In the week of the parliamentary elections, the Netherlands finds itself at a crossroads. The chemical industry, a pillar under our economy, is poised for a large-scale transformation to a sustainable, circular economy. Now is the time for politicians to take a leading role in this essential transition.
Indeed, the chemical sector is facing a monumental task: not only must the transition to renewable energy be made, but also fossil raw materials must be replaced by sustainable alternatives. Knowledge centre Brightsite indicated in the ‘Brightsite Transition Outlook’, whose main findings were presented on 7 November during the annual event of the Green Chemistry, New Economy platform, that we need millions of tonnes of recycled plastics, sustainable biomass and carbon from CO2 for non-fossil plastics and green hydrogen as feedstock. The feedstock transition cannot only be seen as an environmental issue or economic barrier, but is also essential on a societal level. Moreover, the transition offers huge opportunities for new businesses, a new sustainable economy for the Netherlands.
That is why I advocate a ‘Circular Deal’ similar to the Climate Act and the Green Deal. Such a legal framework can give industry the clarity it needs to make the transition to circularity.
A successful raw materials transition requires a coherent and stable long-term policy from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate and other governments. We need to create new markets for circular products and stimulate green innovation within the chemical industry. In doing so, we should not forget that consumers must be well informed about circular products and the government has an exemplary role to play by buying green.
A harmonisation of our rules with those of the EU is crucial to accelerate the transition of our industry and society towards a circular future. Without this synchronisation, we risk losing essential industries and innovations, something we cannot afford socially. In stark contrast is the current complex regulatory environment. Simplifying these, especially in the areas of recycling and the use of renewable materials, is vital. Equally important is the promotion of circular business models to support this necessary change.
The political will to green the chemical industry is there, as evidenced by recent debates. It is now up to political leaders to turn words into action. By acting now, we not only protect our planet but also create a future economic reality with the Netherlands as a world leader in sustainable chemistry. The time for action is now.
Managing director Brightsite
Chairman Green chemistry, new economy