The urgency of transitioning from a linear to a sustainable circular society cannot be overstated. Our current patterns of production and consumption exacerbate resource depletion, climate change, environmental pollution, and biodiversity loss, in addition to fostering geopolitical dependence and social inequality.
As a prominent scientific institution and crucial stakeholder, the institute 4 a Circular Society (i4CS) is dedicated to expediting the transition to a circular society. Through research, cross-disciplinary education, and impactful collaboration, we empower both university students and professionals across industries, social organizations, and governments.
Our mission is to equip them with essential knowledge, innovative ideas, and actionable perspectives to help overcome obstacles and successfully develop, implement, and scale up circular systems. Systems that are designed for universal accessibility, optimizing the retention of value of raw materials and products, utilizing renewable resources, and preserving natural capital.
Systemic and integrative circularity perspectives
Despite the Netherlands’ leadership in recycling, the circular society in our country is still in its infancy. Recyling of materials represents the lowest level of circular quality. To significantly enhance positive impact, it’s imperative to adopt strategies that promote greater value retention. This requires instigating behavioural shifts and systemic transformations.
Unfortunately, stakeholders largely lack the necessary knowledge and actionable insights in this realm. This is where science has a crucial role to play: to develop socio-technical innovations and independent knowledge about the complex behavioural and system changes needed, thus driving acceleration of the transition.
Consequently, our focus centers on embracing systemic and integrative perspectives of circularity. Key principles that guide us include:
- Value retention retention in designing circular strategies for the technological cycle. Here we use the so-called R-ladder for materials, summarized as Refuse – Rethink – Reduce – Reuse (of products and components) – Recyle. For water and organic resources (biological cycle) various hierarchies of measures can be considered including the Resource Harvest Approach – demand minimization, output (waste) reduction (cascading, recycling), and multi-sourcing (shifting to alternative resources)
- Connecting technical and biological cycles, including research about the continuous flow of materials (using the Butterfly Diagram) and exploring the opportunities for Nature Based Solutions (NBS).
- Creating a social foundation, to ensure inclusiveness and an ecological ceiling, to respect planetary boundaries that protect the earth’s life-support systems. Defining the operating space for innovative circular solutions, inspired by the Doughnut Economy .
To pursue these objectives, the active engagement of society at large is essential. Government, business, citizens, and consumers must collaborate for effective solutions. The availability of accurate knowledge and information is pivotal in guiding the most fitting responses to various situations.
i4CS aims to play a highly impactful role for two specific types of socio-technical systems: Circular Safe Hospitals (CSH), and Urban-Rural interactions for a Circular economy (shorthanded to Urban-Rural Circularity: URC). Interactive research in these two domains – for example through Living Lab approaches – feeds our Circular Society education program, and generalisations in developing circular theory, methodology and discipline oriented scientific contributions.
Want to collaborate?
Would you like to contribute to our mission? Contact us for more information.