The Dutch way of going circular

March 3, 2020

What happened?

Dutch material consumption per inhabitant is lower than the EU average and the Dutch consumed 20% fewer materials in 2018 than in 2000. Furthermore, compared with other countries, the Netherlands recycles a lot: 1700 kg per year per inhabitant. That the Dutch average of material use is below EU average is mainly due to the fact that the Netherlands is a relatively small and densely populated country, which means that relatively little material is needed per capita for the construction of the required infrastructure, such as roads. Furthermore, the Netherlands has a limited manufacturing industry and a large service sector, many goods are imported to be immediately re-exported after minor processing.

What does this mean?

The Dutch government aims to make the Netherlands circular within the next 30 years and to have its economy 100% waste-free by 2050, and is thus investing in promoting the circular economy. The reported progress is a good sign, but the Netherlands still has a long way to go if it wants to reach circularity by 2050.  On a global scale, the circular trend is even negative. The recently published Circularity Gap Report states that world is only 9% circular and that the upward trend in resource extraction and greenhouse gas emissions has continued. Circularity can only be reached when the problems of a linear economy are addressed. Reusing materials is labor-intensive, as more and more circular entrepreneurs have begun to notice. As a result, a shift to less tax on labor and more tax on resources is now supported by more Dutch sectors.

What’s next?

As the Dutch are striving for circularity, circular successes can be inspirational. As the building industry is still material-intensive, the BlueCity, an unusual building that serves as an incubator for companies working on the circular economy, has just won a prize for Rotterdam’s Most Sustainable Real Estate Project 2020. Furthermore, the government also aspires to circularity in agriculture. For a food nation like the Netherlands, this is a great chance to show global leadership.

Series 'AI Metaphors'

1. The Tool
Category: Objects
Humans shape tools.

We make them part of our body while we melt their essence with our intentions. They require some finesse to use but they never fool us or trick us. Humans use tools, tools never use humans.

We are the masters determining their course, integrating them gracefully into the minutiae of our everyday lives. Immovable and unyielding, they remain reliant on our guidance, devoid of desire and intent, they remain exactly where we leave them, their functionality unchanging over time.

We retain the ultimate authority, able to discard them at will or, in today's context, simply power them down. Though they may occasionally foster irritation, largely they stand steadfast, loyal allies in our daily toils.

Thus we place our faith in tools, acknowledging that they are mere reflections of our own capabilities. In them, there is no entity to venerate or fault but ourselves, for they are but inert extensions of our own being, inanimate and steadfast, awaiting our command.
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2. The Machine
Category: Objects
Unlike a mere tool, the machine does not need the guidance of our hand, operating autonomously through its intricate network of gears and wheels. It achieves feats of motion that surpass the wildest human imaginations, harboring a power reminiscent of a cavalry of horses. Though it demands maintenance to replace broken parts and fix malfunctions, it mostly acts independently, allowing us to retreat and become mere observers to its diligent performance. We interact with it through buttons and handles, guiding its operations with minor adjustments and feedback as it works tirelessly. Embodying relentless purpose, laboring in a cycle of infinite repetition, the machine is a testament to human ingenuity manifested in metal and motion.
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About the author(s)

Researcher Julia Rijssenbeek focuses on our relationship to nature, sustainable and technological transitions in the food system, and the geopolitics of our global food sytems. She is currently working on her PhD in philosophy of technology at Wageningen University, investigating how synthetic biology might alter philosophical ideas about nature and the values we hold, as well as what a bio-based future may bring.

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