Countries critical in achieving a global circular economy

The Circularity Gap Report, the Netherlands provides a blueprint for action for countries to move the world to a circular economy, build a resilient post-covid-19 system and achieve climate mitigation goals

The Hague, the Netherlands, June 3rd 2020: All countries must measure and share data on the circularity of their economies if the world is to prevent global climate disaster, warns Circle Economy as it publishes its latest report, The Circularity Gap Report, the Netherlands.

Earlier this year, Circle Economy’s study The Circularity Gap Report 2020, found that the global economy is only 8.6% circular. This means that over 90% of the resources that enter the economy—100 billion tonnes per year—are wasted. The report made clear the vital importance of countries as key change agents—they have the power to correct the negative trend.

Today’s new report takes this further by looking in detail at the Dutch economy—already leaders in the circular transition—in a way that can provide a blueprint for how any country can assess and make progress towards circularity. Global circularity can only increase if more countries conduct similar studies, say the report authors. This can foster global collaboration to collect and share data needed to measure and track circular performance, and provide the necessary infrastructure and alliances to collectively implement a circular future.

The goal of a circular economy is to establish an ecologically safe and socially just operating space for humanity. It reinforces the climate agenda because it ensures all materials stay cycled in the economy and does not allow for the use of fossil fuels. And 2020 is a key year for progress. The covid-19 pandemic has swept the world and further exposed the limits to linearity; an economy that is fragile and not resilient to shocks and crises. In building back the economy, circularity must be firmly on national and global agendas.

We can achieve a great deal for our planet and society with an overhaul of our economic systems. Whilst global circularity is low and going in reverse, countries have the power to correct the negative trend. National governments, NGOs and academics must grasp the opportunity to evaluate how circular their local contexts are, and then share this knowledge. We risk global disaster if resource consumption continues to spiral unchecked. The time for action is now.

– Marc de Wit, lead author of the report and director of global alliances at Circle Economy.

Countries as critical change agents

When it comes to a circular economy, we are all developing countries. No country, as of yet, satisfies the basic needs of its citizens within the ecological boundaries of the planet, warns Circle Economy.

The report shows how countries can power the transition to circularity. They have the mandate to develop national legislation which creates an enabling environment. Alongside this, as lead investors in infrastructure, government buildings and assets, their procurement strategy can kick-start circularity at scale. They are also the leading actors in supranational and multilateral coordination, via alliances such as the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union.

But in principle, all countries are unique when it comes to their ecological footprint and ability to provide for their people. The authors say that tailored blueprints for action based on the analysis of national material footprints will deliver the best results. This will enable countries to translate global climate mitigation goals into national pathways for action. A tailored Circularity Metric allows for measurement of progress and goal-setting.

Closing the Dutch circularity gap

The Dutch government currently has one of the most ambitious goals for circularity—aiming for a fully circular economy by 2050. Its progress can help inspire others and provide ideas for action.

Today’s report finds that the Dutch economy is currently 24.5% circular. Whilst this number may appear to be better than many other countries around the world, major overhauls to the framework of the national economy will be necessary to achieve the government’s ambitions. Crucially, the report identifies four key recommendations that would result in reducing the materials consumption of the Netherlands by over 128 million tonnes, and help the economy to go from 24.5% to 70% circular. The recommendations include:

  1. Construction: Stop the demolition of buildings and ensure that building methods revolve around the renovation and reuse of materials.
  2. Agriculture: Implement agricultural practices that prioritise waste reuse and local trading, such as stopping the import and export of animal products and using food waste to feed livestock.
  3. Energy: Increase the share of renewable energy used to power the country and axe fossil fuel use.
  4. Manufacturing: Double the current material use of the repair sector, as well as the amount of high-value recycling and the share of recycled materials in imports.

Circle Economy calls on governments, businesses, NGOs and academics around the world to conduct their own Circularity Gap Reports to facilitate the deep, but urgently needed, transformation. In a major move forward for its sustainability agenda, Norway is collaborating with Circle Economy to launch The Circularity Gap Report Norway later in 2020.

