A circular economy: the basis for a sustainable society

Cities, companies and the public sector are increasingly seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint in order to help create a sustainable built environment. The concept of the circular economy provides economic opportunities in the fields of service provision, reuse, repair and recycling. TNO advises businesses, economic sectors and the public sector on the economic possibilities and consequences for technology development and the environment.

4 routes to a CO2 neutral industry

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(Source: Circular Economy System Diagram, Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation)

A circular economy would make an important contribution in terms of reducing the depletion of the world’s natural resources, based on the principle of intelligent reuse to ensure that products and materials remain in circulation for as long as possible - in a world where production flows are increasing due to the ever-higher demands placed on products and the increasing desire for ‘tailor-made’ products. This has consequences for the material composition of products. TNO is helping to create a circular economy so that production chains can become closed loops. We advise on how product chains can be modified by means of an integrated approach (system innovation), and on how circular processing and recycling can be implemented. We also advise on material compositions and circular product development and the use of technology and IT, as well as the development of new materials (including construction materials).

Knowledge of goods flows

The central question in this context is how to organise processes so that products and materials are put back into the chain.  Providing this advice requires knowledge of the flows of goods and materials, of the function of those materials and products, and of the related economic and ecological aspects. TNO has  databases and models that provide insight into this on a European, national and regional scale. Policymakers can use this knowledge to formulate plans that enable improvements to be made.

Opportunities for business cases

At company level, thinking in terms of resource efficiency can lead to new business models and new value propositions. TNO identifies the costs and benefits of the various steps in the value chain, analyses the opportunities for value creation, and advises partners on possible scenarios in a circular economy. In addition to the analysis and development of business cases, Social Cost-Benefit Analysis (SCBA) also plays a role, among other things to emphasise the role of the public sector.

Environment & Climate

Dr. Ton Bastein

  • resource efficiency
  • circular economy
  • raw materials
  • sustainability
  • scarcity

Be inspired by TNO Insights about Circular Economy


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