Japan and the Netherlands collaborate to accelerate the Circular Economy

August 30, 2021

Running up to the Olympics 2021, The Netherlands and Japan have hosted a series of three online events focused on the circular economy. Collaboration between the two countries is promised to be pivotal to achieve their sustainability goals through applying a circular model.

Read further to get an overview of the main insights and rewatch the sessions!



Setup and main takeaways of the event

Aligned with the sustainability concept of the Olympic Games for Tokyo2020; ‘Be better, together – For the planet and the people’ the Netherlands TeamNL Expo launched a series of events to showcase the best practices in the Circular Economy  from the Japanese and Dutch, and explore new opportunities for collaborations between Japan and The Netherlands. 

Organised by Holland Circular Hotspot, supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), and in close collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry for the Environment; the events curated an esteemed list of speakers such as:

  • Kazunori (Kaz) Maruyama, President and Representative Director, DSM Japan
  • Jan Peter Balkenende, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands and Chairman of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition (DSGC)
  • Yumiko NODA, Chairman & Representative Director, Veolia Japan K.K.
  • Krista Kruft, Leadership Lead, Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE)

There were several important takeaways from the events. In order to achieve the ambitious goals underlying the adoption of a circular economy, creating incentives for consumers and producers is vital, as well as to change the mindsets of all stakeholders involved. Additionally, companies like Philips and Panasonic presented the importance of innovation. Looking towards the future, Japan and Netherlands are set to achieve common goals through government networks and the Tokyo Olympics are aiming to become the most sustainable ever with a 40% emission reduction target.

An overview of the most important information for circular business in Japan

“The manufacturing and plastics industry are promising areas of a circular economy where the Netherlands and Japan could strengthen their cooperation”

John Mike Jager, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan

Circular Plastics

The ‘Circular Plastics’ webinar took place on July 24th and focused on aspects of plastics such as packaging, the process of recycling and the recollection of the material. “Our vision of the future is don’t waste this material – plastic is a very useful source… we can’t do it without it anymore”, Pieter Imhof (TNO) highlighted our dependency on plastics in an introduction to the processes that need to be placed in order for our current plastic mass to be reused in a sustainable manner. As an introduction to the matter he explained the systems of a linear and a circular material chain: “Don’t downcycle but upcycle ” was one of the main takeaways. Thor Tummers (Unilever) touched on the use of plastics within product packaging and the alternatives that brands are now considering. 

The Q&A session which was conducted following the speaker’s presentations touched on the difficulties regarding a shift into circular material use, specifically plastics. Governmental intervention and the need for legislation to accelerate the process of the transition was mentioned. The importance of collaboration and unionization against environmental problems as a whole was also highlighted.  The closing speaker, Arnoud Passenier, from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, discussed how the Dutch and Japanese governments both collaborate. Passenier specified that a dialogue with the Ministry of Environment in Japan has started to see how projects can be set up jointly and how to move together on the international stage.

Rewatch the webinar below!

Circular Manufacturing

The ‘Circular Manufacturing’ event focused on the value chain and manufacturing process of products in a more sustainable manner. HCH director Freek van Eijk opened the discussion by focusing on the value of products and how the ‘said value’ changes throughout circularity. Generally, once a product is created, its value declines overtime and is then thrown away as waste; however, through circularity, products that have been used are repurposed and their materials are reused to create a new or updated product.

Speakers also stressed the difficulty of shifting the value chain, nonetheless pointing out that it is crucial to do. Switching to materials that can be repurposed later on, can often be expensive as they may require raw or pure materials. Although changing the materials that are used can be difficult, it is important in doing so as much as promoting change within society. The customer’s mindset must also shift along with the system to maintain it.

The Q&A touched on a similar topic that was aforementioned. The initial investment in the product may be higher but will balance out with time within the initial shift into a circular economy and system. “Learning from each other is most important, everyone is keen on learning how to adopt (circularity) to our business” Markus Reichling (Panasonic Europe) said.

Rewatch the webinar below!

"Collaboration within business sectors is essential to shape the trend towards a circular economy in Japan"

Ms. Yumiko Noda, chairman and representative director Veolia Japan K.K.

Roundtable discussion

After the two webinars focused on Plastics (24 June, 2021) and Manufacturing (1 July, 2021), a roundtable discussion took place on 6 July, 2021 to discuss the topic with leaders from both the public and private sector, from both the Netherlands and Japan.

Throughout the ‘Circular Economy Round Table’, climate change and the environmental problems that we currently face were a main feature as to why it is crucial for a shift towards circularity. Constant production with a linear economy is unsustainable and impossible to maintain for the near future. Speakers agreed on the initiative of circular economy being critical to combat the climate crisis as well as the importance of collaboration among organizations to make a global impact. Prof. Jan Peter Balkenende, the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, highlighted the previously mentioned notes by saying “Public private partnerships have effective and stimulating policies and changing mindset. We need action for economic well-being and CE.”

Dr. Naoko Ishii (University of Tokyo) also pointed out the need for collaboration among governments explaining how Japan and the Netherlands will create a global impact through their shared vision of transforming current systems. The event came to a close on a hopeful note of implementing change through collaboration and systems change that will not only change our means of production but also combat the climate crisis on a large scale.

Rewatch the roundtable discussion!

"A shift to a circular economy and its value retention potential offers an unique opportunity for Japan as the 4th largest export economy in the world is very dependent on raw materials and energy"

Freek van Eijk, director Holland Circular Hotspot