Find out more and add your country to the growing list of national Circularity Gap Reports:

Notes to editors

The figure of over 90% of materials being ‘wasted’: This includes resources that are never reused by the economy (fossil fuel emissions and incinerated resources), lost (rubber and plastic that wears off car tyres with use), and embedded in the built environment.

Circle Economy assesses the volume of waste that is recycled by using the most recent national figures on volumes of waste generated, collected and treated, or extrapolating them from demographic and economic data when information is not available. It uses reported treatment shares to quantify the volume that is recovered, recycled, sent to landfill and incineration.

The report was made possible due to funding from the Goldschmeding Foundation for People, Work and Economy.

The report has garnered the support of multiple high profile endorsers including:

“What gets measured, gets managed. And what gets managed, gets done. This illustrates the importance of this study. Although it is practically impossible to be 100% complete and accurate, this study gives a clear signal that our efforts to create a new, circular economy needs to step up because we are still missing out on a lot of business opportunities with a societal benefit.”

- Maria van der Heijden, director at CSR the Netherlands.

“The transition to a circular economy is much needed: from a sustainable and socio-economic perspective. This report provides valuable insights and inspiration to spark the necessary discussion of what a circular future for the Netherlands could look like and the skills needed to make it a reality.”

- Mariette Hamer, chairwoman at the Social and Economic Council.

“The Dutch government’s ambitious target to be fully circular by 2050 means that policymakers and businesses must join forces; we have to do this together. The baseline assessment and future scenarios sketched in this report provide a good starting point to drive both the discussion and collaboration needed to enable a circular Netherlands.”

- Dimitri de Vreeze, co-ceo at DSM.

“The insights in the Circularity Gap Report demonstrates why it is important to strengthen our circular economy. Together with the larger cities in the world, Amsterdam should be a leading example and a driving force in this transition. To achieve our sustainability goals we must look further than city limits and country borders.”

- Marieke van Doorninck, deputy mayor at City of Amsterdam.

“This report introduces a much-needed national yardstick for the transition towards 50% circularity in 2030. It also highlights the urgent need to start thinking differently about ‘work’ in the circular economy. The fact-based scenarios provide an interesting outlook on circular jobs and skills, and highlight the need for new training and education programs. Goldschmeding Foundation is proud to be the funding partner of Circle Economy for this first edition of the Dutch Circularity Gap Report.”

- Michiel de Wilde, member executive board at Goldschmeding Foundation for People, Work and Economy.

For more information, please visit:

Further information and interview requests:
Laxmi Haigh,

Interviews available with:
Marc de Wit, Director of Strategic Alliances, Circle Economy

About the Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative

In January 2018, the first Circularity Gap Report was published during the World Annual Forum in Davos. This first report established that our world is only 9.1% circular, leaving a massive circularity gap. It also provided a framework and fact-base to measure and monitor progress in bridging the global circularity gap. In January 2020 the third edition of the Circularity Gap Report was launched, reiterating that our global economy is stuck in reverse and failing people and the planet.

Today, our efforts to measure the circular economy have grown into the Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative. The Initiative delivers an annual global circularity metric that measures the state of the world economy and identifies key levers to transition to global circularity. It also provides insights into the circularity gap of individual countries and sectors. In 2019, we launched the first investigation into a national economy with the Circularity Gap Report for Austria. To improve the analysis and recommendations of all reports, the Initiative will form a Global Data Alliance focused on using data as a force for good.

The Initiative will continue to bring together global, cross-sector stakeholders from academia, businesses, NGOs and governments to input, evaluate and endorse the authoritative annual report.

About Circle Economy

We work to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. As an impact organisation, we work to identify opportunities to turn circular economy principles into practical reality. With nature as our mentor, we combine practical insights with scalable responses to humanity’s greatest challenges. Our vision is economic, social and environmental prosperity without compromising the future of our planet. Our mission is to connect and empower a global community in business, cities and governments to create the conditions for systemic transformation. More than 50 businesses are now part of our membership community (from large multinationals to active SMEs and innovative start-ups) with whom we co-create practical and scalable solutions, making the circular economy happen. In addition, we work with cities, governments, CSOs, NGO’s, advisory boards and intergovernmental bodies.

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