The Circular Economy: starting progress measurement

A new report (in Dutch only) jointly published this week by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) outlines a draft monitoring system to measure progress throughout the planned transition towards a circular economy. This is part of the government-wide programme entitled ‘The Netherlands circular in 2050’. One of the recommendations in the report is to work towards a circular equivalent of the National Energy Outlook (NEO), combining a focus on the effects here and now, the steps that are being taken in this transition as well as an assessment of current policies.
The report was published in response to the ambition stated in the National Raw Materials Agreement (2017) to develop a monitoring system and perform a baseline measurement. This monitoring system, which will need further detailing, aims to track the efforts undertaken by public authorities and sectors of society in the area of circular economy and also show their effects. This enables assessment of successes and failures in the transition process towards the circular economy .

The Netherlands leads Europe in recycling

The Netherlands has been a front-runner in Europe for years when it comes to recycling materials, with a recycling rate exceeding 80 percent 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 on this basis in order to achieve a Circular Economy in which raw materials are used in the smartest possible way.

Target of halving raw material consumption needs elaboration

For the sake of proper monitoring, the target of reducing raw material consumption by half before 2030 as set out in the government-wide programme needs further elaboration. This elaboration is given in the new report. 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 pressures or a limited security of supply. Furthermore, it is important to not only look at the direct effects taking place in the Netherlands, but also to identify the effects along the entire chain by means of the footprint.

Monitoring system as a growth model

Tracking progress in the transition towards a circular economy not only requires indicators for the effects but also for the transition process. Monitoring the effects is already possible for consumption of raw materials, greenhouse gas emissions and waste processing. Following a 7-percent decline over the period 2010-2014, the volume of direct raw materials remained virtually the same in the period 2014-2016. Monitoring of the actions contained in the government-wide programme shows that many of the actions already initiated are related to recycling and waste processing, development of instruments or network formation. Prevention, re-use and repair have been given much less attention.

Not yet all the indicators that are proposed in this monitoring system can already be measured; little information exists on the transition process in particular. The monitoring system will require further developing over the next few years, also in view of measurable indicators for the implementation of transition agendas on biomass and food, construction, consumer goods, plastics and the manufacturing industry. The monitoring system should be seen as a growth model, to be worked out in collaboration with the parties involved in these transition agendas and with other Dutch knowledge institutions. This will possibly result in a circular equivalent of the National Energy Outlook.