Circular economy

Closed cycles
In the traditional, linear economy, raw materials are used to make products that are discarded or, in the best case, incinerated after use. In the circular economy, production, innovation and recycling are key issues: products and substances are re-used to as great an extent as possible. ‘There is no such thing as waste’ and cycles are closed as much as possible so adding new raw materials to the production chains is limited. The objective is to improve the re-use of products and raw materials wherever possible and to limit destruction of value. Waste is only incinerated to generate electricity if nothing else can be done with the residual product. In a circular economy, production and consumption are as efficient and as clean as possible.

‘China waste ban: the upside for plastics’

On 1 January 2018, China imposed an import ban on plastic waste. Up to that point, a large share of Europe’s commercial waste was shipped to China for processing. Which consequences will the Chinese import ban on plastic waste have? “The ban forms an opportunity for Europe to embrace the circular economy,” says Ray Georgeson, guestspeaker at the workshop.

What are the opportunities?

The most significant challenge of the circular economy is that goods have a limited physical or economic service life, so their value lessens over time (or even becomes negative, as in the case of waste). The most important opportunity is for companies to capitalise on extending the economic service life. The five following business models show how we can reduce wastage.

  1. Resource recovery
    Recovery of raw materials from low-quality products instead of discarding or incinerating, for example by recovering useful materials from waste flows through recycling, or using the by-product of one company as the raw material for a product of another company.

  2. Circular (renewable) raw materials
    Vegetal raw materials can certainly be used in the production industry, for example in the production of biofuels and biochemicals. Plants grow rapidly (grain and sugar beets in one season, trees in several decades) so the bio raw material supply can be replenished quickly.

  3. Extending the service life
    Products last much longer through maintenance and repairs, remanufacturing or second hand sales/purchases.

  4. Sharing models (sharing economy)
    For example several households sharing a car. After all, a car is only actually used for a few moments a day (sometimes even less). The same applies to most equipment.

  5. Product as service
    Rent, lease or user contract for washing machines or a high-pressure sprayer, for example.

In short: the circular model creates new business and is a solid stimulus for our economy, like the nine business models illustrated below show.

Concrete projects in Rotterdam

The port is an ideal location for developing the circular economy, since all facilities required for the industry of a circular economy are present. We can develop a future-proof Industrial Cluster and stimulate companies and entrepreneurs to adhere to the international ambitions of the energy transition in collaboration with the Port Authority. We are therefore searching for steps to be part of the chain in the circular economy and are working together in deciding how to deal with raw materials. We can support the existing industry in the transition from fossil to bio-based and circular by investing in, facilitating and consulting on both new prospects and potential coalition partners, and at the same time attract new industry. Examples of ongoing projects are presented below.

Waste to Chemicals

A consortium of companies comprising Air Liquide, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, Enerkem and the Port of Rotterdam Authority has signed a development agreement for the initial investments in an advanced waste to chemicals plant in Rotterdam. The aim is that this will be the first plant of this type in Europe to offer a sustainable alternative for waste incineration, by converting plastic and mixed waste into new raw materials for industry.

From plastic to plastic: Ioniqa

Ioniqa is a good example of a new industry reacting to the need for high-quality circular re-use: this start-up originally from Eindhoven developed a recycling process entailing the recycling of plastic PET bottles (made of polyethylene terephthalate), fleece sweaters and all sorts of different types of PET waste into a previously impossible colourless pure usable chemical raw material for new products: ‘the forever PET bottle.’

On-demand industry: RAMLAB

RAMLAB (Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing LAB) is the first Field laboratory with 3D metal printers focusing on the port related industry. RAMLAB uses 3D metal printers (also called additive manufacturing) for the development of knowledge in the area of metal printing, 3D design and certification. The purpose of RAMLAB and partners is to facilitate making the WAAM (Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing) technology commercially usable through Research & Development projects. Thus RAMLAB and partners are working on a future in which parts can be printed on demand, making a large stock unnecessary, and where the search for specific or specialist components is no longer required.


Would you like to know more about this subject? Please contact:

Monique de Moel
Business developer Energy and Industry

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