Thinking differently about waste

Published on 02 March 2018

Viewing products as a temporary storage place for raw materials, stimulating reuse or repair as much as possible and recycling as the last necessary link in the circular chain - this is Renewi’s vision of the circular economy in a nutshell. 

Renewi is the new name chosen by Shanks and Van Gansewinkel after merging in 2017. This international recycling company believes that, for a country like the Netherlands, the EU is not ambitious enough when it comes to a European circular economy. That is why it is so positive that the Dutch government has formulated its own ambitious goals in the national Circular Economy Programme and Raw Materials Agreement.   

Exceeding EU goals 

The largest waste processor in the Netherlands already recycles more than 65 percent of all waste collected into new raw materials. In doing so, Renewi exceeds the goals established by the European Commission for the year 2030. Company management would like to see a greater sense of urgency in the raw materials vision of the EU. According to Renewi, the increasing scarcity of raw materials requires an accelerated approach. 

National Raw Materials Agreement 

If it were up to the Dutch government, our national economy would be based entirely on reusable raw materials from the year 2050. This would mean that the use of such raw materials as oil, gas and metals would have to be cut in half by the year 2030. To achieve this, the government signed the National Raw Materials Agreement in January 2017, together with 180 parties from the business community and social organisations.  

Focus on the entire chain 

At Renewi, they believe that the Dutch government has established meaningful regulations when it comes to recycling. But they also feel that the entire chain needs to be considered. According to the experts at this recycling company, what is primarily lacking is the step to reuse the recycled raw materials on the same quality level. This would require greater collaboration within the recycling sector, also with other market participants.  

Integral collaboration 

Waste processes and manufacturers could brainstorm about packaging, as well as, for instance, the production process and the product itself. There needs to be greater awareness that products are a temporary storage place for raw materials. If you know exactly what kinds of raw materials a product contains, you can estimate the value and will know how much energy and effort it should take to extract the raw materials from that product. But the market is not yet up to this challenge. 

A matter of behaviour 

Every year, Renewi collects household waste from two million households in the Netherlands. The municipalities involved remain the owner of the waste flows. The situation is very different with business customers, with Renewi organising responsibility for the collection and separation of waste. In this case, recycling is the responsibility of the collector, resulting in the collective interest of separating as much waste as possible. The Waste Performance Profile enables Renewi to show companies the consequences in terms of CO2 reduction and raw material recycling. Recycling is cheaper than incineration or dumping, which also requires considerable effort. It is primarily a matter of behaviour. 

From car window to carpet 

At Renewi, they have a clear opinion on the dismantling and recycling of cars. There is enthusiasm about the efforts of ARN and government policy. Cars are registered to individuals. Consequently, as opposed to small household appliances, they do not disappear with the household waste. Renewi would like to see all car windows dismantled at some point. The recycling company can process glass granules into insulation materials and has even developed a useful application for the PVB foil between the glass layers, which can be used as a raw material in the carpet industry. 

Companies like Renewi are important in further boosting the quality of recyclable raw materials. The car recycling sector can also benefit from this. 

There needs to be greater awareness that products are a temporary storage place for raw materials.