The transition to a circular economy

Circular economy in the Netherlands


According to United Nations estimates, the world’s population will increase by one billion people by 2030. These people need food, a roof over their heads, and things to make their life comfortable. This will require transitioning to a Circular Economy focussed on generating sustainable energy, reducing environmental impact from greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing dependence on scarce (fossil) resources.

..and opportunities

This circular economy is not just necessary but also offers many opportunities. According to TNO, a circular economy will generate €7.3 billion and around 54,000 jobs. Taking advantage of the opportunities the circular economy brings will affect the entire economy and all sectors.

Circular Dutch economy by 2050

The Dutch government presented a nationwide program in 2015 called ‘Circular Dutch Economy by 2050’, which aims to be 100 percent circular in 2050. In 2030, we should use 50 percent fewer primary resources, and growth and material use should then be decoupled. The Raw Materials Agreement (signed by around 200 parties) marked the starting point in early 2017 to start working together. The national policy focuses on five priority sectors for which transition agendas have been drawn up:

  • Biomass and Food
  • Plastics
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Consumer goods (including textiles)

Focus in East Netherlands

Manufacturing, Plastics, Textiles, Construction and Infra

We follow the government’s transition agendas in East Netherlands, which has the most significant impact in the manufacturing industry, plastics, textiles, agrifood, and construction & infra.


Innovative, circular strategies and measures in the manufacturing industry in East Netherlands will lead to significant resource savings, as well as an additional added value of €666 million per year (6% extra) and a reduction in CO2emissions of 483 thousand tons per year (10% less). The manufacturing industry in East Netherlands has the potential to create this smart, circular added value. Figures show this can be €490 million per year, which is 74% of the potential added value in the manufacturing industry. The SME Cesi ON Program is a regional support program with tools for SMEs in manufacturing that want to take steps towards circular manufacturing.

Plastics industry

East Netherlands plays an essential role in closing the (national) plastics and textile cycles. This is due to its extensive rubber, textile, and plastics processing industry and the associated knowledge institutions. Four thousand employees work in this sector in East Netherlands, producing around 13% of the national plastics total. This is around 265 kilotons per year. Uniquely, this region has every link of a circular plastics chain: from collectors and recyclers to converters and end producers.

The Dutch Circular Polymer Valley exemplifies how the region works on the plastics transition. This partnership unlocks and develops knowledge about circular plastics, thermosets, and elastomers for the industry.

Developing circular textiles

One of the oldest sectors in the region is the textile sector. Although the production has decreased due to the rise of cotton, knowledge institutions such as Saxion, ArtEz, the University of Twente, and the Wageningen University & Research still have valuable knowledge. Important textile manufacturers such as Ten Cate, Interface, Auping, and various carpet industry companies are still active in the region. The knowledge and capacity regarding mechanical and chemical recycling are present and developing rapidly. East Netherlands also has the knowledge for developing new, less environmentally damaging new raw materials and the experience to apply them in the design of new textile products.

Examples include Auping with its circular mattresses, Frankenhuis with its textile recycler, and Interface with its circular carpet tiles.

Making construction & infra circular

East Netherlands has a large construction industry. This industry is the largest producer of waste and residues, so they face many challenges. There is a housing shortage; construction activities emit nitrogen; all buildings must stop using natural gas and be made more sustainable; and there is a lack of personnel. The circular transition is another added factor, but it also offers opportunities to solve these challenges. Digitalization and robotization are crucial for this.

Examples include the Knowledge Center Circular Construction in Nijmegen, which promotes biobased circular building. Many municipalities are also affiliated with Cirkelstad. Cirkelstad is a platform for frontrunners in the circular and inclusive construction sector.