Kreislaufwirtschaft, Zirkuläre Ökonomie oder einfach Circular Economy?

In this interview series the Dutch Embassies across Europe shine their light on the local circular economy, the world of laws, regulations, opportunities and challenges for Dutch entrepreneurs that have the desire to expand their business abroad. The Dutch Embassy plays a key role in the international transition and the local advisors share their personal opinion and ideas with the Circular Stories network. This episode we have an elaborated interview with Gijs Könings, Policy Advisor Circular Economy and Sustainable Mobility in Berlin.

Coming up in this interview

  • What are the differences in the circular economy landscape between Germany and the Netherlands?

  • Germany was a frontrunner and created the ‘Kreislaufwirtschaft’ act ‘Circular Economy law’ in 1996

  • Opportunities for Dutch innovations and entrepreneurs in plastic recycling, fashion, construction and the automotive sector

  • We ask Gijs about his dream job and learn how the Dutch Embassy helps entrepreneurs to expand and grow

  • Golden tips from Gijs for entrepreneurs wishing to do business in Germany

Gijs Könings, Policy Advisor Circular Economy and Sustainable Mobility

Gijs Konings Dutch Embassy Berlin

What are the differences in the circular economy landscape between Germany and the Netherlands?

For the Netherlands the landscape of circular economy focuses mostly on the holistic approach stretching from circular design thinking to recycling. Germany tends to prevent resources from becoming waste in the first place and finds new innovative ways to reuse and recycle. Circular economy in Germany is therefore mainly characterised as resource efficiency and was initially presented as a better type of waste management. Nevertheless, Germany is perceived as one of the first countries globally that underlined the relevance of resource efficiency by the enactment of their first ‘Kreislaufwirtschaft’ act (Circular Economy law) in 1996. Kreislaufwirtschaft, the literal translation of circular economy in German, focuses almost exclusively on waste, its separation and recycling. What became clear in the recent years however, is that Germany is slowly but surely picking up the international holistic definition of circular economy. Under the current presidency of the Council of the EU, it seems that Germany is striving for a prominent role in putting circular economy on the European Agenda. Implementations of the ‘EU Circular Economy Action Plan’ are leading in that respect. 

Gijs tells us “In my still relatively short time at the Embassy, I already saw a shift from Kreislaufwirtschaft to Circular Economy!” 

Local opportunities for Dutch innovations and entrepreneurs within the plastics or chemical recycling, textile, automotive and construction sector

Germany is a true manufacturing country. Regardless of the perspective on circular economy, many businesses and industries come up with innovative ideas and solutions that meet the requirements of these principles. This translates in opportunities within the plastics or chemical recycling, textile, automotive and construction sector. One has to withstand the bureaucracy that might arise during business and trade in Germany. Germans are known for their professionalism and preciseness. This enriches the quality of production outcomes, but also comes with more rules and regulations. This is certainly something to keep in mind when you cross the border to do business.

The Construction Sector

A good example of a thriving sector in Germany in the field of circular economy is the construction sector. Last year, Linda Mieden and her team at the consulate-general in Munich presented a research which they conducted together with Bayern Innovativ on the opportunities for Dutch companies with regard to Circular Construction in Southern Germany

The construction sector offers a huge potential for the circular economy as many buildings are currently being demolished and therefore value being destroyed. The research gave an overview of the most important German laws and regulations, the main investors and the shortages in southern Germany that present opportunities for Dutch companies and organisations. Among other things, it shows that the construction and infrastructure sectors in southern Germany are conservative and regionally oriented. The opportunities for the Netherlands therefore lie in stimulating the South German market for circularity. Particularly in the field of research and development, knowledge exchange and cooperation between cities, there are many opportunities according to the report.

Construction waste is a complex issue, with the demand in southern Germany mainly for new and cost-efficient technologies to deal with this waste. The Netherlands can also play a role in the field of ‘awareness’ about circularity. There is interest in best practice examples and the Dutch experience in dealing with circular construction projects.

Chemical Recycling Sector

“Another interesting sector in the Chemical Recycling sector is in Nordrhein-Westfalen. With an extensive chemical sector in Western Germany, it became one of the circular economy priorities for colleague Patrick Janßen and his team at the Consulate General in Düsseldorf. Together with Holland Circular Hotspot, they organize a webinar on chemical recycling and business opportunities in Nordrhein-Westfalen.”

Click here for more info and free registration.

Curious about the business opportunities in France? Read more here!

We ask Gijs about his dream job

How did you get into the position you now have at the embassy? What is your personal motivation and in which sector would you like to make an impact?

“I myself got a position as Advisor Circular Economy and Sustainable Mobility within the Infrastructure & Water management department at the Dutch Embassy after an internship at the Economic Department. After living in Berlin for two and a half years and considering my previous experience with Circular economy, I applied for a position within the Embassy and… I got it! A dream came true! Advocating the Circular Economy  abroad in my beloved Berlin, is more than I could have dreamed for after graduating on this topic. Together with colleagues in Germany and The Hague we aim to boost our Dutch circular economy agenda within the whole country.

“The goal is to realise more knowledge exchange, find common ground for our efforts in Brussels and improve trade between both our countries.” 

