Circular economy and current and future Dutch administrative law

NL Law

On Wednesday 19 January, a webinar took place concerning current affairs in the circular economy and administrative law. The webinar was held by the VMR Jong working group of the Environmental Law Association (Vereniging voor milieurecht Jong). Lawyers from Stibbe, Excess Materials Exchange and PhD student Ida Mae de Waal spoke about the necessary steps towards a circular economy, current legislation and future laws and policies on this topic.

In the webinar, the speakers provided number of takeaways and points of attention for the coming years. We are happy to share these with you.

  1. Better availability of information about raw materials and more room for experimentation. Insight into the used raw materials used helps companies with their circular goals. Information can be provided for example with a ‘materials passport’. Experiments can also help companies develop circular businesses, but they must have legal room to carry out these experiments. Flexible permits, for example, can provide this room. At the moment, companies are still shying away from adopting circular economy principles due to a lack of clarity and room for experimentation.
  2. Dutch law is not in line with circular economy objectives. The Dutch national government is committed to reducing the use of primary raw materials by 50% by 2030. Legislation is currently lagging behind. There are few concrete norms to further promote the circular economy and current law is geared towards a ‘linear’ rather than a circular economySecondary raw materials, for example, are often legally defined as waste materials and are therefore subject to more rules than primary raw materialsIn 2021, many different institutions called for more circular norms. The coalition agreement of the new Dutch national government often mentions the circular economy. Much can be done in this area in the coming years.
  3. Circular developments in European law. Current EU law on substances, products and waste products does not seem to be sufficiently in tune with the circular economy. EU law still focuses primarily on the separate life phases of products. Despite circular aspects in the Ecodesign Directive and the Waste Framework Directive, obstacles remain and opportunities are insufficiently exploited. However, future developments at EU level indicate that the life cycle of products – and also the substances, products and waste legislation that applies to them – will increasingly be considered as a whole. An example is the proposal for the Batteries Regulation, while the Sustainable Product Policy Initiative, which aims to broaden the scope of the Ecodesign Directive, is another interesting development.

We look forward to developments in this area and will keep you informed.

Speakers: Christian van Maaren (Excess Materials Exchange), Ida Mae de Waal (Universiteit Utrecht), Valérie van ‘t Lam (Stibbe) and Bram Schmidt (Stibbe)

Moderator: Lisa van der Maden (Stibbe).