The circular economy is one of the topics researched by WUR, but WUR also strives to reduce the use of resources in its operational management, hoping to achieve a reduction in the use of resources by half in 2030, compared to 2014.
How will WUR go about this? By buying fewer products, making smarter use of products, extending their lifespan and re-using products within WUR or elsewhere. Thus, the amount of resources used will be reduced, as well as the amount of waste that is incinerated or recycled. In addition to the current waste-monitoring, the usage of resources will also be monitored, so that the progress of WUR’s circular economy policy is followed. This is detailed in the document Circular economy policy, vision & strategy 2019-2030, which was recently ratified by WUR’s executive board. This ambition follows the circular economy policy launched by the Dutch government and is good news in the national campaign week for the circular economy. This week (3-7 February) extra attention goes out to examples and ideas for and from companies, governments and start-ups, on how to get circular.
Strategies to achieve the ambition
Reducing resources requires different strategies, focussed on three product groups: Buildings, products for general use (such as vehicles/mobility, decoration and furniture, electrical appliances, printed matter, workshop and office equipment, cleaning and sanitation, food and beverages, work clothing), and products needed explicitly for education and research (WUR’s core tasks), such as laboratory equipment, plants, animals and fodder, chemicals.
A strategy that is primarily useful for products that are already present in WUR’s inventory is to extend the use of said products or recycle them for new purposes — for example, extending the use of furniture, reclaiming doors and toilets from torn-down buildings. Extending the life-span of new products is also an option, but WUR aims to close the circle for new products fully.
Therefore, new products must consist of an equal number of used or recycled product parts of a similar quality as are reclaimed and repurposed after the product is discarded. Circularity strategies for products that are to be acquired are also available. Consider, for example, sharing products (such as cars and smartphones) for private and professional use, multifunctional products (such as the print-fax-scan-copy machines already being used), or to waiving the use of certain products (for example: bring your own device, rather than having fixed computers in practical rooms).
New deals with suppliers and processors
New contracts with suppliers will be based on circularity strategies. The current waste disposal contracts will be replaced by “resource contracts”. Contractors, being experts on circularity in their fields, will help WUR find solutions to implement the circular economy policy. For example, by finding new uses for discarded products and their parts, by offering circular alternatives to their products and services, or by replacing low-value recycling with high-value recycling to accommodate for alterations in the volume and composition of waste to be incinerated or recycled. Collaboration in coalitions is an essential factor in WUR’s view on circularity.
Closing the WUR paper cycle
On 9 January, WUR’s Facilities and Services took a concrete step forward in making its management circular by signing an agreement with three organisations to recycle all used paper both locally and sustainably. Used paper cups and towels will be transported to the WEPA Nederland B.V. plant along with used office papers. There, the paper fibres will be repurposed as a resource for towels and toilet paper. Supplier Asito will then reintroduce the created products into the WUR cycle. Closing the paper cycle saves 915,691 litres of water and 62,819 KWh in energy. Furthermore, WUR’s carbon emission is reduced by 66,711 kg, which equals 25 lease vehicles per year.