A lot of extra space may be needed for a circular economy
In the circular economy, more space may be needed for storing and recycling materials. If the Netherlands does not want to import circular materials, a lot of space is also needed for the production of wood and biomass. This is the conclusion of a study by CE Delft commissioned by the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).
The government wants the Netherlands to be circular by 2050. However, little is known about the spatial impact of this transition. CE Delft has therefore studied the spatial effects of circular activity on behalf of the PBL. “Because the Netherlands has a limited territory, attention must be paid to the spatial implications of the tasks,” the planning office wrote in an explanation of the study.
The circular economy requires fewer production and logistics facilities. However, the demand for industrial space in a higher environmental category for recycling is increasing. In addition, the demand for space for the production of biomaterials can be significant. More space is also needed for the storage of recycled materials, which are then fed back into the chain. Ideally, this storage is located in places that are easily accessible and accessible in a multimodal way, according to CE Delft the research†
CE Delft looked at five sectors to assess the spatial effects of the circular economy. These are sectors that have a potentially major impact on space in the transition to a circular economy. These sectors largely correspond to the government’s transition programs, according to CE Delft.
Circular housing uses more recycled materials, such as concrete. Circular houses can also be used longer because they can be taken apart. The dismantling and recycling of houses requires more space for storage and processing. CE Delft speaks of a 10-15% increase in space occupied by production sites.
Also, more space may be needed for wood production if the Netherlands does not want to import the wood needed for circular construction. With the construction of 500,000 wooden houses, this would involve 25,000 hectares of production forests.
The spatial consequences of car sharing can be significant. Indeed, parking spaces – which currently account for around 10% of used space – are disappearing. “So a small reduction in the vehicle fleet can free up a lot of space,” says CE Delft.
The exact spatial impact of car sharing depends on how far car sharing takes off. The Knowledge Institute for Mobility previously predicted that the use of shared cars would increase only slightly under current government policy. Young and educated city dwellers are particularly open to car sharing. The number of cars may therefore decrease in specific places, writes CE Delft. Think of city centers and new neighborhoods where parking standards are tightened and there is enough alternative transport available.
In the circular economy, more recycled plastic is used. As with residential construction, this requires more space for sorting, storage and actual recycling. The same applies to the production of bioplastics as it does to wood construction: if the Netherlands wants to produce the necessary raw materials itself, more space is needed.
Soil, Road and Hydraulic Engineering
Asphalt is already widely recycled. If the innovation achieves a higher recycling percentage, less gravel and sand will be needed in the future. It saves space. On the other hand, bitumen, a fossil raw material, is necessary for the production of asphalt. An alternative to this is lignin, a raw material made from wood and straw. The production of this wood and straw requires considerable additional space. CE Delft speaks of a doubling of wood production with the associated demand for space, if one does not want to import lignin.
If the Netherlands wants to produce biomass on its own soil, the spatial impact will be significant. This is in contradiction with the current European policy, which aims to fight against the conversion of agricultural land. “So it is quite possible that the vast majority of biomass is imported. In this case, the spatial consequences in the Netherlands are much less,” the researchers write in the report.
From a technical point of view, we can already develop houses that (partly) come out of the factory. In recent years, for example, energy-efficient, bio-based, affordable and digitally produced houses have been built in four EU pilot projects in the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Belgium.
Now is the time to scale up. How are you doing that? Because regulation is not the only obstacle. At the two-day conference “Sustainable Affordable Housing, Please! European experts will discuss it. The conference will take place on May 23 and 24 at the Floriade Expo in Almere. More information and free registration? So click here†
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