All countries must measure and share data on the circularity of their economies if the world is to prevent global climate disaster, warns Circle Economy as it publishes its latest report, The Circularity Gap Report, the Netherlands. The report finds that the Dutch economy is currently 24.5% circular. 

Earlier this year, Circle Economy’s study The Circularity Gap Report 2020, found that the global economy is only 8.6% circular. This means that over 90% of the resources that enter the economy—100 billion tonnes per year—are wasted. The report made clear the vital importance of countries as key change agents—they have the power to correct the negative trend.

Today’s new report takes this further by looking in detail at the Dutch economy—already leaders in the circular transition—in a way that can provide a blueprint for how any country can assess and make progress towards circularity. Global circularity can only increase if more countries conduct similar studies, say the report authors. This can foster global collaboration to collect and share data needed to measure and track circular performance, and provide the necessary infrastructure and alliances to collectively implement a circular future.

The goal of a circular economy is to establish an ecologically safe and socially just operating space for humanity. It reinforces the climate agenda because it ensures all materials stay cycled in the economy and does not allow for the use of fossil fuels. And 2020 is a key year for progress. The covid-19 pandemic has swept the world and further exposed the limits to linearity; an economy that is fragile and not resilient to shocks and crises. In building back the economy, circularity must be firmly on national and global agendas.

We can achieve a great deal for our planet and society with an overhaul of our economic systems. Whilst global circularity is low and going in reverse, countries have the power to correct the negative trend. National governments, NGOs and academics must grasp the opportunity to evaluate how circular their local contexts are, and then share this knowledge. We risk global disaster if resource consumption continues to spiral unchecked. The time for action is now.” – Marc de Wit, lead author of the report and director of global alliances at Circle Economy.

Countries as critical change agents

When it comes to a circular economy, we are all developing countries. No country, as of yet, satisfies the basic needs of its citizens within the ecological boundaries of the planet, warns Circle Economy.

The report shows how countries can power the transition to circularity. They have the mandate to develop national legislation which creates an enabling environment. Alongside this, as lead investors in infrastructure, government buildings and assets, their procurement strategy can kick-start circularity at scale. They are also the leading actors in supranational and multilateral coordination, via alliances such as the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union.

But in principle, all countries are unique when it comes to their ecological footprint and ability to provide for their people. The authors say that tailored blueprints for action based on the analysis of national material footprints will deliver the best results. This will enable countries to translate global climate mitigation goals into national pathways for action. A tailored Circularity Metric allows for measurement of progress and goal-setting.

Closing the Dutch circularity gap

The Dutch government currently has one of the most ambitious goals for circularity—aiming for a fully circular economy by 2050. Its progress can help inspire others and provide ideas for action.

Today’s report finds that the Dutch economy is currently 24.5% circular. Whilst this number may appear to be better than many other countries around the world, major overhauls to the framework of the national economy will be necessary to achieve the government’s ambitions. Crucially, the report identifies four key recommendations that would result in reducing the materials consumption of the Netherlands by over 128 million tonnes, and help the economy to go from 24.5% to 70% circular. The recommendations include:

  1. Construction: Stop the demolition of buildings and ensure that building methods revolve around the renovation and reuse of materials.
  2. Agriculture: Implement agricultural practices that prioritise waste reuse and local trading, such as stopping the import and export of animal products and using food waste to feed livestock.
  3. Energy: Increase the share of renewable energy used to power the country and axe fossil fuel use.
  4. Manufacturing: Double the current material use of the repair sector, as well as the amount of high-value recycling and the share of recycled materials in imports.

Circle Economy calls on governments, businesses, NGOs and academics around the world to conduct their own Circularity Gap Reports to facilitate the deep, but urgently needed, transformation. In a major move forward for its sustainability agenda, Norway is collaborating with Circle Economy to launch The Circularity Gap Report Norway later in 2020.

Find out more and add your country to the growing list of national Circularity Gap Reports:

Mariette Hamer, Chairwoman at the Social and Economic Council (SER): “The transition to a circular economy is much needed: from a sustainable and socio-economic perspective. This report provides valuable insights and inspiration to spark the necessary discussion of what a circular future for the Netherlands could look like and the skills needed to make it a reality.

Dimitri de Vreeze, Co-CEO at DSM: “The Dutch government’s ambitious target to be fully circular by 2050 means that policymakers and businesses must join forces; we have to do this together. The baseline assessment and future scenarios sketched in this report provide a good starting point to drive both the discussion and collaboration needed to enable a circular Netherlands.”

Anne-Marie Rakhorst, Chair of the transition team Consumer Goods, and Entrepreneur, Investor and Founder at “Today a quarter of the Dutch economy is circular. This offers a beautiful opportunity for entrepreneurs and society to bridge the gap. This report provides useful directions and perspectives on how to move forward. Collaboration will be central, in and across sectors. Tremendous news in the country of the polder model!