A new report by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and RIVM outlines a draft monitoring system to measure progress throughout the planned transition towards a circular economy.

The report is part of the government-wide programme entitled ‘A Circular Economy in the Netherlands by 2050’. 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. 

Baseline - 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 well 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.