Circular Economy

The UK is committed to moving towards a more circular economy by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and long-lasting resources. The UK has research expertise in a broad range of areas relevant to the circular economy and nearly £200 million from the research councils and Innovate UK is currently invested. As the UK supports sustainable initiatives there are abundant opportunities for Dutch companies, specifically interesting sectors are waste management including plastics, built environment, manufacturing and textiles.

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Waste management

In the past few years the UK has greatly modernised its waste policy. For decades virtually all waste was sent to landfill but that percentage has now been reduced from 90% to 30%, by focusing on recycling and waste-to-energy for combustible waste.

Waste management stands at the heart of UK´s roadmap towards a CE. The UK waste management takes place on country level; hence policies differ between the regions. However, the overall target is to achieve a 65% municipal recycling rate by 2035. To date, 76% of household waste is incinerated and energy recovered, 11% is send to landfill while only 1% is recycled. Amongst all, Wales shows the highest recycling rate with 54,1% and aims at 70% by 2025. In England and Northern Ireland, increased landfill tax shall help to reduce waste production. In Northern Ireland, landfilling dropped already by 1,4% within the same year

Dutch companies are major suppliers of machinery and technology to the UK waste sector.  Residual waste flows such as chemical waste and packaging waste (plastic and paper) are also important for the Dutch sector. These waste flows are generally shipped to third countries via the Netherlands.

Reducing waste production at first to support resource efficiency is UK wide linked to tackling food waste at source by enhancing collaboration along supply chains. On the other end of the chain, the core strategy is to expand waste stream separation by improving provision of separate waste collection at household and business level to enhance better waste management. Business opportunities lay in creating innovative and efficient waste recycling systems.


Annually around 5 million tonnes of plastic are consumed in the UK, of which almost 50% accounts for packaging waste. The UK targets the elimination of all avoidable plastic waste by 2042, amongst others by a plastic packaging tax which will become effective in 2022. Crucial elements for a circular plastics sector are the UK Plastic Pact and the Plastic Industry Recycling Action Plan working on a value chain approach to increase recycling volumes by means of design and improved collection, and both sorting systems. However, to meet UK targets recycling services need to extend. This offers attractive business opportunities for Dutch chemical- and mechanical recycling companies. As the development of end markets to line up the plastic chain remains critical, Dutch business models which transform plastic waste flows into new products can inspire.

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Fashion & Textiles

Textiles and its environmental pollution exacerbated by fastfashion culture is a hot topic in the UK and focus topic of the Waste Prevention Programme for England. To enforce collection and enhance sustainable business models, the Resources and waste strategy for England offers textiles chain stakeholders consultation on better design and labelling of clothing for recycling purposes and extended producer responsibility schemes. With Textiles 2030 the industry takes initiative on reducing its water use and carbon footprint. As textiles is a focus sector of the Netherlands towards full circularity by 2050, the Dutch can share their insights into circular textiles opportunities and research, and inspire with business models. The UK is an attractive business case for Dutch high-quality technology that allows to recycle textiles into feedstock garment quality and innovative dying techniques for circular textiles made in the UK.

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Built Environment

The built environment accounts for 40% of the UK´s carbon footprint. Almost half is linked to energy used during the lifetime, excluding construction efforts. To achieve zero net carbon, a National Infrastructure Strategy has been set out. The Green Construction Board focuses on the reduction of carbon emissions of 50% by 2050 and resource efficiency. To be able to achieve these goals, the UK is seeking for expertise input on knowledge and skills. This offers business opportunities for The Netherlands, working on a circular built environment on city- and regional level. Dutch businesses can offer smart solutions for innovative building technologies- and materials, how to integrate nature into construction and share experience from value chain collaborations that optimize resource flows and give inspiration for the role of the public sector in supporting the transition into a circular built environment.

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The Dutch manufacturing industry offers both inspiring innovations as well as best practices for a circular economy. The need for international collaboration in circular manufacturing is growing as it is an industry with complex value chains. Circular solutions can address growing concerns among businesses such as the security of supply of materials. Dutch companies can offer knowledge and experience in finding qualitative and sustainable solutions for manufacturing challenges.

The transition towards a circular economy offers exciting opportunities for partnerships, bringing new business models into practice and exchanging experience within UK manufacturing. Remanufacturing alone in the UK is worth £2.4 billion with a potential to increase to £5.6 billion alongside the creation of thousands of skilled jobs.

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How can the Embassy help you?

The Embassy will continue to strengthen British-Dutch cooperation. By bringing you in contact with the right persons, drawing the UK’s attention to Dutch solutions, and by promoting collaboration, we will put the spotlight on Dutch companies and knowledge institutions.

We regularly organise workshops, seminars and round-table discussions to further highlight Dutch knowledge and expertise for UK stakeholders. We also assist the sector wherever possible by raising topics such as the coordination of contract award procedures, harmonisation of research programmes and streamlining of technical and commercial standards.

If you would like to know more about circular economy, please contact Terence Speijer.