Circular countries

Circularity offers many advantages to countries, but it does require facilitating policies. Many countries are aware of this and are rolling out a circular strategy nationally. In terms of size and design, these strategies differ considerably. To show the diversity, here is an example of three countries from a different continent: Chile, China and Scotland.


In 2018, Chile launched the first programme for the circular economy in Latin America, with support for excellent companies, and the plan to establish a policy roadmap and a technology centre for circular economy. The program started with a competition to select 25 excellent companies that contribute to the Chilean circular economy. This programme of the Chilean Production Development Corporation (Corfo) helped to increase awareness of the concept and public appreciation of the companies involved.

The Ministry of the Environment took on the role of drawing up a map of actors and a roadmap for the circular economy. At the end of 2019, this policy plan will be crowned with the realisation of the COP25 in Chile, where circularity will be a central theme. Finally, Chile plans to establish a capital of the circular economy in a special location: the Tarapacá desert (considered the driest place on earth). Corfo, the Tarapacá regional government and private actors from the region are working together to create the Technical Centre for Circular Economy and are working together to strengthen the circularity of the region (Pais Circular, 2019).


China has included circular economy in its policy since the beginning of the 2000s. In the beginning, the main focus was on how the waste of one company could become a source of income for another. The emphasis was on the three Rs: Reduce, reuse and recycle. The latest policy, inspired by the Circular Economy Policy Portfolio released in 2017, looks at eco-design and extended producer responsibility. This has changed the policy from a pure ‘how do we manage resource flows’ perspective to an innovation agenda.

What has further promoted the transition to a circular economy is the development of the Chinese economy itself since 2000. It is not only the world’s factory that brings cheap products to the market. It is also an economy that is growing in investment capacity, in innovation, that embraces the digital economy en masse and that has serious environmental problems that it has to deal with. All these angles of approach are converging towards a new form of the overall system. And because they already have the building blocks of a circular economy in their legislation, they are taking these gradual steps towards something more comprehensive (Iles, 2018).

More info on the website of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.


In 2016, the Scottish Executive developed a strategy to move the country towards a more circular economy, aligning its economic and environmental objectives. The aim is to bring business sectors and individuals together to work towards that goal. Two of the key elements of the strategy are to develop a more comprehensive producer responsibility and to reduce food wastage by 33% by 2025.

In addition to these goals, the Scottish Executive has set priorities for four sectors:

· Bio-economy: the beer, whisky and fishing industries can reduce costs by £500-800 million a year through a more circular approach.

· Re-fabrication: contributes £1.1 billion a year to Scottish GDP and could contribute £1.7 billion a year by 2020.

· Construction: generates about half of all waste produced in Scotland, and thus has an important opportunity to improve resource efficiency.

· Energy infrastructure: significant potential for reusing equipment from decommissioned oil, gas and renewable energy infrastructure (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2018)

Circular provinces and regions

The flow of raw materials often crosses municipal and national borders. This often requires a regional approach to promote circularity. The following are examples of the Brussels Region, the Kalundburg industrial area in Denmark, the Päijät-Häme region in Finland, the Valley and Veluwe Water Board, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and the Northern provinces in the Netherlands.

Read more circular examples here:

Region Brussels (Belgium)

The Brussels-Capital Region has set up the Regional Economic Circular Programme, known as the Be Circular campaign. The aim of the Brussels government is to propose a credible alternative that will stimulate a local economy that meets the needs of its citizens. The businesses of the region are at the heart of this initiative. The programme aims to help them reduce their costs, grow, innovate, recruit and start their transition to an economic model that has a low ecological footprint, creates local jobs and contributes to the quality of life in Brussels.

Kalundborg (Denmark)

Kalundborg has become one of the most frequently cited examples of ‘industrial symbiosis’. The project is a partnership between nine public and private companies in Kalundborg that has been seeking a circular approach to production since 1972. The most important principle is that a residue from one company becomes a source for another, which benefits both the environment and the economy. Examples are heat, fly ash (from which plaster is made) and hay (which is converted into ethanol).

Päijät-Häme region (Finland)

The vision of the Päijät-Häme region is to become a “successful resource-efficient region” by 2030. The region published a roadmap to define a vision and objectives involving stakeholders such as regional and municipal authorities, higher education institutions, a regional development company, and private and public companies. The Päijät-Häme Roadmap has five main themes: closed cycles of technical flows; sustainable enterprise; energy self-sufficiency; shared economy; and steering and demonstrating innovative solutions for the circular economy.


The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA) is a joint venture between the provinces of Noord-Holland and Flevoland, 32 municipalities and the Amsterdam Transport Region. The MRA aims to grow into a region where waste of raw materials and energy are a thing of the past and products are eligible for maximum reuse. Circular commissioning and circular procurement are important pillars in this respect.

The MRA participants purchase approximately € 4 billion a year. As early as 2022, the MRA partners want to purchase at least 10% of their products, goods and services in a circular manner. The target of 50% circular procurement by 2025 is then an intermediate target for fully circular commissioning.

The provinces of Drenthe, Friesland and Groningen have the ambition to become the greenest region in the Netherlands. They argue that circular principles fit in seamlessly with the existing northern economy, now that more and more investments and green activities are coming on stream there. Raw material flows from strong chains such as agriculture, chemicals, construction and waste are used for ‘bio-based’ products and activities. This offers environmental benefits and business opportunities. That is why the Northern Netherlands integrates circular economy into all its innovation policy. Industry and knowledge institutions work together to build up knowledge about the circular economy.

As a first step, the provinces, together with the KNN and Metabolic, have made an extensive material flow analysis in which the opportunities for the circular economy are identified.