It was Professor Jan Jonker together with ‘Agent of Change’ Johnny Kerkhof at the Radboud Honours Academy in Nijmegen who once inspired Gijs to get more into the circular economy. “What I like about the circular economy  ‘mantra’ is that it shows how useful, relevant and economically attractive its methods and concepts are. Back in 2014 when I first heard about this topic, it was quite a niche. Now world leaders underline its relevance. It makes me proud to be part of this community. My personal expertise and passion within this broad topic lies within the field of circular fashion and textiles. This year, I graduated with a master thesis on the interplay between bottom-up initiatives and top-down institutes in Berlin with regard to circular textiles. I found out that many entrepreneurs in this field act quite independent from governments. With regard to the city of Berlin and its municipality, they feel that more can be done to embrace the CE.  In that respect, I hope to have impact and convince people to invest more in the Circular Economy. Within Germany and beyond!”

“What I like about the circular economy  ‘mantra’ is that it shows how useful, relevant and economically attractive its methods and concepts are.”

What questions can people contact you about Gijs?

“I would say, I really know my way in the Circular Textiles area by now! People could always contact me with any questions regarding circular economy, but more specifically with regard to textiles and fashion. 

An interesting project that serves as a good example is our current All Good(s) program on the development and application of new materials for a Circular Future. It is a long-term project in co-production with the ‘Culture and Communications’ department at the Embassy, consisting of several events that all have a specific focus within the CE spectrum. The first All Goods event took place on September 9th on the interplay between Architecture, Design and Fashion with regard to new materials. 

Interested? Please click here to re-watch the interesting exchange, carefully curated by Valerie-Anne Houppermans, Gijs’ colleague from the cultural department. 

Working together with role models in circular entrepreneurship

The second event is concerning circular fashion. Earlier this year, we hosted an all online workshop on Circular Design methods (called the Circular Design Sprint) for Dutch and German entrepreneurs within the fashion industry. We did this together with partners Sqetch and Circular.Fashion. They facilitated the workshop from enriching and educational content. Both of them could be seen as German role models when it comes to circular entrepreneurship. Sqetch tends to bind together big players and small change makers in the field of circular fashion and currently hold an impressive record in connecting stakeholders in the textile chain globally! Their DNA is based on circular design thinking and their previous projects, like during Berlin sustainable fashion week Neonyth, proved their professionalism in that respect.

Educating stakeholders that currently might have a linear business model and assisting them to go Circular is really the true power of partner circular.fashion. The Berlin based startup holds a few of Germany’s biggest fashion companies as their clientele and with their professional tools, workshops and solutions they reshape the circular fashion scene, not in Germany but also beyond.

Curious? Watch the Circular Story of circular.fashion here!

Join the All Good(s) event 1st of October

On October 1st the second All Good(s) event takes place. This session discusses the role of policy making in enhancing the use of innovative design principles and new materials in the fashion sector. Both countries have proven to be innovative and professional when it comes to revising their current polluting fashion industry. In the Netherlands, the ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W) recently presented their new policy program for circular textiles. Simultaneously, the German ministry for the Environment, Natural Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) recently published their final report on their Resource Efficiency program (ProgRess) and just revised their Circular Economy law. During this evening policy makers will exchange thoughts and experiences with people from the industry (amongst them the workshop participants) to discover where circular policy making could improve the transition towards a ‘New Textile Economy’.”

How to join in? 

You can join them virtually on October 1st at 19:00 via the following free registration link, tune in via Q&A and ask questions to either one of the speakers. Please share your thoughts on how policy could help the Circular Fashion Industry.

Circular Quote of the Day

Kreislaufwirtschaft, with German precision and Dutch innovation we will come to a joint Circular Economy!

Gijs Könings

Golden tips from Gijs for entrepreneurs wishing to do business in Germany

Speak the cultural language and think, plan, prepare 

As mentioned, Germany is a country that requires a lot of administrative efforts before one can be active in a certain branch or sector. It is important to check whether you want to be active in the entire country, or just in specific parts. For the latter, It might be useful to check state-level regulations instead of federal rules as they can differ from one another. Thereby, knowing what CE entails in that specific sector or area is of big importance. As mentioned before, one does not always talk about the same when we in the Netherlands speak of circular economy. Also, work out a specific plan for your target group. Culturally seen, Germany is not that different from the Netherlands, but the applications usage of specific products might deviate from those in the Netherlands. A thorough sector study could prevent you from misinterpreting your target audience. 

Do reach out to the Embassy

Germany is too big and diverse to give one overarching organization which could help. Unlike a lot of other EU countries, Germany does not have a network like the Holland Circular Hotspot (HCH). Therefore, you can always reach out to the Embassy to get tailor made advice from Gijs or his colleagues. They have a Circular Economy advisor, but also an extensive cultural and economic cluster, ranging from the Embassy in Berlin to the Consulate Generals in Munich and Düsseldorf but also the Netherlands Business Support Offices (NBSO) in  Hamburg, Stuttgart and Frankfurt. From hardcore trade request to tailor made advice for start-ups, our diplomatic network does it all.

And to get in touch with Gijs directly? 

If you reach out to me, I am more than willing to help you or put your request through My number is: +49 171 555 4856 or gijs.konings@minbuza.nl.

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Dr. Sebastian Porkert, Founder ECOFARIO

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