Much more is needed to combat raw material waste in the Dutch economy. In 2030, half of the raw materials used for the Dutch economy must actually be recycled, by 2050 the economy must be completely circular. This is the conclusion of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) in a new report.
To get there, “voluntariness and non-commitment in the approach are ultimately insufficient,” writes the PBL, which hopes that a new cabinet will take action on the conclusions.
For example, environmental damage caused by fossil raw materials should be included in the price of products and services. “If you ‘use the environment’ a lot, you would have to pay a lot and vice versa,” says Frank Dietz, one of the authors of the report. “That is definitely not the case.”
One problem that companies with circular plans run into is that there is no level playing field, according to Dietz. “If you take steps and your competitor doesn’t, you are 3-0 behind.” Dietz cites the use of fossil raw materials in plastics as an example. “There are no taxes attached to that, while if you use another more sustainable material you will be more expensive.”
Car versus washing machine
Other suggestions that the PBL makes are a mandatory proportion of recycled materials in products and mandatory product information, so that it becomes clear how products are put together. That makes it easier to fix them.
The latter is already happening with cars, says Aldert Hanemaaijer, another PBL author. “If you bring an old Peugeot 206 to the garage with a broken spark plug, they know exactly what to have to make the car. There is no such system with washing machines and other electronic equipment.”
Another point is that many companies do not know which raw materials are actually in their products. It is not mandatory to keep a record of this. “It is terribly important that we gain insight into raw material flows and stocks,” says Dietz. He expects that it is only a matter of time before such a measure is imposed from the European Union.
The fact that the discussion about a circular economy is still at an early stage can also be seen in the behavior of consumers, according to the PBL. About half sometimes buy second-hand products, according to research by ABN Amro and research agency Kantar to which the PBL refers. Less than 40 percent is also open to refurbished electronics (used products that are refurbished and resold) and less than 15 percent is open to long-term renting or borrowing via sharing platforms.
Doubts about quality, durability, hygiene and the stigma of ‘second-hand’ are the main reasons for consumers not to buy 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.
‘Government must do more to combat waste of raw materials’
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