Do you know how the British drink their circular tea?

Many Dutch sectors such as construction and plastics are adapting circular concepts. These concepts primarily involve a transition from “take, make and waste” to a reuse economy minimizing use of new raw materials. Similarly, the United Kingdom (UK) is committed to a more circular economy keeping resources in use as long as possible, extracting maximum value from them, minimizing waste and promoting resource efficiency. 

One of the most well-known organisations in this field is the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, which is headquartered in the UK. They have been promoting this concept of the circular economy from the early days and have been key in implementing this definition in the UK of moving to a sustainable, resource-efficient economy which means rethinking or re-inventing product design, new business models and consumption of products.

Coming up in this interview

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

  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is rooted in the UK

  • Renewi was born in 2017 out of the merge of Shanks Group (UK) and (former) Van Gansewinkel Groep (NL)

  • The opportunities in the growing Plastic Recycling Industry in the United Kingdom

  • The Personal motivation of Terence

Terence Speijer, Senior Commercial Attaché

Terence Speijker

How similar is the UK circular economy landscape to the Dutch? 

“An interesting example that embodies this shared definition is British-Dutch company Renewi, created after Shanks Group (UK) and (former) Van Gansewinkel Groep (from The Netherlands) which merged in 2017. Renewi is transitioning from a collector of waste to producer of secondary materials. They have invested in a new stone crusher facility converting rubble and asphalt into certified granulate used by construction companies. Dutch companies are also major suppliers of machinery and technology to the UK waste sector. Another example of how the Dutch and the British think along the same lines when it comes to the concept of Circular Economy, comes from an Anglo-Dutch partnership between Ward Recycling and Bollegraaf. The Ward Recycling paper plant in Hartlepool was designed and built by Bollegraaf. Sited at Windermere Road, the substantial plant is dedicated to creating high quality recycled paper. It also means economic and environmental benefits are present in sectors such as construction, plastics, waste management and agriculture.”

To unlock these benefits we as national governments have to work together with businesses and local authorities. That is why the Dutch Embassy in the UK helps Dutch businesses and entrepreneurs to get connected  with British partners to join forces.”  

Lovely! How we can work together on circular economy in the UK?

We ask Terence what he thinks are the greatest opportunities for the transition to a Circular Economy in the United Kingdom?

“As the UK has devolved administrations, circular economy policies differ per country. For example, the resources and waste strategy for England has a clear sector focus and forms part of the UK government’s 25 Year Environment Plan while the Scottish Government’s strategy, Making Things Last, aims to move to a circular economy across multiple sectors.

Across the UK, a lot of attention has been paid to the construction industry. It contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint and some major challenges are decarbonising heat supply and current housing stock. Retrofitting, making homes more energy efficient, presents clear opportunities and one may think of our Dutch approach Energiesprong. Other opportunities are also present through solutions such as renewable resources and increasing repair, reuse and remanufacturing.

In which sector do you see these opportunities arising?

New ways of designing, using and reusing plastics also present opportunities. For example, the UK Plastics Pact joins the European Plastics Pact and the Plastic Pact NL as part of the global Plastic Pact network, a platform to exchange learnings and best practices across countries and regions. The UK Plastics Pact which has 79 members outlines an approach the way the UK makes, uses and disposes of plastic. Four targets are identified in its roadmap to 2025: 

  1. eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery models,
  2. 100% of plastics packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable,
  3. 70% of plastics packaging effectively recycled or composted and
  4. 30% average recycled content across all packaging. Possibilities exist throughout the value chain: from (new) recycling technologies to substituting other materials.

We recently organised the ‘NorthSea Neighbours Cleanup’ as part of World Cleanup Day where we joined forces with the British Embassy in The Hague to clean up plastic pollution on both sides of the channel. In London we collected smaller sized plastics on the foreshore of the Thames. And two years ago we organised a post-plastic pollution event together with British environmental organisation Wrap.”

What is the impact that you personally want to make?

“Personally, I find it important to contribute to a sustainable world. I recycle as much as I can and only buy clothes when it’s necessary. I find it rewarding that – thanks to my job at the Dutch Embassy in the UK – I can support businesses and entrepreneurs that are active in the Circular Economy, thereby stimulating efforts towards a more sustainable world. A few years ago, I interned at the Dutch Consulate-General in Sydney. It was a fantastic opportunity and I learned a lot about economic analyses and trade promotion. I particularly enjoyed supporting Dutch businesses to seize economic opportunities and it confirmed that this was the type of job I wanted. To gain a better understanding of how businesses operate, I decided to work in consultancy first. This helped me to get a better business perspective from an operational point of view.

And now I am working in my dream job! It is a privilege to be part of the chain of Dutch entrepreneurs in obtaining their goals. The Netherlands will be hosting (online) events such as the ‘Climate Adaptation Summit’ in January and the World Circular Economy Forum which creates momentum to engage with British businesses and organisations in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 which will be hosted by the UK. In doing so, we work on an even stronger and more sustainable ties with our North Sea Neighbour, the UK.”

The Role of the Embassy; your guide in a wide and complicated network

“We always do our utmost to answer all questions we get from businesses. Whether it’s a  market scan or information about exports, my team at the Embassy is there to support.  We can introduce companies to the right people via our network, think of possible partners or experts on legal issues. The Dutch Embassy in the UK also has close contacts within trade associations. Dutch companies sometimes do not realise the importance of trade associations here, but the UK has one or more trade associations for nearly every sector. Depending on one’s (circular) business, these organisations can provide you with inside information, market reports and access to members. For example, we can help you to be given the stage to present your company or join network sessions in group meetings of trade associations. 

Or if Dutch entrepreneurs would like to co-organise a (for the time being digital) event, we are more than happy to discuss possibilities. We recently organised a webinar on sustainable buildings for example where both Dutch and British organisations not only presented learnings but also shared their views on opportunities in the built environment. Last year we held a circular economy event for architects and organised a panel discussion on Retrofit solutions. We are also currently investigating the options for a digital series on circular economy to be hosted rather soon.”  

What do you advise entrepreneurs to start doing tomorrow?

“First of all, there’s Brexit. I would advise Dutch entrepreneurs to prepare, in light of the transition period that ends on 31 December. The Brexit desk website ( has the latest information for Dutch businesses, including a contact centre where you can get answers to your questions. It also houses a ‘Brexit Impact Scan’ to check whether your own preparations are up to speed. The Dutch Embassy in the UK can help you with further questions on the British side.

Circular Quote of the Day

Variety is the spice of life

Terence Speijer

Terence message to the world

As someone who enjoys playing and watching football, I believe life all about teamwork. In football they often say: only teams win matches and not eleven individuals. The same can be applied to a business context as we need each other in transitioning towards a more circular economy: collaborating as one circular team is what gives the best results!

Variety is the spice of life is a phrase that I recently read and like because personally I believe having many different experiences is what gives life its flavour. I can imagine there are many ups and downs being an entrepreneur and each journey is unique. Sometimes it may be difficult to find inspiration or come up with new ideas. But is the experience that counts.

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Founders of Circular Stories

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