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When waste is not waste

In the circular economy there will be no more waste: so how will it be managed? The answer, most simply, is to drive and transform today’s waste into tomorrow’s raw materials and products. The fifth episode of the webinar series “Making the Circular Economy Real” gave a high-level to granular overview of circular initiatives on policy and business level in the Netherlands and Canada.   

Consul General Anne Le Guellec kicked off the session by highlighting the importance of promoting a more sustainable future. Waste plays a major role in all aspects of a product’s life cycle. The introduction of the circular economy has changed our views on waste. It offers businesses and governments sustainable opportunities.

Waste management from a policy perspective

Marieke van der Werf, partner at the Dutch public affairs agency Dröge & van Drimmelen, gave insights into waste management from a policy perspective. What we call the ‘new economy’ means investing in making the environment better instead of making ‘less bad’ investments that are only focusing on end-of-pipe solutions. How do you get there when developing public policy?   

Screenshot Webinar When Waste is not Waste Marieke van der Werf

The Netherlands put the waste problem on the agenda in the 1980s. This was followed by research inspired by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2010 into how value and jobs could be derived from waste. These figures formed the start of the circular policy. In a raw materials contract, all stakeholders were involved, the so-called Dutch ‘poldermodel’. Furthermore, ambitious policy goals were set: 50 per cent less raw materials by 2030 and 100 per cent circular by 2050. An annual roadmap and sectoral plans were derived from these goals.

In the Netherlands, local governments set up programs to bring together entrepreneurs, mainly SME’s, to work together on circular solutions. A lot of projects have been started and pacts have been made. The Netherlands has learned a lot, but as a next step generic policy is needed to scale up those initiatives and develop a market for recycled materials, in order to become a circular nation.

Upcycling in the Dutch city of Almere

In the Netherlands, municipalities are responsible for collecting household waste. Building a recycle platform is one of the instruments that municipalities can use. The Dutch city of Almere has a goal to reach 75% waste separation and less than 100 kg residual waste per inhabitant per year. The UpcycleCentrum plays a major role in meeting these goals. 

Screenshot Webinar When Waste is not Waste - Hede Razoky

Hede Razoky, who works as an account manager at the UpcycleCentrum, said that the centre makes the circular economy visible and tangible in different ways. The building itself is a unique modular, recycling platform. The building consists of recycled material and is fully self-sufficient. In the UpcycleCentrum, three workspaces are reserved for rotating entrepreneurs that focus on sustainability. The entrepreneurs use the collected waste to make new products. Furthermore, the built-in experience center showcases circular economy to the public. Everything from floor to furniture is upcycled.

The goal for the future is to upcycle even more and to make a blueprint for other governments that are interested in building similar upcycling centres.

From recycling to raw materials producer

When thinking about recycling, plastics, glass and paper might come to mind easily. But what about mattresses? The Dutch company RetourMatras developed an automatic process to dismantle old mattresses, turning a pure recycling company into a raw materials producer. Operational manager Chico van Hemert said that the four recycling facilities the company currently holds can dismantle 1.5 million mattresses per year, in 50 seconds each.

Screenshot Webinar When Waste is not Waste - Chico van Hemert

Even though there’s no legislation, municipalities were early adaptors and deliver the mattresses to RetourMatras. 15% of the mattresses turns into waste, because of wrong collection. Over 90% of all materials can be given a second life, diverting the materials from landfill. In terms of PU foam recycling, the company has adapted to the new advancements in technologies, moving from mechanical recycling to exploring chemical recycling. They work together with the whole production chain, from new production to selling (in partnership with IKEA Netherlands and Renewi) to collecting waste and turning that waste into raw materials that can be used for new production again.

In the Netherlands, RetourMatras is saving about 48kg of CO2 emissions per mattress and thus, working towards a truly sustainable future.

Starting with sustainable product design

IKEA is working on its circular transformation. By 2030, the ambition is to become climate positive and regenerate resources while growing the IKEA business. IKEA Canada is guided by its people and planet positive strategy. Melissa Barbosa, IKEA Canada’s Head of Sustainability stated that the company is striving for zero waste and 100% circularity.

Screenshot Webinar When Waste is not Waste - Melissa Barbosa

This circular transformation touches all areas of business, starting with more sustainable product design. IKEA noticed that customers select quality and value over volume. IKEA also supports customers with programs to sell-back IKEA item, which the company in turn re-sells or donates to community partners. When it comes to circularity, it’s all about extending the life of a product. In Ontario, IKEA launched a program with Furniture Bank, in which old IKEA mattresses are reused to support families in need in affordable housing situations.

The circular transformation means a lot of innovation, test and try and being flexible as a business, but it is needed to complete the transformation and meet the lofty goals IKEA has set.

- With files from Kartik Moorthy

Want to watch the full episode?

To watch the full recording of the webinar, please click here.

More information

The webinar “Food Processing & The Circular Economy” is part of the series “Making the Circular Economy Real”, organized by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Toronto and Canada Circular Hotspot. Key objectives of the webinar series are increasing participant’s knowledge, expanding networks, showing the circular economy in real world action and inspiring the development of new circular economy projects in Ontario and across Canada.

Please find below the recordings of the previous webinars in the series “Making the Circular Economy Real”:

Contact us

Are you interested in learning more about the Dutch-Canadian cooperation or in connecting with Dutch parties, for inspiration, networking or doing business? We would love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to our Economic Affairs team at tor-ea@minbuza.nl.