Circular Economy

Turning circular innovations into everyday practice

Circular economy is a concept that is gaining traction around the world. It asks for a major shift from a linear based economy and a take-make-waste approach, to a circular system based on the principles of eliminating waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

The Netherlands is one of the most ambitious countries in the global circular movement. While we have developed many technologically innovative solutions, we’ve come to realize that creating socially and environmentally responsible attitudes together with institutional flexibility is equally important. By inspiring people and institutions to rethink, redesign and pursue a positive future can we ensure that circular advancements are actually adopted by public and private organizations, institutions and society as a whole. 

The Netherlands has the ambition to become a fully functioning circular economy by 2050. To do this the government is taking various measures to encourage a social climate that’s open for behavioral change, and creating an ecosystem in which all the necessary social and institutional changes are embraced. But to create an economy that is truly 100% circular, we will need to go beyond national borders, by working together with fellow pioneering partners on a shared mission. 

Chile and the Netherlands are both countries with active and ambitious commitments to these goals and contribute to the solutions in different ways. A close cooperation between our countries on public, private and academic level supports the development and implementation of effective, efficient and innovative solutions. And so, sustainability is a main driver of what the Netherlands has to offer in Chile. It is a cross cutting theme of our activities in other sectors (water, ports & logistics, agriculture).

The Dutch government strongly believes in the circular economy. Not just because it’s more sustainable, but it will ultimately move the economy to one which is more robust, cross-functional, and less dependent on natural resources. A circular economy offers room for innovation and opportunities for new business ideas, skilled jobs and improved quality of life. 

The first step? Cutting back our use of raw materials with 50% by 2030. Along with 180 other Dutch parties, the government in 2017 signed The National Raw Materials Agreement, containing agreements on how to accelerate towards a circular economy. In 2018, the parties to this Agreement developed so-called Transition Agendas for the five sectors economically most valuable and impactful, and at the same time environmentally the most damaging: biomass and food, plastics, manufacturing, construction and consumer goods. In February 2019, the government presented the Implementation Programme 2019-2023, containing concrete actions on how to execute the five Transition Agendas, that will be monitored regularly.

In the spirit of “practice what you preach”, the Dutch government decided to encourage the circular marketplace by becoming a launching customer. By 2022 at least 10% of national spending should be ‘circular’. This way, the government accelerates the process of more circular innovation and inspires entrepreneurs to adopt circular business models. To ensure companies and organizations are in a position to actually implement their circular plans, the government is prepared to remove or adjust legal and regulatory barriers. Also, so-called Green Deals were introduced, providing entrepreneurs with knowledge and expertise, access to networks, and assistance with entering markets. 

Transforming a country’s entire economic system can’t be done without the support of its citizens, and for a long time the circular economy was associated with lower-quality products, less choice and making sacrifices. Therefore, creating the right narrative and a more positive attitude to the circular economy shift is crucial.

With lots of small-scale initiatives, we made the circular economy more visible, giving people the chance to experience what circularity means, in a fun, accessible way, such as jeans made from recycled materials. And, a shared economy initiative, where you can rent a bicycle instead of buying one, that is replaced when damaged. By including the public in the transition towards a circular economy, you make them more open to changing their behavior and adopting new innovations and ideas.

The Dutch tend to think of themselves as being inventive, entrepreneurial and agile; it is in our DNA. We are keen to learn from our own mistakes, and are open to learning from others. The government wants to boost this entrepreneurial mentality, by supporting circularity-minded initiatives. An example is the Versnellingshuis (Netherlands Circular Accelerator), which boosts circular innovation at a regional and municipal level, by helping entrepreneurs to develop, launch and scale-up their circular products and services. 

Our innovative, entrepreneurial climate inspires circular pioneers from all over the world to come to the Netherlands. For this reason, the Netherlands is proud to host the PACE (Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy) Action Hub, a public-private platform with truly committed members. 

Investors play an important role in accelerating the circular economy by facilitating finance for businesses and projects with circular economy business models. But the market lacks guidance on how to uniformly define and apply circular economy thinking. Moreover, many financial regulations are still geared to linear economies, making it difficult for circular entrepreneurs to find the right kind of funding. To remedy this, Dutch banks have produced the Circular Economy Finance Guidelines: a set of financial ground rules designed to stimulate, develop and enable finance’s key role in the transition towards a circular economy. 

Creating a circular economy requires the reshaping of an entire system. From reducing dependence on primary materials and energy to creating new products and inventing new production processes, to changing the way we develop business models. Such all-encompassing changes can only be made in co-creation: by looking at the entire value chain and identifying where we can make the biggest impact. 

A central enabling factor in this process is what we refer to as ‘the Dutch Collaborative Approach’, where government, knowledge institutions, businesses and civil society work together. Setting aside their own short-term interests to focus on shared long-term objectives. Making cross-sectoral collaborations more effective, processes more agile and pioneering projects pilots easier to organize.

