Trade-offs of National Circular Economy Agendas

Comparing the wins and losses across economy, society, and environment for the Circular Economy Programme of the Netherlands

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In recent years, there has been an emergence of the concept of “circular economy (CE)”, which promises to close the loop in terms of resource extraction consumption in the prevailing economic paradigm. This promises environmental and socioeconomic benefits, but the risk exists where the benefits of the circular transition might be unevenly distributed, with potential tradeoffs in the implementation of CE. The Netherlands has an agenda, the ”National Programme
for Circular Economy (NPCE)” to achieve a full CE transition in the Netherlands by 2050, However, the agenda is at an early stage of implementation, the effects of the implementation of this policy are not well understood.

The CE transition is approached at a macro-level to allow for top-down examination of the macroeconomic effects of the NPCE on the Dutch economy and its constituent sectors. Macroeconomic modelling of the NPCE as CE scenarios was synthesised using the Pycirk and Environmentally Extended Input-Output Analysis tool for CE, together with the latest Dutch CE implementation programme.

The impacts of the CE scenarios were mapped across six footprint categories: Global Warming Potential, Total Energy Use, Material Extraction footprint, Blue Water Extraction, Value Added and Employment. Overall, it was found that the tradeoffs of the Dutch CE transition occur between improvements in the environment dimensions, at the cost of socioeconomic dimensions. Depending on the type of CE strategy, trade-offs can also be expected between economic sectors, with transportation being the primary sector standing to gain from
the transition to a circular economy.