Rotterdam as a circular hub for the raw materials transition
Rotterdam’s port and industrial area is eminently suited for giving shape to the circular economy. The region has a high concentration of raw materials and residual flows from numerous industrial and logistics activities. Combined with its good accessibility, this creates an excellent foundation for the broad introduction of circular production and consumption processes.
From Monday, 14 January to Friday, 18 January 2019, the circular economy will be taking centre stage. An entire week will be dedicated to this theme, with a campaign programme that includes over 100 events across the Netherlands that can help the private sector to embark on new circular initiatives.
But what do we actually mean by ‘circular’? The current economy is generally based on ‘linear’ principles: we extract raw materials, turn them into products and treat whatever remains as waste. And while recycling efforts in our country are relatively widespread, substantial volumes of raw materials still end up in a landfill or waste incinerator.
This will be fundamentally changed after we have adopted circular processes. In a circular economy, the focus is on generating maximum value from the smallest possible quantity of raw materials. We strive to reuse as many products and raw materials as we can – by collecting plastic after use, for example, and recycling it into pellets that can be used to manufacture new products.
In a circular economy ‘there’s no such thing as waste’. And since whenever possible, we work to close the cycle from A to Z, we will only need to add a limited volume of new raw materials to our production chains.
Rotterdam is home to one of the largest complexes of refineries and chemical plants in the world. Combined with the port’s extensive network connections with the hinterland, this makes Rotterdam an ideal circular hub for the raw materials transition. The port of Rotterdam has a strong international position as a Waste-to Value Port with numerous existing circular companies and new projects.
In the Port Authority’s vision for Rotterdam, this position will be strengthened even further in the years ahead. By 2050, local industrial and logistics activities in the region will be completely circular.
This will not only help us to achieve the set climate goals; it will also allow the region to deal more effectively with geopolitical and economic fluctuations and serve as a magnet for innovation and new enterprise. A port area like this can create both economic and social value.
To give concrete shape to this vision, the Port of Rotterdam Authority is working together with a wide range of partners, following four key circular pathways: innovation and scaling-up; sorting and recycling; industrial symbiosis; and capture and reuse of CO2. Follow this link for a more detailed explanation of the Port Authority’s vision for the circular economy.
And one can already find concrete examples of this approach in Rotterdam’s port area today. For example, during the construction of the Prinses Amalia overpass at Maasvlakte 2, the contractor Boskalis used Beaumix: a sustainable construction material that is made using decontaminated residuals from waste incineration plants in Amsterdam and Alkmaar.
Another example is Blue City, a ‘breeding ground’ for innovative companies that work to connect their residual flows – one business’s output can serve as another business’s input. In the Waste-to-Chemicals project, residual flows are converted into clean methanol. Or take the private firm REKO, which has started construction on a new thermal decontamination plant that will be able to convert an annual total of 1.2 million tonnes of residuals into base materials, electricity and heat.
Residual heat generated in the port is increasingly being reused to heat homes, greenhouses and offices. To this end, the Zuid-Holland Heat Alliance, made up of the Province of Zuid-Holland, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Gasunie, Eneco, Warmtebedrijf Rotterdam and the municipality, is focusing on the realisation of a main infrastructure for heat in the region.
Realising a circular economy is not just a precondition for a successful energy transition. Ultimately, it will also strengthen the competitive position of Rotterdam’s port area.