Seventeen municipalities in the Dutch province of North Holland have joined forces in their ambition to reduce the use of primary resources with 50% by 2030. The promising circular initiatives which are already there, the long coastline, its agricultural fundament, are all excellent starting points for regional circular economy pilots.
The region of North Holland North has the ambition to reduce the use of primary resources with 50% by 2030 and be fully circular by 2050. In two different projects, Shifting Paradigms is supporting Circle Economy with defining pilots which can make a substantial material contribution towards achieving that goal. The first project targeted circular economy opportunities in two sectors with the largest social-economic contribution to the region. The second project focussed on the identification of pilots for circular use of organic residues.
Material value retention
Material use in the region of North Holland North is defined by the region’s agricultural sector, infrastructure and coastal protection. Large projects which aim at strengthening the coastline, development of the agricultural potential, investments in renewable energy generation capacity and the gradual decommissioning of the offshore sector in Den Helder either provide or require large volumes of resources.
The most important sectors in terms of resource use, waste production, added value and jobs are construction, industry, agriculture, retail and healthcare. The municipalities involved requested the project team to focus on the first two.
The construction sector uses about 4.8 mln ton of materials per year, of which 97% minerals. Out of this, 3.8 mln ton is stored as long-term stock, and 1 mln ton is downcycled. The most promising circular economy opportunities in the construction sector are:
- Circular procurement: whereby governments in the region use their EUR 550 million spending power to increase demand for circular products and services. This is 70% of all investment in infrastructure. When including sand, this consider about 13 mln tons or 21% of all abiotic resource use.
- Circular energy transition: which targets the national ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with 49% between 1990 and 2030 and stop the consumption of natural gas by 2050. Considering circularity in the selection of materials and design of products and infrastructure can help build a low-carbon future which is also resource efficient.
- Circular demolition: several demolition companies in the region have high ambitions for the re-use of components or materials from their projects. Allowing more time for the disassembly and demolition of buildings, make it easier for them to find a secondary market.
Resource flows in the industrial sector have been mapped by collecting data from the 50 largest industrial facilities in the region. This showed that industry uses about 2.8 mln tons of metals, minerals and biomass per year. They produce about 0.17 tons of waste, of which 85% is re-used. Also for industry, three circular economy pilots have been identified:
- Product as a service: Several consumer goods and business to business industries are considering service models as alternative to the sale of physical goods. By retaining ownership, the manufacturer can better serve the client with (predictive) maintenance, and perhaps buy-back schemes.
- Closing the loop for plastics: The EU set a target to make all plastic packaging re-usable by 2030 and considers a ban on single-use plastics products. North Holland North uses 311 mln tons of synthetic plastics every year. Innovative companies are tapping into this potential by enabling re-use of products and improving recycling rates.
- Facilitate circular initiatives: For North Holland North the circular economy provides an opportunity of around EUR 1.8 billion. Local governments can facilitate companies in the region with a shared ambition and encourage the national government to reform the tax system.
In North Holland North 68% of organic residues are from the agricultural sector. Waste flows from the horticulture, tulip and bulb cultivation are of interest, since about 50% of all tulips and bulbs in the Netherlands are produced in this region. As the second priority, the participating municipalities opted for high quality processing of grass from road verges.
A cooperative of tulip farms has the ambition to drastically reduce the use of mineral fertiliser and pesticides, by investing in the quality of the soil. One of them is certified as the first organic tulip farm. Their ambition is well aligned with the national ambition to promote circular agriculture.
Increasing the organic material content of the soil enhances productivity and water retention. In the summer of 2018 The Netherlands suffered a severe draught. Crops on land with better soil quality were better able to withstand the draught. Organic material can be sourced from Agriport A7, where greenhouses produce tomatoes and paprika on substrate, using biological methods to protect the crops. Therefore, organic waste from these greenhouses is clean. When producing high quality compost near the greenhouses, the CO2 can be used as a growth enhancer in the greenhouses, residual heat can be used to warm the greenhouses in winter and the compost can be used to enhance soil quality in horticulture.
A second pilot was proposed for the processing of the 13 kton dry organic matter which is annually harvested from road verges. There are pilots to separate the fibres, protein and minerals and use these as separate raw materials to produce cardboard, animal fodder or thawing agent. In addition, a new facility for the wet supercritical gasification of organic matter in Alkmaar is well equipped to process the grass into natural gas with a far higher efficiency than digestion.
Governments, whether they are municipalities, provincial governments or waterboards are generally the owners of the verges from roads, waterways, dams and dikes. Therefore, the final report did not preselect a certain option for the processing of grass, but rather proposed ways to encourage high value processing in the procurement of verge maintenance services from private entities.
Client: Circle Economy, in a contract with Alkmaar municipality