ensure proper monitoring, the target of reducing raw material consumption by 50% before 2030, as set out in the government-wide programme, needs further elaboration. This report provides such elaboration. For example, the target of halving consumption can be linked to the urgency with which reductions must be achieved in the consumption of specific raw materials, because of particularly high environmental pressure or a limited security of supply.

Monitoring system as a growth model

Monitoring the progress in the transition towards a circular economy requires indicators for the effects as well as for the transition process. The effects can already be monitored for raw material consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and waste processing. Following a 7% decline over the 2010–2014 period, the volume of direct raw materials remained virtually stable over the 2014–2016 period. Monitoring of activities under in the government-wide program shows that many of the actions already initiated are related to recycling and waste processing, development of instruments and network formation. Far less attention has been given to prevention, reuse and repair.

The monitoring system should be seen as a growth model, to be worked out in collaboration with the parties involved in these transition agendas as well as with other Dutch knowledge institutions. This will possibly result in a circular equivalent of the National Energy Outlook.

The report The Circular Economy: starting progress measurement is as a pdf file available in Dutch as well as English.