The Netherlands remains committed to developing an economic system that’s effective, sustainable and less wasteful. And we’re looking forward to partnering up with other pioneering nations. The Dutch government,  companies, knowledge institutes and NGOs work together with partners all over

the world to exchange, ideas on policy making, technical knowhow, networks and innovations and learning from each other’s successes and mistakes. We collaborate by sharing insights and tools on topics like circular agro-food, water and waste management, chemical recycling and innovative packaging. Our private public platform on circular economy, Holland Circular Hotspot, collaborates internationally by sharing best practices from businesses, knowledge institutes and (local) governments.

Chile has developed multiple initiatives that support the national strategy on Circular Economy, such as Extended Producer Responsibility, a Plastic Pact, and a Circular Economy Roadmap. There are many opportunities in this area, particularly in Waste Management, Agriculture and Water. Looking at Waste Management the recycling rate in Chile is still very low, only 2% of municipal solid waste, whereas The Netherlands is sending only 2% of municipal waste to landfills. Building on opportunities in packaging, recycling, waste-to-energy, eco-design and more would accelerate the transition towards a Circular Economy.

Due to its geography with the hot and dry Atacama Desert in the North and the numerous lakes and glaciers in the South, Chile could be considered a natural laboratory when it comes to solar, wind and hydraulic energy. When applied to the production of hydrogen Chile is a very promising source of Green Hydrogen, one of the focus points of the Chilean government. The Netherlands has a strong track record in renewable energy and is currently experimenting with (green) hydrogen initiatives already on a commercial scale.

We have to collaborate to combine existing technologies and shape new solutions to create a better future and a better world. The world’s (urban) challenges call for international cooperation wherein every voice is important. The Netherlands is supporting Chile in the following areas:

  • In Sustainable Mobility and in particular bicycle infrastructure several instances of knowledge sharing between the countries have been organized.
  • Support with the development of the Chilean Circular Economy Roadmap by sharing experiences and best practices from this same process that has taken place in The Netherlands.
  • Ongoing dialogue between Dutch and Chilean ministries to exchange knowledge on climate adaptation and searching for areas to cooperate.
  • Exploring of the potential for Green Hydrogen in Chile combined with the Dutch advanced technology and position as large importer of hydrogen, the gate to Europe.
  • Chile and The Netherlands cooperate in multilateral fora to strengthen climate ambitions.

 Let’s join together to turn circular innovations into everyday practice and make the circular shift together!

examples of...

Dutch research regarding Circular Economy

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DGA: Dirección General de Agua, Ministerio de Obras Públicas (

GORE: Gobierno Regional

CDRP: Corporación Regional de Desarrollo Productivo (

DOP: Dirección de Obras Portuarias, Ministerio de Obras Públicas (

DOH: Dirección de Obras Hidráulicas, Ministerio de Obras Públicas (

APR: Agua Potable Rural (


With its extremely elongated shape, 4,000 kilometres from north to south, and geographic diversity, Chile has a multitude of water issues. The availability of water is one of the most urgent issues. The north of Chile in particular is extremely dry. In 2019, the Netherlands and Chile started the GIRAgua recharge pilot project aimed at water retention and underground storage in the Coquimbo region.

The GIRAgua recharge pilot project is looking at the catchment area of the Elqui River which flows from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. This catchment has hardly any water in the dry season, but does have water in the rainy season which then disappears straight into the sea. The project consists of aquifer recharge and underground storage practices to contribute to integrated water management of the Coquimbo region. The project is an initiative of a Dutch consortium led by Deltares and co-implemented with Chilean partners.  Financially, GIRAgua is supported by the subsidy scheme of the Dutch Partners for Water programme and the Government of the Coquimbo region. 

Con su forma extremadamente alargada, 4.000 kilómetros de norte a sur, y su diversidad geográfica, Chile tiene una multitud de problemas de agua. La disponibilidad de agua es uno de los problemas más urgentes. El norte de Chile, en particular, es extremadamente seco. En 2019, los Países Bajos y Chile iniciaron el proyecto piloto de recarga GIRAgua destinado a la retención de agua y al almacenamiento subterráneo en la región de Coquimbo.

El proyecto piloto de recarga GIRAgua se centra en la cuenca del río Elqui, que fluye desde los Andes hasta el Océano Pacífico. Esta cuenca apenas tiene agua en la estación seca, pero sí tiene agua en la estación de las lluvias que luego desaparece directamente en el mar. El proyecto consiste en prácticas de recarga de acuíferos y almacenamiento subterráneo para contribuir a la gestión integrada del agua en la región de Coquimbo. El proyecto es una iniciativa de un consorcio neerlandés dirigido por Deltares y ejecutado conjuntamente con socios chilenos.  Financieramente, GIRAgua cuenta con el apoyo del programa de subvenciones del programa neerlandés “Socios para el Agua” y del Gobierno de la región de Coquimbo.