‘Circular Netherlands in 2050’ – An Impetus for Secondary Raw Materials in the Construction Industry

By Schuttelaar & Partners

Construction is an important sector in the Dutch economy, accounting for almost 7% of the Gross Domestic Product and providing employment for 458,000 people. Every year the Dutch construction sector consumes 250 million tons or 50 percent of raw materials in the Netherlands. At the same time it produces 23 million tons of demolition waste of which 97% are recovered, mostly for use under the road surface. Finally, the sector is responsible for 40 percent of the Dutch CO2 emissions.[1]

In response to the environmental, economic and societal challenges, the Dutch government launched in 2016 the national programme ‘Circular Netherlands in 2050’ which aims at achieving ground-breaking material savings in the construction industry and other sectors. Raw materials shall become circular at 50 percent by 2030, and at 100 percent by 2050. This ambition - a fully circular Dutch economy by 2050 – has been more broadly endorsed in the Raw Materials Agreement which more than 325 companies, financial institutions, universities and non-for-profit organisations have signed so far. The Technical University of Delft, who is also one of the partners in the Interreg project SeRaMCo, naturally participates in this initiative. 

Currently, Transition Agendas are being drawn up in 5 main sectors: Biomass & Food, Plastics, Manufacturing, Construction and Consumer Goods. To achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability for future generations to come, global directions of development for the short-, medium- and long-term (2021, 2025 and 2030) and specific agendas are being defined, including:

  • an Action Agenda focussing on innovative projects and their impact on the speed of transition;
  • Knowledge Agenda where new knowledge and research questions are formulated, and right indicators that monitor progress are developed;
  • Social Agenda setting out the effects of the transition on the labour market and initiating the development of new, more circular business models;
  • an Investment Agenda that contributes to removing financial obstacles and targeting comprehensive and financially sustainable circular business cases.


Circular economy in the construction sector in the Netherlands. Source: https://www.circulaireeconomienederland.nl/rijksbreed+programma+circulaire+economie/default.aspx


For the construction sector, a set of strategic objectives has been developed: 

  1. The residential and non-residential construction and civil engineering sectors mainly use renewable raw materials.
  2. Material use is optimized over the entire lifespan of the structure (retention of value, lower costs, more reuse and less environmental impact).
  3. Construction reduces as much as possible CO2 emissions, both in the production and construction phase and in the use phase.
  4. Construction is an innovative sector that proactively anticipates changes in society, the market and the consumer demand.

A major milestone was achieved with the Concrete Agreement which was signed on 10 July by a joint venture of 4 Dutch ministries and 50 companies in the construction sector. This agreement states that cooperation and transparency in the concrete value chain shall foster the demand for ‘green’ concrete. Sustainability criteria shall be included in tenders, the target of 100 percent high-quality recycled concrete shall be met in 2030, and CO2 emissions shall be significantly reduced. Following this agreement, all stakeholders now start to introduce measures and monitor progress.

In the light of innovation which paves the way to circularity in the Dutch concrete chain, this year a circular construction prize was awarded to SmartCrusher. SmartCrusher has developed a technique for recovering the sand, gravel and cement from concrete. It is an initiative supported by the European Interreg fund, similarly to SeRaMCo. Learning from each other might prove as an accelerator to the overarching goal of sustainability.


[1] Circle Economy, ABN-AMRO (2017). A future-proof built environment – Putting circular business models into practice. www.circle-economy.com/case/a-future-proof-built-environment/#.W5dtP-gzaAs

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