Measuring the circular economy: the Dutch pioneers leading the way

Circular economy: our national government appointed a secretary of state on the topic, we have national, regional and local policies and programs to enhance a transition towards a circular economy and countless parties are (said to be) involved. Even the mainstream press made circular economy recurring news. But how circular are we? What is the impact of all these efforts? Does it get us any closer to a circular economy? The Gap Report states that our world is 9% circular. How well do our efforts on circular contribute to improving this percentage? If we can’t comprehensively and systematically measure the transition to a circular economy, we will be left in the dark whether our efforts are indeed leading to an inherently waste-free and regenerative economy. And we do want to know, as it helps us define our strategies and next steps to take. Therefore, in 2018, upon initiative of the Amsterdam Economic Board, the Municipality of Amsterdam and the cooperating municipalities of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, Metabolic developed a monitoring framework for the circular economy to track this progress.

Customized framework

The monitoring framework is in line with the national initiatives of the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and is adapted to the specific targets and context of the Metropolitan Area. The region focusses on the processing of waste flows in the region into circular resources, in particular by facilitating chain formation and stimulating local processing. It prioritizes the reuse of materials in a high-quality way, as its densely urbanized area features a large circulation of goods and services. A strong focus is on redesign of products and product chains through the use of circular procurement.

To monitor progress, a framework was needed.

This framework consists of three pillars of indicators:

  • Primary indicators provide insight in the raw material use of a region;
  • Dashboard indicators cover issues such as recycling, energy and biodiversity;
  • Transition indicators reflect the degree of institutional renewal of this system.

These indicators provide crucial information on how to monitor policy goals and evaluate the effect of policies in place. It is also designed to provide insights into the uptake of circular business models within the economy. In addition, it is an important framework to measure developments in the market and education.

At the Board we are also satisfied with the insight we will gain in transition dynamics – for example new circular patents, investments and disinvestments and how many new courses within our educational system are being developed that deal with the concept of circular economy,” says Marjolein Brasz, lead Circular Economy at the Amsterdam Economic Board, one of the initiators of the circular monitoring frameworks “this helps us and our partners to set the course. What matters here is that we are going to collect the right data, among other information, with educational institutions and the business community, so that the data is reliable and stored and used in a safe manner. That fits nicely with the Amsterdam Data Exchange (AMdEX); another Board initiative which requires the infrastructure and (financial) incentives data owners to share their data with others. ”

Data availability

A gap-analysis of the required data shows that challenges still need to be overcome to capture the state of the circular economy as a whole, such as improving the data availability, transparency and reliability of ingoing and outgoing material streams. To address this issue was one of the main reasons for the Amsterdam Economic Board and the CTO Amsterdam to jointly develop the Competition Circular & Digital on behalf of the MRA Municipalities.

Of which the price winners will be announced shortly. Watch this space.



5 April 2019

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