Since the Middle Ages the Dutch had to work together to keep their feet dry and make Holland a sustainable place to live. This experience makes the Netherlands today a place with innovative examples in water management, food, buildings or energy: a Circular Hotspot and a Sustainable Urban Delta. Mid April 2016 a 3-day Trade Mission came fact finding.
the Netherlands as a Circular Hotspot
The 3-day trade mission took place to visit the Netherlands as a Circular Hotspot. The attendees came from all over the world and consisted of representatives from government bodies, compagnies and NGO’s. The Netherlands CE Hotspot organisation together with the Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had set up an diverse programme with leading examples of circular products, services and business models. The incoming trade mission took place just at the time that Amsterdam had been awarded the European Capital of Innovation for 2016.
The 'green' Prince
Several participants commented on the visible commitment from all stakeholders towards a circular economy. Our "green" Prince Carlos was the circular ancker man of the event but support also came from the highest level of our government. "We are a nation of little hierarchy, with highly educated people, many entrepreneurs and the highest waste collection rates in the world", said Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte when he officially addressed the event. "If you put this all together, I think the Netherlands can play a leading role in sustainable urbanization and circular economy".
Highlights of circular best practices
Let me share some of the highlights. Schiphol Airport presented examples of the bio-based benches and fuels, a strong focus on energy efficiency and smart mobility. Most recently they didn't procure lamps but choose instead for light as a service.
Park 2020 was impressive: a unique level of sustainability is created together with a human centered design approach to realise the cleanest, most inspiring and productive working environment to date.
One excursion went to the Port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest Port that is starting to walk the talk towards Circular Economy. We witnessed big & impactful examples like the capturing of industrial CO2 for use in nearby green houses, the "plug & play" heat network combining offer and demand, new green chemistry and advanced recycling examples for construction materials & plastics. But there were also small and inspirational (even edible!) examples like RotterZwam (mushrooms grown on coffee residues).
The incoming trade didn't miss the opportunity to visit the Innovation Expo. An event where start-ups, CEOs, scientists and government officials mingle and where 200 innovations that bring solutions to global challenges were presented. Did you know that you can recover not only heat but also for example phosphorus and cellulose from sewage water (and that it is happening in practice)?
Circular examples by bike
The excursions continued to the outskirts of the Netherlands. Participants jumped on a bike to see bottom-up examples of Amsterdam city quarter Buiksloterham getting circular driven by a strong community commitment. Visionary architect Thomas Rau show-cased the new Alliander Head Quarter building.
At the Delft University some advanced recycling initiatives were shown. Just a few years ago Inashco bottom-ash incinerator recycler left their laboratory and is now present in several continents with a 100 M + revenue potential. New potential winners could be plastic flakes recycling with magnetic fluids or concrete recycling. Nice to know is that the innovations have been set up in a revolving fund construction to fuel new ideas.
Large corporates like Philips have shown that there is a business module behind the refurbishment of Medical Equipment.
Never waste waste! Black Bear Carbon recycles waste tires into a valueable Carbon Black product.
New relationships and potential collaborations
The mission was concluded with a match making event to create new relationships and potential collaboration across the globe. Participants from several countries were so inspired that they competed to to become the next CE Hotspot. They honour went to Luxemburg.
I congratulate Guido Braam and all the others from the CE Hotspot organisation for this wonderful and inspirational initiative!
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