The circular economy as a basis for a sustainable society

If we want to realise the Paris climate objectives, we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 95% in every area. A circular economy forms the basis for a sustainable society. TNO is contributing to this through solutions for circular construction and infrastructure and circular plastics.

Download the white paper

"Don't waste it! Solving the dark side of today's plastics"


More and more cities, companies and public authorities want to reduce their ecological footprint in order to contribute to a sustainable built environment. At the same time, we want the transition to a circular economy to be positive and efficient. What are the opportunities and the dangers, how can we prevent the value destruction of goods and which circular business models are possible?

A world of raw materials

Cities are there to be lived in, but at the same time serve as an enormous source of reusable materials. Instead of waste, TNO sees a world of raw materials. We help companies to design products in such a way that they can easily be reused. If products do become waste, we develop innovative recycling technologies to recover the raw materials.

The main principle is that we keep products and materials in circulation for as long as possible. However, due to the higher demands on products and the growing interest in custom-made products, product flows are on the increase. Using databases and models, we show how these chains can be reinvented and how recycling techniques can be applied.

Abundant possibilities

The construction industry, in particular, offers plenty of possibilities for becoming more sustainable. By designing a concrete wall in a modular way, for example, it can be disassembled, refurbished and reused elsewhere at the end of its functional lifespan. This is better than using the debris as a low-grade raw material.

There are also important opportunities and challenges for the plastics industry. Our country already has a good track record when it comes to the collection, sorting, processing, purification and reuse of plastics. However, the development of methods and technologies to be able to recycle even better and more frequently is an important priority.

Recycling and industry

In the Brightlands Materials Center (BMC), TNO is working with partners to develop improvements to light-weight composites. As a partner in the Brightsite public-private partnership, we’re also working on projects ranging from fundamental research to the realisation of pilot installations, including the chemical recycling of plastics. This is how we help Chemelot and the processing industry to achieve their sustainability and safety objectives.

Smart reuse creates new circular business models and value propositions. TNO identifies the costs and benefits of the steps in the value chain. We analyse the possibilities and offer advice on the various scenarios in a circular economy. We also look at the social cost-benefit analysis (SCBA) in order to emphasise, among other things, the role of the government.

Would you like to know more about what TNO does in the Circular Economy field?

TNO Insights

Pyrolysis: recycling mattresses at molecular level

16 September 2020
Some 1.2 million mattresses are disposed of every year in the Netherlands. Rather a lot. And recycling them is not easy; consequently, most old mattresses end up in the incinerator. This results in CO2... Read more

Effective communication based on cultural differences

01 July 2021
Effective communication is an important success factor in innovation trajectories with multiple stakeholders in low and middle income countries. For a project around circular economy in three countries... Read more

Towards a circular e-waste infrastructure for Kenya

14 April 2021
Kenya has seen a significant increase in the consumption of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE). Unfortunately, many EEE eventually ends up as waste since proper end-of-life processing infrastructure... Read more

Marinke Wijngaard, MSc

Be inspired by TNO Insights about Circular Economy