RIVM Report 2017-0203
The report Circular Economy: starting progress measurement outlines a draft monitoring system for measuring the progress made in the transition towards a circular economy. It is part of the government-wide programme entitled ‘A Circular Economy in the Netherlands by 2050’. The report is a joint publication by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). One of the report’s recommendations is to work towards a circular equivalent of the National Energy Outlook (NEO), combining a focus on effects in the here and now, steps taken in the transition, and an assessment of current policies.
The report was published in response to the Dutch National Raw Materials Agreement (2017), which expresses the ambition to develop a monitoring system and perform baseline measurements. The baseline, for which some results are presented below, allows measuring progress. This system, which will need further detailing, will be monitoring the circular-economy-related efforts by public authorities and relevant sectors of society, and also report on their impact. The system’s overall goal is to assess the successes and failures in the transition process towards achieving a circular economy.
The Netherlands leads Europe in recycling
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. Furthermore, it is important not only to look at the direct effects in the Netherlands, but also to identify the effects along the entire chain, by means of the footprint.
Monitoring system as a growth model
Monitoring the progress in the transition towards a circular economy requires indicators for the effects as all 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 programme 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.
Not every indicator proposed in this monitoring system can already be measured; there is particularly little information about the transition process. The monitoring system will need to be developed further, 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 as well as with other Dutch knowledge institutions. This will possibly result in a circular equivalent of the National Energy Outlook.