Toespraak van minister-president Mark Rutte bij het ‘Australia and the Netherlands Circular Economy Forum’, Melbourne

Deze toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Lord Mayor, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The circular economy is the next big thing. My colleagues and advisers are always bombarding me with complex briefs on the importance of ‘system transition’, ‘the need for a closed-loop supply chain’ and the opportunities to generate ‘new and sustainable competitive advantages’.

It’s fascinating stuff, but it can be hard to visualise. For me, the penny really drops when I’m cycling through my home town, The Hague, and I see the slogan on the side of all the rubbish trucks: ‘There’s no such thing as waste.’ I believe that simple statement sums up the idea at the heart of the circular economy.

And it’s all about changing your perspective. Not acting on the basis of ‘take-make-waste’, but working on the principles of optimum use, recycling and circular design. You soon see that waste is not something to be dumped or burned, but a valuable raw material that can even turn a profit.

In the Netherlands, we started to realise this as early as the 1980s. We knew that we simply did not have enough space to dump all our waste in landfills. So we were forced early on to change our approach, and we did so with conviction.

Today, 81 per cent of our waste is recycled. 17 per cent is used to generate energy. And only 3 per cent goes to landfill. So in the Netherlands, ‘no such thing as waste’ isn’t just an empty slogan.

In the Netherlands there is broad commitment to the circular economy. Not least because a large part of our country lies below sea level.

We realise the importance of saving water, energy and raw materials, in order to minimise emissions of greenhouse gases. And the circular economy can help. It can also reduce our dependence on importing raw materials. Materials that are growing more scarce as the global population and its prosperity increases.

nd above all, a simple calculation shows that transitioning to a circular economy makes economic sense. According to the latest figures, this transition already involves some 420.000 jobs and could add an extra 7 billion euros to the Dutch economy. So quite apart from the environmental benefits, it’s a compelling business case.

This new approach is creating new earning models, some of which are already making their mark. Take car-sharing platforms, which are getting more and more popular. The idea is simple: you reserve a car via the app and then you drive it away. It’s proving so successful, in fact, that users are buying cars less often, driving fewer kilometres on average, and substantially reducing their personal CO2 emissions.

 What’s more, we’re not only sharing cars. As a nation of cyclists, we also have plenty of bike-sharing schemes. And in other sectors, like agriculture, lighting, medical technology and financial services, companies are developing innovations that will shape the transformation to a circular economy.

To me this shows that the new circular approach is working. Not only from the government’s point of view. But also from the perspective of consumers, who enjoy more convenience and entrepreneurs, who can earn money in the process.

In the Netherlands this has led to a widely shared ambition. We have set ourselves the goal of having a fully circular economy by 2050. And by 2030 we want to reduce the use of raw materials by half. Not by imposing new measures from above, but by working at grassroots level with the people who are making it happen.

This has led to a National Raw Materials Agreement. More than 400 parties across all sectors have agreed to work towards an economy that runs on reusable materials. We are also working with 5 sectors that are vital to our economy but which also have a heavy impact on the environment. With them, we are developing transition plans and setting concrete goals that must be achieved in order to be completely circular by 2050. In addition, this year we’ve concluded a National Climate Agreement with partners across the Netherlands, an agreement which will guide us towards our climate goals.

So we have big ambitions. But at the same time we realise that the Netherlands is very small. So small, in fact, that our country would fit easily into Tasmania.

That’s a humbling thought, ladies and gentlemen. And it shows that we also need to collaborate at international level – with like-minded partners like Australia. Because only by joining forces can we make our transnational production chains circular too. And create an international marketplace for sustainable and circular products and services.

The Netherlands and Australia are committed partners, and we’re keen to step up our cooperation. Australia is setting up a National Circular Economy Hub, and I’m delighted that the Director of Holland Circular Hotspot, Freek van Eijk, will shortly be signing a memorandum of understanding on long-term cooperation with the Hub. Holland Circular Hotspot is already working with partners at all levels in more than 10 countries, and we’re proud that Australia will now become part of this global network.

Cooperation is essential in the world of research too. Because innovation in business depends on scientific know-how and creativity. Both Australia and the Netherlands are doing cutting-edge research aimed at real-world applications. Our universities are already partnering up.

The growing partnership on sustainable digital value chains between a number of Dutch and Australian universities is a good example. And I hope that today we can help broaden and structure that cooperation further. Because there’s a lot we can learn, both from each other and with each other.

That is essential. Because, as Albert Einstein once said, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ As illustrated so well by the slogan on all those rubbish trucks: ‘There’s no such thing as waste’. But however you word it, one thing is very clear: the circular economy will bring great rewards to us and our planet.

Thank you.