‘Government must do more to prevent waste of raw materials’

Much more is needed to prevent waste of raw materials in the Dutch economy. By 2030, half of the raw materials used for the Dutch economy will have to be recycled, and by 2050 the economy will have to be completely circular. The Planning Bureau for the Environment (PBL) concludes this in a new report.

To get there, โ€œvoluntary and non-adherence in the approach are ultimately inadequate,โ€ writes the PBL, which hopes that a new cabinet will work on the conclusions.

For example, environmental damage caused by fossil raw materials should be included in the price of products and services. โ€œIf you use a lot of ‘environment’ you would have to pay a lot and vice versa,โ€ says Frank Dietz, one of the authors of the report. โ€œThat is not the case now.โ€

One problem that companies with circular plans face is, according to Dietz, that there is no level playing field. โ€œIf you take steps and your competitor doesn‘t, you’re 3-0 behind.โ€ As an example, Dietz mentions the use of fossil raw materials in plastics. โ€œThere are no taxes on this, whereas if you use another more durable material, you will be more expensive.โ€

Car versus washing machine

Other suggestions made by the OJ L include a mandatory share of recycled materials in products and mandatory product information, so that it becomes clear how products are put together. Makes it easier to fix them.

The latter already happens with cars, says Aldert Hannemaaijer, another PBL author. โ€œIf you bring an old Peugeot 206 with a broken spark plug to the garage, they will know exactly what they need to make the car. In washing machines and other electronic equipment, such a system does not exist.โ€

Another point is that many companies do not know what raw materials are actually contained in their products. There‘s no obligation to keep track of that. โ€œIt is extremely important that we have insight into raw material flows and stocks,โ€ says Dietz. He expects it to be a matter of time before such a measure is imposed by the European Union.

hesitant consumers

The fact that the discussion on a circular economy is still at an early stage can also be seen by consumer behaviour. Around half buy second-hand products, according to research by ABN Amro and research firm Kantar to which the PBL refers. Also, less than 40 percent are open to refurbished electronics (used products that are refurbished and resold) and less than 15 percent to long-term rental or borrowing through sub-platforms.

Doubts about the quality, service life, hygiene and stigma of ‘second-hand‘ are the main reasons for consumers not buying used items. In the case of refurbished electronics, many consumers have little confidence in the quality or the price difference with a new product is too small.

The discussion about how the economy becomes circular is about 15 years behind tackling climate change, says Dietz. โ€œThat was then something like the one we see now. Searching and groping on the way.โ€ According to him, the difficult thing about the transition to a circular economy is that there is no central point such as CO2 emissions, which you can return to. โ€œYou need to know why you’re doing it,โ€ he says.

According to the OJ L, many of the natural and environmental problems can be traced back to wasteful handling of raw materials. It leads to โ€œplastic soup in oceans, the degradation of ecosystems by mining, large heaps of waste, accelerated climate change and biodiversity loss.โ€

In addition, the demand for raw materials doubles in the coming decades, is expected. Raw materials that are already scarce and which are needed for the energy transition, for example, will only become scarce. โ€œUse of raw materials more frequently, more intensively and longer in principle reduces the environmental problems mentioned and can improve the security of supply of raw materials,โ€ writes the OJ L.

Circular Economy Law

Secretary of State Van Veldhoven of Infrastructure and Water Management, commissioner of the investigation, argues in a letter to the House of Representatives for more robust measures. โ€œThe Netherlands is a leader in recycling in Europe, but a circular economy continues. Let every flower pot be standard made of recycled plastic, reward companies for the CO2 emissions they save through raw materials, and reduce waste incineration and landfill.โ€

These incentives are brought together in one circular economic law when it lies at Van Veldhoven. It is now that the Cabinet is demissionary to another Cabinet to do so.